Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fire TV and Prime Shipping Tips: The Fire TV app selection has more than doubled, challenging Apple TV's, and Prime Instant-Video-ONLY categories have been expanded ... Amazon expands Same Day Delivery to more U.S. cities ... Amazon also offers a SLOWER shipping option to Prime members in return for a $1 Instant video credit.

Amazon's Fire TV's appstore has quickly become competitive with Apple's Apple TV offerings.

The Motley Fool, an investing site, reports today that "Amazon Fire TV Just Leveled the Playing Field With Apple TV."

  The article by Steve Symington draws our attention to Amazon's announcement that
' ... the Fire TV app selection has more than doubled, with "hundreds" of new services and games added since the media streaming device was launched in April.  Among Fire TV's new games are Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Dungeon Quest, Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse, and the official Flappy Birds Family -- the last of which is currently a Fire TV exclusive.  Meanwhile, new services include WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney Jr., MLB.TV, Animal Planet Live, and WWE Network.

If that wasn't enough, Amazon promised more significant Fire TV services to come by the end of the year, including WATCH ABC, WATCH ABC Family, NFL Now, A&E, Lifetime, Outside TV, Young Hollywood, North Face TV, Fashion TV, Green TV, and Dailymotion. '

The Apple TV box has been reviewed as slower than the Fire TV, with much less memory, and with less advanced gaming capability (although the Fire TV is not going to be the equal of an actual $300-400 gaming console).  Curiously, Symington writes that an Apple TV advantage is its full-screen mirroring functionality.  But not only does Fire TV have that (and it's very smooth, with no delays), the Fire TV also has "Fling" a feature that allows you to use your Kindle Fire HDX or HD2 or Fire Phone to send a video to the TV where it will be streamed via Amazon's Cloud and not take up processing power while you can continue to do other work on the tablet or phone AND get X-Ray'd info on who is in a scene you're watching with Amazon Prime videos.

Tips from other customers
You can browse the customer reviews for tips on how to minimize your Cable bill by using the Fire TV offerings.
 There's a search box in the customer reviews area that lets you search the customer reviews for words like "cable" etc.

Voice Search - Does it work for more than Amazon's videos?
Hulu Plus's is now included in the voice search, for the most part (they're building the database, and most of it is working).
  Netflix will be integrated with voice search control later.  From a recent Amazon press release, a quote from CEO Jeff Bezos:
'... innovative features like unified voice search, which we’re delighted is being adopted by so many new partners, including Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Crackle and Showtime Anytime... '
  Anyone doing keypad searches knows how arduous searches can be.

Finding Amazon Prime Instant Videos Only
Searching for only Prime Instant Video -- This has not been possible but customers have of course been keen to have this capability, and Amazon has said, earlier, that they are working on making Prime Instant Videos easier to find on the Fire TV.

  As of mid-July, Amazon added more Prime-Instant Only browsing categories.  One customer review mentioned it's not a Search, but it's much more helpful than it was. (Note that Apple TV does not get Prime Instant videos.)

  On July 30, Amazon explained the new features in a reply to a customer review:
' The Amazon team says                           July 30, 2014

. . . We wanted to let you know that we made it easier to find your favorite Prime content with the click of your remote.   You can now browse many more Prime-only categories, including
  Top Prime TV,
  Top Prime Movies,
  Prime TV for Kids,
  Prime Movies for Kids,
  Prime TV by Genre, and
  Prime Movies by Genre. '

They don't mention a coming Voice Search that searches specifically for Prime Instant videos, and even then it would take forever to show results that included large segments of the 40,000 or so that are available for a search-results page.  The Genre category should be very useful, as long as Amazon doesn't limit greatly the number of videos that will come up.  You can of course search for a specific movie to see whether it carries a charge for Prime members or is included at no added cost.

HOWEVER, there's another way to view what is available for Prime members at no added cost:
  You can use your laptop, desktop, or even tablet, to go to the Prime-Only pages, by categories and genres or by a listing that's sortable, with details.

Generally, it would be faster to go through these on a computing device when so many items are involved.
  I've read that due to various Agreements that are for varying terms, a video can go in and out of 'Free' category, so that may be an additional reason to have fixed categories that include only Prime Instant Video content.

  Some are also just putting Prime videos onto their "Watch" lists and these will show up on that list on the Fire TV.

If you're new to checking out Fire TV, see earlier blog articles for much more detail on the features and how to use them:
1. Intro to Features of the new Fire TV - April 2, 2014
2. Tips from further exploration of my Fire TV - April 8, 2014
3. The amazing Frequency app - April 14, 2014.

Amazon expands Same Day Delivery to more cities
Press release details are cited in a story by Forbes's Jeremy Greenfield, who reports:
' Amazon has launched Same Day Delivery in six more major cities, making goods from baby supplies to textbooks available almost immediately for millions more shoppers.

The program, which initially launched in Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle is now also available in Baltimore, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
  For an additional charge of $5.99, Amazon Prime customers can have as many items as they want delivered to their doors on the same day they’re ordered.  Not all Amazon items are available for delivery same day and orders must be placed before noon.
. . .
It’s unclear from the Amazon release whether trade books — that is, books widely read by the general public like fiction, nonfiction, illustrated books, etc. — are included in the new program.  The release specifically mentioned textbooks, however: “Fill-up the back pack with things like pencils, glue, text books, lunch boxes and other supplies.”

Amazon has not yet replied to a request for comment. '

From the press release:
' ... Prime members pay only $5.99 for all the same-day delivery items they can order.
Pricing for non-Prime customers remains unchanged, with a $9.98 fee for the first item and $0.99 for each additional item. '
"Metro" areas:
I live across the bay from San Francisco but "the East Bay' (which includes Berkeley) is not considered part of the "metro" area of San Francisco, so it's not available where I am.  It's really rare that I ever need something in one day.  And I just received one item in 1 business day though it was estimated to take the usual two days.

  To view Same-Day eligible ZIP codes in select cities and see if your area is eligible:
    * East Coast & Midwest Cities
    * West Coast & Southwest Cities

In the meantime!
Amazon is encouraging Prime customers to opt for slower shipping if the item isn't needed in two days.
Cnet's Lance Whitney writes that Amazon is offering Prime members a $1 credit toward an Instant Video rental (usually costing $1.99 to $2.99) if they choose free "no rush" shipping.

It seems the expense of offering Prime benefits is having an impact on its bottom line, and this is one way to lower the costs for Amazon without having to raise the cost of Prime features any further.

  And it makes sense too.  Some commenters on news sites are saying that they can use their Prime to buy 3 separate items which will be delivered in slow motion :-) and get $3 toward video credits that way.  So far, it's being allowed.  Apparently some noticed that this option began to appear about 8 days ago.

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