Thursday, October 15, 2015

Amazon news: Kindle for iOS v4.12 ... Amazon Cloud Drive v1.2 ... AT&T increases data cap. Also, Things to know: Clarification of Prime Rule changes a couple of months ago ... Manage your Prime acct page ... Amazon Video compatible devices. UPDATED Prime-sharing info 10/15/15.

These are some items I'd noted that probably aren't widely read but should be of some interest to users of Amazon devices and to Prime members.  Most are links to information for those interested, and I've filled in some basic details given in a response to CNet questions.

It had not been clear who can share or what content in Prime Sharing.
I've updated Prime-sharing information below.  (originally posted 10/14/15)

LINKS for new info:
1. What's new in Kindle for iOS v4.12

2. Android and Kindle app for Cloud Drive, v1.2 adds file and folder deletion from the device finally.

3. AT&T Increases Data Cap In Face Of $100 Million FCC Fine.  This should be of interest to those who bought Fire Phones or tablets with cellular network access and have contracs with AT&T.

Manage your Prime page
I didn't know there was a page for managing your Prime membership but ran across it recently.  This briefly describes each Prime membership feature and offers quick access to each, with control over aspects of some of those features shown on the 'Help' pages for each feature.

Amazon Prime Rules - the actual changes that occurred earlier and were or are misunderstood by some.
There was initial misunderstanding as shown in Techcrunch's article at the time -- this is included just to show what some were unhappy about due to some misreading, but I made a comment at the bottom of the article, clarifying what actually was changed, rather than what was described in the article.  What they did change was previously having prime-shipping shareable with 4 other people in a 'household' (the latter interpreted widely by customers) while video-streaming was NOT shareable at all.

Now they've made a Households feature or category.

 This is comprised of up to six members.
  • Two adults, each with their own Amazon account.
  • Up to four children, who don't need Amazon accounts in order to be a part of the household

  Within this feature is "Family Library" -- two accounts can be linked and their books *shared* on your Kindle and "other compatible Amazon devices and media apps."

  Probably more important for some is that another adult household member without a Prime account can share another adult household member's eligible Prime benefits now, including video streaming.

  Another customer confirmed the added benefit.  I still see some misunderstanding in this area.  What they did remove was multiple-sharing of *free-2-day shipping*, which is now available only to another adult member of the Prime member's household (both must share one credit card each and therefore must really trust each other), although Amazon is "grandfathering in" those already sharing Prime under another member's account.  Once any of those people leave the 'household' the slot for someone sharing the benefits disappears.

  What I explained in two Comments to the article:
' Andrys Basten · Blogger at Kindleworld
Actually, my understanding had been that all along, "Amazon previously allowed anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription to share its shipping benefits and a few others, [BUT *NOT*] including Prime Instant Video access, with up to four other “household” members."

In other words, they could share the free 2-day shipping benefits with up to 4 others sharing the same household (and street address, although I don't think the latter was strictly monitored) but they could not share the Prime Instant Video with anyone at all.

The recent addition of the "Amazon Household" feature allows the Prime Instant Video to be shared with another adult in the household now [and, it would appear, up to 4 children in that household].'
' First, with 'Household' they =added= the perk of being able to share a Prime Instant Video benefit with another adult in the same household.  That's new.  There's no scaling back on that particular benefit.

Updated info 10/15/15
CNET received responses from Amazon to the initial brouhaha over what was felt to be a downgrade of Prime benefits.
' For instance, Amazon Households requires the two adults on the account to be able to share credit cards -- a change made to let those users share purchased television shows. However, having shared credit cards may not sit well with dorm roommates or distant friends.

Despite the concerns raised, [Amazon spokesperson Julie] Law said the changes were not made for financial reasons. "It was how do we allow people to share more of their benefits -- particularly Prime Instant Video -- among a family," she said.

She added that Amazon doesn't actively seek out people skirting the rules on their memberships. So, not only are those grandfathered accounts still active, but also users who have shared one account log-in with multiple family members will likely still be able to do that without getting a nasty call from CEO Jeff Bezos.

"This change isn't related to those types of outliers," Law said about people using their accounts fraudulently. "This change was related to our most active Prime shoppers...It's something we wanted to offer our customers for a long time." '
See more at cnet's full article.  [End of updated info]

  Similarly, for about 7 years+ they've allowed (although publishers dislike this) people to have their Kindle devices under another person's account, in order to share the Kindle books in that account, and in that case, the guest device could then order as well, with the acct owner's credit-buy setup -- so 'trust' between members sharing was a large requirement there also, which discouraged sharing between people who aren't at least close friends.

  One might have access to the other adult household member's credit cards with 'Household' sharing program but for a second adult in that household -- the trust thing matters and they're less likely to use the other person's credit card without permission.  The video publisher streaming contracts are much tighter than the ebook ones (which are already quite tight). Amazon has had a history of trying to find ways to make sharing somewhat easier than publishers want but not so blatantly easy that the publishers would object and withdraw their content. '

The Consumerist, usually hard on Amazon, had a good article explaining that Amazon was NOT 'cracking down" on shared prime and described what the changes actually were and the probable reason(s) for it.

Amazon Video compatible devices page - Just one more useful reference page.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Amazon News Roundup: Amazon 'Flex' delivery coming. Early reactions to new device line details. Yr 2014 and 2013 HDX 8.9" tablet availability (US and UK). Amazon halts sales of Google and Apple streaming devices from Amazon and its Marketplace vendors, citing incompatibility problems with Prime Instant videos. New Echo feature to control garage-door opening and closing. Updates1 and 2 , 10/3/15

'Amazon Flex' begins in Seattle
Amazon is hiring everyday or 'average' people who can do 2, 4, or 8 hr shifts (and even 12 hour ones) on days they choose, delivering packages for Amazon, described by reporters as similar to the Uber system.

Drivers must be over 21, pass background checks, have their own car, and an Android phone (iPhone won't work for this at this point).  Amazon's offering $18-$25/hr.

While it's been launched only in Seattle at this point, they plan to expand this service soon to (in alphabetical order) Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, New York, and Portland.

The original order shown is: New York, Miami, Portland, Ore., Baltimore, Austin, Dallas, Chicago and Indianapolis.
  Interesting idea.

  The illustration they use is for Prime Now, which is a current service for 1-2hr service for Prime members.

  I wonder what happens, on 2-hour or 2-day service, when an average person (not an employee) doesn't feel well and calls in (or doesn't call in), sick.  But they must have thought of that.  People can apply to provide Flex delivery at

Early reactions to new lineup of tablet and streaming-tv
(Note that the original or first (main) post about the new Yr 2015 Amazon devices was updated several times,
  and if interested in that, you can read the continuing updates at the original blog article.

For updates for this News Roundup that you're reading, see Update1 and Update2.

  1. From mainstream articles, a couple of points made that might not have been clear in early reports.
    Wired: "Amazon Has 6 New Devices — And an Actual Plan for Hardware"
' ...Next to the carousel-filled, dark-on-dark interfaces Amazon’s built before, Fire OS 5 is a refreshing and desperately needed change. Now, you get a light background and a grid of content; your favorite stuff on one page, your recent stuff on another, all your movies on another yet. It feels usable, really for the first time.
On the TV side, the Fire TV has been maybe the best set-top box on the market since the day it came out. (Or at least since whatever day it finally got HBO.) Now, with Alexa, the voice search should be even more useful.

  And not only do the new set-top boxes offer 4K streaming, they use a better kind of video encoding (called HEVC) that uses less bandwidth to stream video. That means you’re more likely to get a high-definition stream, even when you have a bad connection...

  ... When Amazon does its job well, it makes finding and consuming stuff easier than anyone else. '

    The $99.99 Fire TV box now uses Amazon's cloud-based personal assistant Alexa (the voice for the Echo device), which will allow viewers to check the weather, look up sports scores and play music by request.

  Amazon said that Fire TV viewers could soon also control home appliances through Fire TV, a function available on that Echo, which has been able to regulate thermostats and lights -- and today it was announced that the Echo will also be able to let you know if your garage door is open, without having to go outside.  Of course that requires a gizmo for it:

  SIDE item - New Echo feature, using Alexa (which means it'll come to the FireTV also) :
  The new Echo feature - Garageio Garage Door Controller - announced today
' Garageio is a simple and convenient way to control and monitor your garage door--without needing to replace your existing opener. With the Garageio Smart Garage Controller, and the new Garageio Alexa skill, you can now check if you left the garage open (and close it) using just your voice. ...

  To get started, install the Garageio controller, enable the Garageio skill using the Alexa App, then ask "Alexa, ask Garageio to begin setup." Next, connect Garageio to Alexa by following the instructions in the Alexa App and ask:

- "Alexa, ask Garageio if any of my doors are open."

- "Alexa, tell Garageio to close my door." '

  2. First reactions in Kindle customer forum
    This one on the Fire 10.1" tablet is the first discussion I've seen on the Kindle forums of any of the new tablets.  Pro and con.
    And here's the second discussion, this one about the $50 Fire 7" tablet.

    Also, as of about 6pm on Oct 2, Amazon began posting customer reviews on the product pages for these new tablets.
    The product page customer reviews for the $50 Fire tablet is topped currently by a very honest, blunt, and also hilarious review, another one below it that has good pros and cons, and a third one that is mostly a very-informative video review that shows what the tablet display is like, for videos, and for text, as well as giving example of the this $50 tablet's functioning.  [End of Update1]

  3. Re the new dedicated game controller for the Fire TV, it was noted in a couple of articles that Apple had insisted that developers use the Apple TV remote for its new unit rather than a dedicated controller.

  4. Amazon has made readily available the higher-resolution and speedier Yr 2014 HDX 8.9" Fire Tablet and even the Yr 2013 one (!) -- the latter is the one I still use daily after two years -- while the UK seems to have both the Yr 2014 HDX 7" and 8.9" tablets available.

    I have no idea whether this is until they run out (they were unavailable for a bit after a huge 1 day sale just before the announcement).

    For the Amazon links to these earlier-Kindle pages whenever you need them, you can always see this blog's current Kindles table, which itself includes links to the OLDER tablets table.

  NOTE: Those earlier or older Kindles have higher-resolution and speedier chips but are more expensive, but they are also ON SALE today, I just noticed, probably for a limited time, the way Amazon works.  The prices had been reduced for these but they were further reduced today.  At these lower prices, they can be a good deal for those preferring higher resolution and a somewhat faster experience.

The new Yr 2015 devices have been shipping the last 3 days, so we'll get a closer look at these.  I saw one tech-site review yesterday that lamented that these budget-oriented models are not as fast as the more expensive ones of previous years.  Notice their expectations seem to be the same as for much more expensive tablets.

Amazon halts sales of Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast
Bloomberg reports that
' The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast since those devices don’t "interact well" with Prime Video.  No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said.  Prime Video doesn’t run easily on its rival’s hardware. '
See the Bloomberg story for more details and an analysis of what it means for Amazon and consumers who've looked to Amazon to buy these.

Update2 ... Adding an interesting set of points from the Amazon Kindle Forum on this, although there is obviously the danger for Amazon that it is sending paying customers to Google Store, benefiting Google more than Amazon in the long run:
' HJ Leonard says:
Keep in mind that Apple and Google refuse to sell the Amazon equivalents in their stores, too.  It's just another step in their battles.

  T. J. Hawkins says:
Not only do they not sell the Amazon equivalents they do not allow the Amazon video app on their devices.  So anybody who bought one thinking they could watch their prime video... well I guess you are just going to have to pay to buy it in the Google or Apple store or else subscribe to an alternative like Netflix.

It's true that Neither Google Play or iTunes are available on the Fire either.  But when you buy a product from a company you will likely expect that the companies services will work on that product. If I bought something from Apple I would expect iTunes to work on it.  If I bought something from Google I would expect the Play store to work on it.  So Amazon would be completely brainless if they continued to sell a product that Prime Video did not work on.

That's why I prefer Roku. Both Amazon and Google Play work on it. iTunes doesn't of course since Apple will never allow their service to work on any streaming device except an Apple product. '

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