Amazon Prime Day Live Blog: Follow Along for the Best Deals

It's the middle of July, which means it's time for Amazon's annual Prime Day shopping event, offering Amazon Prime customers the chance to save money on a vast array of items across the retailer's online storefront.

Like we did last year, today we've launched a live blog that will track notable Prime Day discounts across Amazon, most of which will relate to Apple products and accessories. You can expect great discounts from companies like Anker, iOttie, and more.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Prime Day 2019 kicked off earlier this morning at 12:00 a.m. PT, and it will continue through tomorrow, Tuesday July 16 at 11:59 p.m. PT. This makes Prime Day 2019 the longest event so far at a total of 48 hours.

In contrast to deals that last for a majority of the event, there will also be limited-time lightning deals that appear at different times throughout Monday and Tuesday, and only last for an hour or so. According to Amazon, new deals will launch as often as every five minutes throughout the event.

In this live blog, we'll be tracking lightning deals and longer-lasting discounts as products get marked down throughout Prime Day, as well as competitor sales since retailers like Best Buy, eBay and Target have all been known to launch anti-Prime Day deals. Be sure to bookmark this page and check back for new bargains as Amazon's mid-year shopping event continues into Tuesday night.
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Amazon Reportedly Developing Echo With Better Sound Quality to Rival Apple HomePod and Other Speakers

Amazon is developing a higher-quality version of its popular Echo smart speaker, according to a new report today by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

Prototypes of the cylindrical speaker are wider than the current Echo to squeeze in additional components including at least four tweeters, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter.
The speaker is reportedly being developed to include improved audio to rival Apple's HomePod and other competing speakers on the market. According to Gurman, the Echo has lost some ground to more premium smart speakers that are marketed as offering superior sound.
The Echo, which went on sale in 2015, will grab 63% of the U.S. market this year, according to EMarketer. But it has lost some ground to the Sonos One, Apple Inc. HomePod and Google Home Max -- all of which claim to deliver superior audio. Google now has 31% of the market, while the rest have a combined 12%. The HomePod isn't selling as well as Apple expected, and the company recently dropped the price.
The development of a higher-quality Echo marks a new phase in Amazon's attempt to gain ground in the smart speaker segment. The company has previously introduced halfway-house solutions to improve the audio of the existing cylindrical Echo by offering a standalone subwoofer and connections to link the speakers to a hi-fi stereo system. The Echo range will also receive minor updates this fall, people familiar with the plans told Bloomberg.

Amazon also reportedly plans to launch a hi-fidelity version of its music streaming service by the end of the year.

In addition, Gurman's report includes details on Amazon's effort to ramp up work on its home robot, which has wheels and can be controlled by Alexa voice commands.

People familiar with the project have reportedly described prototypes that are about waist-high and navigate with the help of an array of computer-vision cameras, but it still isn't clear what purpose the robot would serve.

Amazon originally intended to reveal the robot, known internally as "Vesta," as early as this year, but the machine isn't quite ready for mass production, according to the report.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Amazon’s 48-Hour ‘Prime Day’ Event Takes Place July 15 and 16

For the last few years, Amazon has been hosting an epic Prime Day sale that offers up deals and discounts on a huge range of products.

This year, Prime Day is actually going to take place over two days, kicking off at midnight on July 15 and lasting through July 16. Last year's Prime Day ultimately lasted 36 hours, but 48 hours will be the longest Prime Day event to date.


Amazon has some Prime Day event previews on its website, and Prime Day itself will include discounts on everything from tech products to home products, clothing, toys, and more. Amazon is also highlighting products launching on Amazon on Prime Day, such as the Mophie Juice Pack Air.

When Prime Day kicks off, Amazon's website will be filled with lightning deals that kick off at different times over the course of the day, with the available products rotating over time. Lightning deals last for as long as stock lasts, and some of the better deals can go quick.

Last year, we did a live blog covering all of the best Apple-related deals available during Amazon's Prime Day, and we plan to do similar coverage this year so make sure to tune in to MacRumors on July 15 and 16 for help sorting through all of the sales.

Prime Day sales are designed for Amazon Prime members, and a Prime membership is required to get the deals. Prime Day discounts will be available to Amazon customers in the United States, UK, Italy, India, Germany, France, China, Canada, Australia, Belgium, UAE, Austria, Spain, Singapore, and the Netherlands.

Tag: Amazon

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Amazon Reveals ‘Echo Show 5’ With New Design and Alexa Commands for Deleting Voice Recordings

Amazon today announced the Echo Show 5, the latest Echo device with a 5.5-inch display, more compact design, and privacy-focused voice controls for Alexa. Echo Show 5 is priced at $89.99 and is set to launch on June 26, 2019.

Amazon's Echo Show devices have speakers and a touchscreen, aimed at letting customers watch the news via apps like NBC and Reuters, look at the weather, or make video calls. Echo Show 5 continues this idea, and Amazon even pointed out that you can use the device to listen to music via Apple Music, thanks to recent integration.


Like other Echo devices, Echo Show 5 can also act as a smart home hub so that you can say things like "Alexa, turn on the lights," or use on-screen display controls to adjust brightness levels. Smart camera feeds can be viewed on the display, as well as thermostat levels and more. Echo Show 5 also supports two-way talk functionality with Ring doorbell cameras.

If you use the Echo Show 5 as an alarm clock, the device's display will naturally brighten and show a sunrise animation before the alarm goes off. At that time, you can set a routine that displays the weather forecast for the day, the morning news, and more on the Echo Show 5 screen.
“Since we launched the first Echo Show device, customers have told us they love asking Alexa to show them things—whether it’s a recipe for banana bread, their shopping list, or music lyrics. With Echo Show 5, we’ve made it even easier and affordable for customers to add a smart display to every room of their house,” said Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa.

“The compact form factor is perfect for a bedside table or desk, plus it has a camera shutter for added peace of mind, and new Alexa privacy features for even more control.”
When not in use, you can set personal photos to act as a home screen on the Echo Show 5, or connect to Facebook to play a slideshow of photos as a screensaver. Echo Show 5 can connect to family members who own an Echo Spot or Echo Show, have the Alexa mobile app, or use Skype. Within the same house, if you own multiple Alexa devices you can also use the drop-in feature to quickly speak to other Alexa speakers.

In terms of privacy, Amazon touched on a variety of security options in its announcement today. First, the company pointed out that Echo Show 5 includes a microphone/camera off button that electronically disconnects both the microphone and camera, along with a visual indicator that shows when audio or video is streaming to the cloud. The device also has a camera shutter so you can easily cover the camera.


Second, Amazon has introduced an easy way to delete your voice recordings on all of your Alexa devices: you can say, "Alexa, delete everything I said today." Afterwards, the company will delete the respective recordings. In the near future, you'll be able to delete your last request by saying, "Alexa, delete what I just said."

The Echo Show 5 is available to pre-order today in Charcoal and Sandstone for $89.99. The device will then launch in June in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. India will see a launch in July, and Mexico will come at a later date.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.


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‘Alexa Guard’ Security Feature Rolls Out to Amazon Echo Devices in the US

Amazon announced this morning that Alexa Guard is now rolling out to all Echo device owners in the U.S.


The free feature update, which has been trialed by a select few over the last few months, turns Echo speakers into security devices when no-one's home by allowing them to listen for key sounds indicating danger or intrusion.

Users need to say "Alexa, I'm leaving" to set Alexa Guard to Away mode, after which the device will listen for sounds like breaking glass and the sound of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.

According to TechCrunch, Amazon has worked with licensed contractors to break hundreds of different glass windows with different instruments in order to create a wide range of different sounds for Alexa to listen for.

Upon detecting an ominous sound, Alexa sends the owner Smart Alerts via phone notifications. Users can also play the detected sound from the Alexa mobile app or Drop In on their Echo device remotely to find out what's happening.

Alexa can arm a Ring or ADT security system, with the user able to choose to forward Smart Alerts they receive to Ring or ADT. Users with Away Lighting can also use the alert to turn on lights so as to make it look like they're actually home.

For more details about Alexa Guard, check out Amazon's FAQ.


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Amazon Rumored to Launch High-Fidelity Music Streaming Platform By End of 2019

Amazon is reportedly readying a high-fidelity music streaming service that's set to launch by the end of the year. According to Music Business Worldwide, Amazon is in discussions with various large music rights-holders regarding the upcoming launch of the new streaming platform, which is likely to cost $15 per month.

"It's a better bit rate, better than CD quality," one source told MBW. "Amazon is working on it as we speak: they're currently scoping out how much catalog they can get from everyone and how they'll ingest it."
Probably the best known hi-def music streaming service currently is Tidal's HiFi plan, which costs $19.99 per month and offers CD-quality lossless streams at 44.1 kHz / 16 bit. Subscribers to the plan also benefit from Tidal's partnership with MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) to deliver guaranteed master-quality recordings directly from the master source, which is billed as "an audio experience that the artist intended."

The rationale behind this is that while HiFi audio is a superior sound, it's still limited to 44.1 kHz / 16 bit resolution, whereas MQA audio is the highest possible resolution (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit). MBW understands that Amazon has not partnered with MQA for its own HD tier, suggesting it will use a different audio technology. It's not clear though whether the hi-fi service will be a standalone platform or a new tier option to be offered as part of Amazon's Music Unlimited service.

Apple Music streams 256kbps AAC files across the board and doesn't offer users a higher sound quality price plan, while Spotify uses the Ogg Vorbis format and lets Premium subscribers choose the bitrate depending on how they're listening. On mobile you can elect to stream in Low (24 kbit/s), Normal (96 kbit/s), High (160 kbit/s) or Very High (320 kbit/s) quality, which is handy if you're worried about using up your cellular data, but none of these options could be called "hi-fidelity" streaming.

News of Amazon's plans for a hi-fi audio streaming service comes a week after Amazon launched a free, ad-supported music streaming service for owners of devices that support Alexa, but who are otherwise not Prime or Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers.

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Employees Who Listen to Amazon Alexa Requests Have Access to Customers’ Home Addresses

Earlier this month, Bloomberg shared details on the thousands of employees that Amazon employs around the world to listen to voice recordings captured in the homes of Amazon Echo owners when the Alexa wake word is spoken, with the purpose of improving the service.

There was some concerning information in the report, including employee access to private recordings, recordings that are upsetting or potentially criminal, and an employee tendency to share private recordings in group work chat environments. As it turns out, there's something Alexa owners should be even more worried about -- some of these employees have access to the home addresses of Amazon customers.


In a new report on the team Amazon employs to listen to Amazon Echo recordings, Bloomberg says that employees have access to location data and can "easily find a customer's home address" by typing geographic coordinates into third-party mapping software. The new information was shared by five anonymous Amazon employees who spoke to Bloomberg.
Team members with access to Alexa users' geographic coordinates can easily type them into third-party mapping software and find home residences, according to the employees, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program.

While there's no indication Amazon employees with access to the data have attempted to track down individual users, two members of the Alexa team expressed concern to Bloomberg that Amazon was granting unnecessarily broad access to customer data that would make it easy to identify a device's owner.
Bloomberg saw a demonstration where an Amazon team member pasted a user's coordinates (stored on Amazon's servers as latitude and longitude) into Google Maps, finding the address for the user linked to the recording in less than a minute. It's not clear how many people are able to access that system, though two Amazon employees said that until recently, the "vast majority" of workers in the Alexa Data Services group could use the software.

Certain employees on the data team listening to recordings have access to home and work addresses for customers along with phone numbers and access to their contacts if the person has chosen to share contacts with Alexa, all for the purpose of improving requests.

That employees can access specific location data for an individual customer is concerning because after the original report, Amazon had this to say: "Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow."

In a new statement provided to Bloomberg, Amazon said something different, calling access to internal tools "highly controlled."
In a new statement responding to this story, Amazon said "access to internal tools is highly controlled, and is only granted to a limited number of employees who require these tools to train and improve the service by processing an extremely small sample of interactions. Our policies strictly prohibit employee access to or use of customer data for any other reason, and we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of our systems. We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible."
Amazon, says Bloomberg, appears to be restricting the level of access that employees have to sensitive customer data, and after the original story, some of the workers who transcribe and annotate audio recordings no longer had access to software tools they had previously used.

Alexa users concerned with the data that's being collected and used by Amazon should make sure to enable all privacy features and uncheck the option for letting Amazon save Echo recordings.


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Alexa Support for Apple Music Expands to Sonos Speakers

Amazon Echo devices have been able to use Alexa-based voice commands to control Apple Music since December, but the feature has been limited to Amazon's own devices until today.

Sonos One and Sonos Beam owners in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland are now also able to use Alexa to control Apple Music after adding the Apple Music skill to the Alexa app.


To get Alexa controls for Apple Music on Sonos, users will need to update to the newest version of the Sonos app, enable the Apple Music skill in the separate Amazon Alexa app, and link an Apple Music account.

From there, Sonos owners will be able to use commands like "Play My Chill Mix on Apple Music," or "Play Beats 1 Radio on Apple Music."

It's not yet clear if other Alexa-enabled devices will also be gaining support for Apple Music controls in the future, but right now, the feature is available on all Amazon Echo and Fire TV devices along with the Sonos One and Sonos Beam.


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Thousands of Amazon Employees Listen to Alexa Requests for Improvement Purposes

Amazon has thousands of employees around the world that listen to voice recordings captured in the homes of Amazon Echo owners, reports Bloomberg.

Recordings are listened to, transcribed, annotated, and added back into the software as part of Amazon's effort to help Alexa better respond to voice commands. Amazon has facilities for Alexa improvement in places that range from Boston to Costa Rica, India, and Romania.


Seven people familiar with Amazon's review process spoke to Bloomberg and revealed some insider details on the program that may be concerning to Echo users.

While much of the work has been described as "mundane," employees have sometimes come across more private recordings, such as a woman singing off key in the shower or a child screaming for help. Amazon employees have internal chat rooms where they share files when help is needed parsing a word or, more concerning, when an "amusing recording" is found.

Two workers told Bloomberg that they've heard recordings that are upsetting or potentially criminal, and while Amazon claims to have procedures in place for such occurrences, some employees have been told it's not the company's job to interfere.
Sometimes they hear recordings they find upsetting, or possibly criminal. Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault. When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. Amazon says it has procedures in place for workers to follow when they hear something distressing, but two Romania-based employees said that, after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told it wasn't Amazon's job to interfere.
Alexa users have the option to disable the use of their voice recordings for improvements to the service, but some may not know that these options exist. Amazon also does not make it clear that actual people are listening to the recordings.

According to Bloomberg, recordings sent to employees who work on Alexa don't include a user's full name or address, but an account number, first name, and the device's serial number are associated with the recording.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Amazon said that an "extremely small" number of Alexa voice recordings are annotated and that there are measures in place to protect user identity.
We take the security and privacy of our customers' personal information seriously. We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience. For example, this information helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems, so Alexa can better understand your requests, and ensure the service works well for everyone.

We have strict technical and operational safeguards, and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow. All information is treated with high confidentiality and we use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption and audits of our control environment to protect it.
It is standard practice to use some recordings for product improvement. Apple has employees who listen to Siri queries to make sure the interpretation of a request lines up with what the person said. Recordings are stripped of identifiable information, however, and stored for six months with a random identifier.

Google too has employees who are able to access audio snippets from Google Assistant for the purpose of improving the product, but Google, like Apple, removes personally identifiable information and also distorts audio.

Amazon does not appear to be removing all personally identifiable information, and while the Echo is meant to collect audio only when a wake word is spoken, the employees who spoke to Bloomberg said they often hear audio files that appear to have started recording with no wake word at all.

Alexa users concerned with the data that's being collected and used by Amazon should make sure to enable all privacy features and uncheck the option for letting Amazon save Echo recordings. Additional details on how Amazon uses the voice recordings it collects can be found in the original Bloomberg article.


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Apple Music Now Available on Amazon’s Alexa Devices in the UK and Ireland

Amazon Echo and Fire TV devices in the UK and Ireland are now compatible with Apple Music, reports Pocket-lint.

In the United States, Amazon Echo models have supported Apple Music since December of last year, allowing Echo speakers to integrate directly with Apple's music service, but the functionality was not made available in other countries.


Amazon Echo owners in the UK can now install the Apple Music integration using the Amazon Alexa app for iPhone or iPad and then use Alexa commands to play songs, albums, and more from the Apple Music service.

As of mid-March, Apple Music is also available as an option on the Amazon Fire TV.


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