Hey Alexa, what's the cheapest way to get an Amazon Echo? Oh, it's $179.99 on Amazon and you don't know of any other good deals... You're wrong Alexa, but I'll forgive you because it's not on sale on Amazon but Woot — woot!
This is a refurbished Amazon Echo Bluetooth and WiFi speaker that can play music from different streaming services or your own device. But its real knock-out feature is the voice assistant known as Alexa who lives inside it (I've been told she's a tiny bobble-head who just hides inside the speaker's tower) and can answer your weird questions, execute your queries and commands, and let you control more than just a speaker.
Here's something interesting for those of you who've gone head-first into the smart home craze. According to ZatsNotFunny, a blog dedicated to connected home tech, Logitech is recruiting beta testers for a new tool integrating Harmony remotes with the voice control features of Amazon Alexa/Echo. Basically, users who have both should be able to speak commands into their Echo and have the remote perform them without ever picking it up. Neat.
Amazon's Echo has become the de-facto standard of home voice control, at least until Google Home is released and we find out whatever Apple is planning. To emphasise Amazon's market-leading position, the company has published a press release saying Alexa has over 1,000 skills and integrations - we counted roughly 1,150 (115 pages with 10 items on each page). For such a young platform, this is mightily good news, and says wonders about the battleground that the home will be for technology companies in the future.
Left: the skills list, showing the filters and sorting options. Right: some other skills that are installable on the Echo.
Depending on who you ask, Amazon's Fire series might just be the most popular Android tablets on the planet. They're certainly up there, thanks to an extremely low entry price and some pretty decent media tie-ins with Amazon's various platforms, the lack of Google Play access notwithstanding. The value at the high end of the range isn't bad either, and Amazon just made it a little better: the big daddy Fire 10 HD now has a 64GB option, and it's available for under $300.
Community projects are fantastic - just look at how strong Android's aftermarket community is, creating custom ROMs and launching entire operating systems and companies in the process. Now Amazon's getting in on the action, rebranding developer Sam Machin's Alexa in the Browser project as Echosim and bringing Alexa to everyone in the process.
Amazon has announced that the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, the company's two streaming devices, are receiving updates to the latest version of the software, 5.2.
The main thing version 5.2 brings is viewing restrictions, which enable blocking of content in Amazon Video and 'selected third party apps,' although Amazon has declined to list which third-party apps are included. Other new features include Watch Live for video subscriptions, so if you have an add-on subscription from Showtime or Starz, content can be watched at the same time as it's broadcast. Alexa is also seeing some improvements; she can now be asked for local restaurant, shop, or business information with the new Local Search feature.
Voice control is all the rage these days, and Amazon is pushing its Alexa voice engine hard. The Fire TV already had Alexa built-in, but today it's getting some new features. You can control video playback, launch apps, and more.
The Huawei Honor 7 may be a flagship device, but compared to some of the competition, it doesn't cost all that much. The same can kinda be said for Amazon's Kindle Fire HD. That makes each device an okay one to muck around with.
Before you start flashing ROMs, you need a decent custom recovery. The Team Win Recovery Project is more than decent. In many ways, this is the top option available right now.
Late last year, Amazon started to allow hobbyists and developers to integrate the Alexa virtual personal assistant into their own products through the developer preview of Amazon Voice Service. This effort has already borne fruit with Invoxia's Triby.
Looking a bit like an FM radio from yesteryear, the Triby immediately loses points in the looks department, especially when compared to the sleek, futuristic aesthetic of the Amazon Echo. It packs a magnetized back, allowing you to attach it directly to any metal surface, such as a refrigerator or knife rack, as well an E-Ink display for showing messages and notifications.
Not only can it be controlled through voice commands, but there's also an official companion application available for Android and iOS.
Here's a bit of a blast from the past. A federal judge has decided that Amazon was in the wrong when it billed parents for in-app purchases made by their kids on its Appstore platform. Both Apple and Google settled this case with the Federal Trade Commission two years ago, but Amazon wanted its day in court. It didn't go so well.