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Google Family Link is rolling out to Canada this week

It baffles me that something as important as parental controls isn't built into Android and that Google's solution for the problem, Family Link, was only officially released last year and is still limited to countries you can count on one hand: US, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and now Canada is joining the fold. There must be a legal or technical limitation why this isn't enabled worldwide, but I can't for the life of me guess what it is.

But I digress. If you're a parent in Canada with children under the age of 13, you can now manage their Android device, account, and usage through Family Link.

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Verizon's Go Unlimited plan will soon include service to Mexico and Canada

Back in August, Verizon split its unlimited data plan into three separate plans - Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited, and Business Unlimited. All three plans have limitations on video streaming, tethering, and international usage. But starting on January 25, Go Unlimited will include limited service to Mexico and Canada.

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Samsung smartphones will have their FM chip enabled in the US and Canada, in partnership with NextRadio

Some things baffle me about the US. The blind love of SMS is one, and the fact that the FM chip in smartphones isn't activated on many devices in the country for some reason (read: operator greed) is another. But things have been moving in the right direction: LG announced a partnership with NextRadio to unlock the FM chip in its smartphones a few months ago and now the same is happening with Samsung.

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Amazon brings Alexa, Echo, Prime Music, and related developer tools to Canada

Today is a big day for Canada, at least when it comes to mega-retailer Amazon's products and services. The company has announced Canadian availability of its Alexa-powered smart hardware with a special short-term promotional discount, as well as the regional availability of its Prime Music streaming service. Developers can even get in on the action, as some Alexa-related software and hardware development tools are also now available in the country. 

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Google Photo books now available in Canada, starting at $17.99

The holidays are fast approaching, which means the opportunities to gather with family and share the past year's memories and make new ones will be aplenty. This makes now the perfect time for using Google's Photo books to print neat physical albums of your existing photos or to prepare for the impending holiday picturefest. And as it so happens, Photo books are now available in Canada as well.

When they first launched in May, Photo books were exclusive to the US, but now users in Canada will start seeing the option in Google Photos, in both English and French, and regardless of whether they're using Android, iOS, or web.

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Essential Phone drops from $1,050 to $650 in Canada

Late last month, Essential dropped the price of its flagship (and only) phone from $699 to $499 in the United States. While Essential said it lowered the price in order to help the company break into the smartphone market, it's also very likely that sales have been poor. A drop was also announced for Canada, but the new price wasn't revealed at the time.

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Samsung Pay expands in Canada with new partners and option to use debit cards

Samsung Pay has existed for a few years, but the company has been slow to roll out support in Canada. Only one bank has had Samsung Pay in Canada so far, but now a handful of others are joining the fun. This expansion also brings support for debit cards in addition to credit cards.

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Looks like Best Buy might include a Google Home Mini with the purchase of a Pixel 2

We are just mere moments away from the official Google Pixel event, but that hasn't stopped a lot of stuff leaking. Last night, redditor /u/FireYoshiQc posted a flyer from Best Buy Canada that showed a promo offer: buy a Pixel 2, get a free Google Home Mini.

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You can now make Alexa-to-phone number calls in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Alexa-to-Alexa calls in the UK, Germany, and Austria

Amazon introduced calling and messaging to its Echo speakers back in May then implemented the same feature inside the Alexa app so you could start a call or receive one from your phone, without having to be near your Echo. However, the feature had one main limitation: the person you were calling had to have an Echo or at least Alexa calling set up. Calls to phone numbers weren't possible, but now they are.

Amazon secretly enabled the option a couple of days ago and has now officially added it to the Alexa app changelog. After setting up Alexa calling and messaging in the app's Conversations tab, you can say something like, "Call dad's phone," or, "Call dad's mobile phone number," and it will perform a call to the phone number.

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Facebook launches the data-sipping Messenger Lite in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, and Canada

To call the Facebook suite of apps a bloated mess would be an understatement, most especially the ever-growing Messenger — I think I've used it once, after which I uninstalled it. However, in a surprising turn of events, Facebook has launched the "lite" version of the app in North America, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. 

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