Apple Lets Amazon Prime Video App Offer In-App Purchases on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV

The Amazon Prime Video apps for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV now allow customers to purchase and rent movies and TV shows within the app, and Apple appears to be allowing Amazon to use its own payment system, skirting the traditional in-app purchase screens.


Opening up the Prime Video app now includes the message "Browse, rent, or buy new release movies, popular TV shows, and more -- now within the app." Purchasing or renting a movie brings up an option to charge the credit card that a user has on file, rather than the charge going through the App Store.

According to The Verge, the new Prime Video app features a dedicated "Store" tab where customers can make purchases of TV shows and movies, but we didn't have access to the new tab and were still able to make a purchase.

Prior to now, Amazon did not allow customers to rent or purchase content within the Prime Video app, instead asking them to use a web browser to make the purchases. Amazon appears to have worked out some kind of deal with Apple, though, as Apple does not normally allow in-app content purchases that do not go through the ‌App Store‌.

Amazon recently added a new Prime Video Cinema hub to its app highlighting movies that are currently in theaters that can be purchased, which could have something to do with the decision to strike a deal with Apple to add in-app purchase options on ‌Apple TV‌, ‌iPhone‌, and ‌iPad‌.
Tag: Amazon

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Amazon Continues to Dominate U.S. Smart Speaker Market

Amazon's Echo speakers continue to be the most popular smart speakers in the United States, and will remain in the dominant spot through at least 2021, according to new smart speaker user estimates shared today by eMarketer (via TechCrunch).

An estimated 69.7 percent of U.S. smart speaker users will use an Amazon Echo product in 2020, a number that's down slightly from the estimated 72.9 percent of smart speaker owners who used an Echo in 2019. In 2021, Amazon is estimated to see another small drop in usage, with eMarketer suggesting 68.2 percent of smart speaker owners will use an Echo.


Google is expected to make some headway against Amazon, but eMarketer does not believe that the "Other" category, which includes Apple's HomePod, the Sonos One, and other smart speakers, will gain significant ground over the next two years.

An estimated 31.7 percent of smart speaker owners will use a Google device in 2020, while 18.4 percent will use speakers in the Other category. In 2021, that number is expected to grow to 32 percent for Google and 18.8 percent for the Other category.
Since Amazon first introduced the Echo, it has built a convincing lead in the U.S. and continues to beat back challenges from top competitors," said Victoria Petrock, a principal analyst at eMarketer. "We had previously expected Google and Apple to make more inroads in this market, but Amazon has remained aggressive. By offering affordable devices and building out the number of Alexa skills, the company has maintained Echo's appeal," she added.
eMarketer expects the number of U.S. smart speaker owners to grow over the next several years, but ownership numbers will rise slowly. 28.9 percent of internet users also have a smart speaker, a number that will grow to 30.5 percent next year.

Though Apple's ‌HomePod‌ recently turned two, Apple has had some difficulty securing a foothold in the smart speaker market. Apple's ‌HomePod‌ was priced at $349 when it launched in February 2018, but Apple dropped the price to $299 in April 2019. Even at $299, the ‌HomePod‌ is significantly more expensive than Amazon's Echo lineup, which includes smart speakers at multiple price points. Amazon's lowest priced device, the Echo Dot, sells for $30 and sometimes dips even lower.


Apple was hoping that the superior sound of the ‌HomePod‌ would draw customers to pay extra for sound quality, but the more affordable prices of the Amazon Echo and Google Home have been more appealing to most consumers. Amazon doesn't have quite the same advantage in non-U.S. markets because it supports fewer non-English languages than other speakers like the Google Home, so that is an area where Apple could make inroads into the smart speaker market.

‌HomePod‌ rollout has been slow, though, with the device limited to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan

Apple is rumored to be working on a new, more affordable version of the ‌HomePod‌ with reduced tweeters, which could be released at some point in 2020. A lower price point will help the ‌HomePod‌ better compete with the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, but it will likely be difficult for Apple to catch up given the lead Amazon and Google have in the smart speaker market.

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

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Amazon Mysteriously Pulls All New Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 Listings

Amazon is no longer selling new versions of the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 models through its online store in the United States, with the listings disappearing earlier today.

There is no word on why Amazon has pulled ‌Apple Watch‌ Series 4 and Series 5 models, but these are the Apple Watches that feature ECG functionality. All models, capacities, and colors are missing from Amazon's storefront.


Amazon is continuing to list refurbished ‌Apple Watch‌ Series 4 and Series 5 models from third party sellers, but there are no new models available nor models available direct from Amazon. Attempting to visit a page that previously had a Series 4 or Series 5 ‌Apple Watch‌ listed results in an error message.

The ‌Apple Watch‌ Series 3 and other Apple products like iPads and Macs continue to be available from Amazon, so this issue is limited to newer ‌Apple Watch‌ models. Should we learn more about why Amazon has pulled Series 4 and Series 5 ‌Apple Watch‌ listings, we'll update this article.

Tag: Amazon

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Amazon Offers Free Ad-Supported Music Through Amazon Music App on iOS

Amazon today announced that Amazon Music users without an Amazon Prime membership or a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited can listen to an ad-supported selection of playlists and radio stations for free on iOS devices.

Amazon has been offering free music access on its Echo devices, but is today expanding that access to the iPhone and iPad along with Android and Fire TV devices. Free Amazon music is also available on the web.


Amazon Music does not require any subscriptions or credit/debit cards, and it is available in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.

According to Amazon, users can play thousands of stations based on "any song, artist, era, and genre." Some of the playlists include "All Hits," "Fuego Latino," and "Holiday Favorites."

Amazon Music is designed for those without an existing Amazon subscription, as there are already benefits for Amazon Prime member and those who subscribe to Amazon Music Unlimited.

Prime members can access a catalog of more than two million songs along with thousands of playlists and stations without ads, while Amazon Music Unlimited provides access to 50 million songs.

The Amazon Music app can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Amazon

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Apple TV App Now Available on Amazon Fire TV Sticks

Following in the footsteps of Roku, Amazon today announced that the Apple TV app is now available on select Fire TV devices, including the second-generation Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K, and the Fire TV Stick Basic Edition.


Available through the Amazon Appstore, the Apple TV app allows users to access their iTunes libraries of movies and TV shows and the Apple TV Channels feature through the Fire TV platform. The app will also users to stream original content from Apple TV+ when the streaming video service launches November 1.

As of today, the Apple TV app on Fire TV is available in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, and the United Kingdom. The app is also available for Fire TV Basic Edition users in over 50 countries.

Amazon says the Apple TV app will be coming soon to the first- and second-generation Fire TV Cube, the third-generation diamond-shaped Fire TV dongle, Fire TV smart TVs from Toshiba and Insignia, and the Nebula sound bar. The app is not compatible with the first- or second-generation Fire TV or Fire TV Stick.

In addition to Fire TV, the Apple TV app is available on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple TV, Roku, and select 2018 and newer Samsung smart TVs. The app is also coming to select LG, Sony, and VIZIO smart TVs in the future.

Apple TV+ is a Netflix-like subscription-based service that will allow users to stream original TV shows and movies curated by Apple. Pricing will start at $4.99 per month with a one-week free trial. Up to six family members can share a single ‌Apple TV‌+ subscription through Family Sharing.


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Amazon Music Launches on Apple TV

Amazon Music today expanded to the Apple TV, and a new Amazon Music app is now available for the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models.

Amazon says that  Apple TV  owners can now download the Amazon Music app from the tvOS App Store to get access to millions of songs and thousands of playlists and stations.


Amazon Music listeners on the  Apple TV  are also able to browse and search for music from their favorite artists and access purchased and imported music from the "My Music" library. Scrolling lyrics are also available.

The Amazon Music app for  Apple TV  is available in the United States, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Japan, and India.

Earlier this week, the Amazon-owned Twitch service also introduced an  Apple TV  app, and Spotify also brought its app to the tvOS  App Store .

Tag: Amazon

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Amazon Prime Video Currently Unavailable in App Store Across iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV [Updated]

Amazon Prime Video is currently unavailable in the App Store across iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Amazon had updated the iOS version of the app shortly before it was removed from the App Store, but it is unclear why the app was pulled or whether this is a temporary move.

Apple deferred comment to Amazon, which has yet to respond to our email. We'll update as we learn more.

Update: MacRumors has been informed this was a technical issue and the app should be back up shortly.


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Amazon Unveils Multiple New Echo Devices, Including HomePod and AirPods Competitors

At an event in Seattle, Amazon today unveiled a series of new Alexa-enabled Echo products, ranging from a new high-end speaker to a lamp.

Amazon's Echo Studio, a new higher-end version of its Echo smart speaker, is designed to compete with Apple's HomePod. The Alexa-equipped Echo Studio, which is priced at $199, supports 3D Dolby sound and, like the HomePod, is designed to optimize sound based on the layout of a room.

Image via The Verge

The Echo Studio features three mid-range speakers (left, right, and top) along with a directional tweeter and a 5.25-inch subwoofer for bass and improved sound. Amazon is working with record labels that include Sony, Universal, and Warner Music Group on music tracks that support Sony 360 audio.

The Echo Studio is able to connect to 4K Fire TV devices and when Atmos-encoded content is played, the speaker will be engaged to "fill the room with sound."

In addition to a HomePod competitor, Amazon also debuted a new product designed to compete with the AirPods. The Echo Buds, priced at $130, are Amazon's first Echo wearable that offers hands-free access to Alexa.


Amazon says the earbuds deliver excellent sound with crisp, clear vocals and dynamic bass, plus they're equipped with Bose Active Noise Reduction technology. The Echo Buds last for five hours and have a case that adds additional battery life for up to 20 hours.

Amazon also unveiled a new version of its main Echo smart speaker today, which features improved sound quality with new Neodymium drivers and a 3-inch woofer. Priced at $100, the speaker is said to have stronger bass, and clearer mids and highs. The speaker looks similar to prior Echo speakers, but comes in a new dark blue color.


There's a new version of the Echo Dot, the Echo Dot With Clock, which is priced at $60. The Echo Dot With Clock features an LED display at the front with options for displaying the time, alarms, timers, temperature, and more.


The Echo Show 8, an upgraded version of the Echo Show 5, also debuted at Amazon's event. It features an 8-inch display, crisp audio, and a sleek form factor. It's priced at $129.99, and customers can now choose from three screen sizes: 5.5 inches, 10 inches, and the new 8-inch model.


For kids, Amazon introduced the Echo Glow, a multi-color smart lamp that pairs with Alexa. Priced at $30, Echo Glow can light up with different colors, mimic a flickering campfire, offer a Sleep Timer, or work in "dance party" mode with music and lights.


A new Echo Flex device ($24.99) can be placed anywhere in the home, plugging right into a wall outlet. There's a small speaker that's optimized for Alexa's voice, and there's a USB charging port. Amazon is also allowing developers to customize the port, and accessories that include a motion sensor and nightlight are coming.


Amazon even debuted a new Alexa-equipped Smart Oven that can cook common foods through Alexa voice commands. Priced at $250, it is a combination microwave, convection oven, air fryer, and food warmer.


A new product, Echo Frames, is part of a program Amazon is calling "Day One Edition." Amazon is making a limited number of Day One Edition products, and if they prove popular, Amazon will make more.


Echo Frames are Alexa-enabled glasses that look like regular prescription glasses. There's no camera, but they offer Alexa voice access.

Another Day One Edition product is the Echo Loop, an Alexa-enabled smart ring that has two microphones that can be activated with a tap.


There's a built-in haptic engine that vibrates discreetly when there's a notification or an incoming call and a tiny speaker for responses. It's meant to be paired with a phone and can do things like turning out lights, calculating a tip, and more. Echo Frames and Echo Loop will be available in limited volumes by invite only. The Echo Frames will be available for $180 and Echo Loop will be available for $100.

Amazon is adding a Multilingual Mode to its devices that will let customers interact with Alexa in multiple languages at one time. Three pairs will be available at launch: in the United States - English and Spanish, in India - Indian English and Hindi, and in Canada - Canadian English and French.

Alexa is also becoming more emotive and expressive thanks to neural text to speech technology, and Alexa can recognize when a customer gets frustrated when something is wrong, resulting in adjustments to Alexa responses. This feature will be rolling out in early 2020.

There's also a new option to add celebrity voices to Amazon devices to change Alexa's voice. Celebrity voice options will be available for $0.99, and the first one, coming later this year, is going to be Samuel L. Jackson's voice.

Amazon customers can opt in to a new auto delete option that will see voice recordings older than three months or 18 months automatically deleted on an ongoing basis. The feature is accessible in the Privacy Hub for Amazon devices.

As for non-Echo Amazon-owned brands, Amazon unveiled a new version of the Eero mesh Wi-Fi system, a Ring alarm retrofit kit, an updated Ring Stick Up Cam ($99), and a new Ring Indoor Cam ($60).

Amazon is adding Wi-Fi specific skills that will let device users do things like pause the WiFi for dinner or turn on the guest WiFi, which will work with the new Eero and compatible ASUS and TP-Link routers (this fall). Starting next year, it will also support devices from Arris and Linksys.

Amazon is offering pre-orders for its newly announced devices starting today, with devices set to ship out in the near future.

Tag: Amazon

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Amazon Music Adds Lossless Streaming Tier for $14.99/Month ($12.99 for Prime)

Amazon today introduced a new tier of Amazon Music, called Amazon Music HD, which offers lossless versions of audio files for streaming or downloading. This tier will cost $14.99/month, or $12.99/month for Amazon Prime members (via The Verge).


Amazon is offering a catalog of over 50 million songs in "High Definition," which are songs with CD-quality bit depth of 16 bits and a 44.1kHz sample rate. Then, there are "millions" of songs in Ultra HD, meaning they have 24-bit and sample rates that range from 44.1kHz up to 192kHz.

All of these songs will be delivered in a lossless FLAC file format. Amazon is hoping that being the first of the so-called big three streaming music services (Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify) to offer lossless streaming will win some converts. Tidal has always offered lossless streaming as one of its main selling points, but its price is $19.99/month, which Amazon is now undercutting.
Amazon’s VP of Music, Steve Boom says that “It’s a pretty big deal that one of the big three global streaming services is doing this — we’re the first one.” Amazon Music isn’t often in the conversation about music streaming competition, which usually ends up following a Spotify vs. Apple Music narrative. But Amazon considers itself in their company, and with the new HD offering it’s looking to differentiate itself and perhaps raise its profile.
According to reports from earlier this year, Amazon Music had 32 million subscribers as of April 2019. That compares to the 60 million subscribers gained by Apple Music as of June 2019, and the 100 million Spotify Premium subscribers as of April 2019.


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Google and Amazon Put Brakes on Human Review of Voice Assistant Recordings

Following Apple's decision last week to suspend a Siri program that allows employees to listen to audio recordings for quality control purposes, Amazon and Google have both chosen to make their policies on human reviews of voice assistant audio more clear.


Late last month, Apple confirmed that a small number of anonymized Siri requests are analyzed for the purpose of improving Siri, after a Guardian report revealed that contractors regularly hear private conversations recorded by Apple's voice assistant.

To allay privacy concerns, Apple said it was temporarily stopping the program while it reviewed the process that's currently used. It also said it plans to release a software update that will let Siri users opt out.

On Friday, Google said it had also suspended its policy of reviewing Google Assistant audio. The company actually suspended the practice across the EU on July 10 when a German privacy regulator started investigating it following a Belgian media report, but this is the first time Google has confirmed the fact publicly.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon will let Alexa users opt out of human review of their voice recordings. The new policy took effect Friday, and adds an option in the settings menu of the Alexa mobile app for removing recordings from analysis by Amazon employees.

All of the tech companies employ staff to review a small subset of voice recordings while claiming to anonymize the source. For example, Google distorts the recording before it is listened to, so as to disguise the user's voice, while Apple strips them of identifiable information and assigns each one a random device identifier.

However, Bloomberg revealed that some of Amazon's audio reviewers had access to the home addresses of Amazon customers, before the company moved to restrict the level of access. Many members of the public were unaware the practice even existed until Bloomberg reported on it earlier this year.


Tags: Google, Amazon

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