Amazon Updates Alexa Devices With Apple iCloud Calendar Integration

Amazon today announced that users will now be able to sync their iCloud Calendar information with devices that support Amazon's smart assistant Alexa. With the update, users can ask Alexa what's coming up on their calendar, or issue commands so new appointments are added to the schedule. Anything added from an Amazon device is then synced with iCloud and added to the Calendar app on iOS and macOS devices.

To sync an iCloud account with Alexa, the company said that customers will have to sign in to their Apple account within the settings tab of the Alexa iOS app. Users in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany will gain access to the new update beginning today, representing the current countries where Alexa is available.

Starting today, you can now link your Apple iCloud Calendar to Alexa. To do this, iCloud Calendar customers can simply link their account in the settings tab in the Alexa app. Once linked, just say, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?” or “Alexa, add lunch with Sarah at noon to my calendar.”

iCloud Calendar support has been a top requested feature from Alexa customers, and we’re thrilled to bring this to Alexa devices in US, UK and Germany today.
With the inclusion of Apple's Calendar, Alexa device users now have access to five total calendar services, also including accounts for G Suite, Google/Gmail, Office 365 users with Exchange Online mailboxes, and Outlook.com.

Alexa is available in a variety of hardware devices sold by Amazon, including the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Look, and new Echo Show, as well as on the Amazon Alexa iOS app [Direct Link].

Tags: Amazon, Alexa

Discuss this article in our forums

Amazon Launches New Fire tablets With Built-in Alexa in U.S. and U.K.

Amazon yesterday refreshed its low-cost tablet range and brought its Alexa voice assistant to Fire tablets in the U.K. for the first time.

The new thinner and lighter $50/£50 Fire 7 boasts an improved 7-inch 1024x600 IPS screen with higher contrast and sharper text, up to 8 hours' battery life, and more storage than its predecessor. Meanwhile, the new $80/£80 Fire HD 8 features a larger 8-inch 1280x800 display and up to 12 hours of battery life.


Both devices pack a quad-core 1.3GHz processor, 2-megapixel VGA front and rear cameras, dual-band WiFi, and Alexa voice assistant, which comes as a new feature for tablets sold in the United Kingdom.

Amazon claims its new Fire models are more hard-wearing than Apple's iPads. Even so, the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 are also available in Kids Editions, for £100/$100 and £130/$130 respectively, which come with a large rubber protective case and a two-year "worry-free" guarantee, as well as more storage, parental controls, no adverting or in-app purchases, and a one-year subscription to Fire for kids unlimited.

With its low-cost, feature-rich offerings, Amazon has managed to buck the trend in a tablet market in which even market-leading brands like Apple have struggled to convince consumers to upgrade to the latest devices. While iPad sales have declined for 13 consecutive quarters, Fire sales have generally improved, seeing double-digit growth in its media-positioned tablets. The Fire 7 has proved particularly popular among parents who want a device for their kids but aren't willing to risk paying a premium price.

The Amazon Fire 7 and HD 8 tablets are available to pre-order now and due to ship on June 7. Amazon will roll out Alexa to more of its Fire tablet devices in the U.K. in June through a software update.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon.

Tag: Amazon

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple to Announce Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV at WWDC

Apple plans to make a major Apple TV announcement at WWDC that should delight Amazon Prime subscribers - the addition of an Amazon Prime Video app for the Apple TV.

The news comes courtesy of BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski, who often accurately shares details on Apple's plans ahead of events. According to Paczkowski, sources of Apple's plans say the company will announce an Amazon Prime Video app during its keynote event.

There are tentative plans for the app to go live in the summer, but its official release date could change.


With Amazon Prime Video on the Apple TV, Amazon also plans to resume offering the Apple TV through Amazon.com. Amazon stopped offering the Apple TV and the Google Chromecast in 2015, citing Amazon Prime Video incompatibility as the reason why. It is not known when the Apple TV will return to the Amazon website.

News of a potential deal between Apple and Amazon that would see the app made available on the Apple TV first surfaced last week. At the time, Apple and Amazon were said to be close to an agreement, and now an agreement has been reached.

Amazon Prime Video is one of the only major streaming video services that is currently absent from the Apple TV, and Apple TV owners have long wanted to see the Prime Video app on Apple's device.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10, WWDC 2017
Tags: Amazon, Amazon Prime Video
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

Discuss this article in our forums

Amazon Reveals $230 Touchscreen ‘Echo Show’ Launching in June

Amazon today debuted an all-new touchscreen Echo device, which it's calling the "Echo Show," following a report from yesterday that said the company was gearing up to debut the new Echo as soon as today. As was expected, the Echo Show is a smart home speaker system that has all of the features of the basic Echo system with an additional 7-inch touchscreen.

With the addition of a touchscreen, Amazon said that users will be able to watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, check on security cameras, swipe through photos, view weather forecasts, make to-do and shopping lists, and more. Far-field voice recognition, eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation allow users to be heard from anywhere in the room, as well as over loud music coming from the Echo Show itself.


One of the biggest additions with Echo Show is a new video chat experience that allows users to make hands-free calls to friends who also have an Echo Show, or who use the Alexa smartphone app. A Feature called "Drop In" lets users quickly contact or send messages to other Echo Show devices to do things like let someone know it's time for dinner, or check in on a child's nursery.

The Echo Show will connect to smart home products like Hue and Wink, and allow for simple daily tasks like timing food in the kitchen and catching up with the news.
For news and information you can see and hear, just ask Alexa for your video flash briefing from CNN. Curious about the latest movie trailers or a need a how-to video from YouTube? Just ask.

Echo Show helps keep you organized at home. Start a timer in the kitchen and watch as it counts down, or easily see and manage your family’s calendar. Sign in to the Alexa App to take your to-do and shopping lists with you. Just add an item to the list from home, and whoever is out shopping will see it added instantly on their Alexa App.
The Amazon Echo Show is the latest in a long line of Amazon smart home speakers, following the original Echo, Echo Dot, and most recently the Echo Look. While Amazon sits on top of the market for these voice-controlled speakers, more companies are looking to add similar products into their line-ups. This week, Harman Kardon teased the upcoming launch of a speaker with Microsoft's Cortana built in, with an aesthetic very similar to Echo.

Apple has long been rumored to be getting into the smart home speaker market as well, with plans to launch a device that would be visually similar to Google Home and have deep Siri integration, as well as the usual Apple services like Apple Music and iCloud. Rumors about such a device began around this time last year, and Apple is now believed to debut the Siri smart speaker as soon as WWDC in June.

Although a screen on the Siri device has not been mentioned in rumors, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller recently mentioned that having a screen available suits more user-friendly situations than a device that exclusively uses voice controls. "So there's many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn't mean you'd never want a screen," Schiller said. "So the idea of not having a screen, I don't think suits many situations."

The Amazon Echo Show is available to pre-order right now in black and white for $229.99 and will begin shipping June 28. Those who purchase two Echo Show devices at once can save $100 off of the order with a special promotion that Amazon is debuting for the launch of the new speaker.


Discuss this article in our forums

Amazon Prime Video App Reportedly Coming to Apple TV Sometime This Summer

After nearly two years of being absent from the fourth generation Apple TV's app lineup, Amazon Prime Video is reportedly on its way to Apple's set-top box and could arrive for Prime subscribers to download and watch videos as soon as this summer. The news comes from Recode, citing sources familiar with the plans of each company who said that Apple and Amazon are "close to an agreement" in regards to Amazon Prime Video finally being available on Apple TV.

Specifically, Amazon employees are expecting the app to appear on the Apple TV App Store sometime in the third quarter of 2017. The sources at the heart of the story didn't divulge what compromises or agreements might have happened behind the scenes for Amazon to come to Apple TV, but those watching and hearing about the backroom meetings believe that such a deal was made "at a high level," meaning company CEOs Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos themselves came to mutual terms to make the deal happen.

Amazon and Apple may have reached a truce. The tech giants, who are increasingly competing for customers’ time, eyeballs and money, are close to an agreement to bring an Amazon video app to Apple’s Apple TV set-top box, according to people familiar with the two companies.
One year ago, Bezos briefly discussed Amazon and Apple TV at Recode's Code Conference, stating that Amazon always seeks out "acceptable business terms" before it brings its video app to streaming devices. On Apple's side of things, Eddy Cue mentioned in February that Amazon is always welcome to join Apple TV "any time they like," and said that he hoped they will do so "sometime soon."

In late 2015, Amazon stopped selling Apple TV devices on Amazon.com, further solidifying the idea that Amazon Prime Video might never arrive on Apple TV. Now, it appears that Apple and Amazon have reached some kind of mutual agreement, the details of which remain unclear.

Late last year, Amazon did launch an app for the Apple TV, but it wasn't for streaming movies and television from Amazon Prime, and only allowed users to search for and browse items on Amazon.com.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Tags: Amazon, Amazon Prime Video
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

Discuss this article in our forums

Amazon’s New ‘Echo Look’ Camera Has Machine Learning to Help You Make Better Fashion Choices

Amazon today announced the expansion of its popular Echo line with the $200 Amazon Echo Look, a device that packs in all of the typical Echo functionalities and adds on a hands-free camera with built-in LED lighting that can give users an edge on their wardrobe choices. With Echo Look, users can take full-body photos and videos using their voice, and view the content on the connected Amazon iOS and Android apps.

Thanks to the Echo Look's depth-sensing camera, users' outfits pop in the foreground while the background is blurred, making it easier to see what they're wearing. Photos can be saved to an ongoing "look book" that will log what users wear every day so as to not duplicate outfits, and the pics can be shared easily on social networks or through texts. Taking a video allows users to quickly replay the clip on their phone so they can see their outfit from every angle in the moment, making it easier to decide on what to wear.

With Echo Look, you can take full-length photos of your daily look using just your voice. The built-in LED lighting and depth-sensing camera let you blur the background to make your outfits pop, giving you clean, shareable photos.

Get a live view in the Echo Look app or ask Alexa to take a short video so you can see yourself from every angle. View recommendations based on your daily look and use Style Check for a second opinion on what looks best. And, because Alexa is built in the cloud, she’s always getting smarter—and so will Echo Look.
Echo Look also comes equipped with a machine learning feature called Style Check, allowing users to take two pictures of two separate outfits and compare the two in order to make the best choice. Combined with advice from fashion specialists, Style Check gives users a percentage bar of what outfit works better in the moment, and what fits better on each individual user.


Otherwise, Echo Look functions like any other Echo device. Users can set alarms, listen to the news and audiobooks, get traffic alerts, control their smart home devices, check the weather, and more. With the launch of Echo Look, Amazon now sells the Echo in three iterations: the traditional Echo ($179.99), the Echo Dot ($49.99), and the new Echo Look ($199.99). An official release date for the Echo Look has not yet been announced, but users interested can sign up for an invitation on the device's Amazon page.


Discuss this article in our forums

Amazon Opens Alexa’s Deep Learning and Voice Recognition Smarts to Chat Bot Developers

Amazon on Wednesday made the AI and voice-recognition software that powers the company's Alexa virtual assistant available to all its cloud-computing customers.

Called Amazon Lex, the service will allow developers to make chat bot applications using Alexa's voice recognition technology and leverage the AI's deep learning abilities to enable their apps to understand more text and speech queries.

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said that Amazon's cloud-based work in processing how humans write and speak would make chat bots more helpful than the clunky tools they've been in the past.
"There's massive acceleration happening here," said Vogels, speaking to Reuters at the company's cloud-computing summit in San Francisco. "The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data center or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it."
Similar to how it operates its other cloud-based services, Amazon will charge developers based on how many text or voice requests Lex processes. The company's hope is that its Alexa technology will take center stage in the current e-commerce boom based around chatbots. This week, Facebook announced its own virtual assistant called M, which can help users order food, while MasterCard also launched its own Messenger merchant bots for food deliveries.

Amazon's move comes fast on the heels of similar announcements by the company, as it aims to head off competition in the virtual assistant space by rivals Apple and Google. Just last week Amazon opened up access to the far-field voice recognition technology found in its Echo smart speakers so that third-party manufacturers can make their own versions.

Alexa support is also increasingly cropping up in smart home devices, with chip vendors hoping to start shipping their own Alexa-like devices this year. Alexa is even set to appear as a built-in feature in some third-party smart products, like Ecobee thermostats.

Tags: Amazon, Alexa

Discuss this article in our forums

Amazon Launches Fire TV Media Streamer With Alexa Remote in the U.K.

Amazon today announced it is launching its Fire TV media streamer stick in the United Kingdom, approximately six months after the device first launched in the U.S.

The redesigned Fire TV stick, which costs £39.99, is the first of Amazon's media streamers to come with an Alexa-enabled voice remote. It features a new quad-core processor that makes it 30 percent faster than the previous version, according to the company. It also supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi protocol.


The Fire TV can be used to search for movies and TV shows, launch apps and control media playback. Like Amazon's Echo smart speakers, the Alexa remote can also be used to enable a number of "skills" such as asking for the weather or controlling smart devices around the home.

In addition, Amazon also announced a free Fire TV software update that will bring Alexa to all Fire TV devices in the UK—including first generations of both Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, as well as the Fire TV with 4K UHD.
The update will make Alexa available to the millions of UK customers with Fire TV devices already in their homes, and upgrades every existing Fire TV Voice Remote to an Alexa Voice Remote. Customers without a voice remote can use the Fire TV app for iOS and Android to access Alexa, in the same way they do today with Voice Search. The same software update also upgrades previous generation Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices to the new, cinematic UI.
The Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote is available today for £39.99 from Amazon UK and is also on sale in shops including Dixons, John Lewis, Tesco, and Maplin. The update bringing Alexa to existing Fire TV devices will roll out to customers over the coming weeks.

Tag: Amazon

Discuss this article in our forums

‘Amazon Cash’ Lets Cardless Users Add Funds to Their Accounts With App-Based Cash Transfers

Amazon today announced a new way for its users to add funds to their Amazon accounts, called Amazon Cash. By visiting a participating retailer, Amazon users will be able to show a barcode to a cashier, choose an amount between $15 and $500, and pay the amount in cash to see it transferred digitally and able to be spent on Amazon.com.

As TechCrunch reported, Amazon Cash is aimed at "cash customers" who don't shop online as consistently as everyone else, including people who are paid in cash, who don’t have a bank account or debit card, and who don’t use credit cards. The entire process doesn't require any sort of fee to be paid by the user.

This "cash customer" (the unbanked or "underbanked") accounts for around 27 percent of consumers, said a 2015 report from the FDIC.

While they may have money to spend online at times, there isn’t an easy way to do so. Until today, they would have to buy an Amazon Gift Card in a designated amount or add cash to prepaid payment cards, to be used at checkout.

More broadly, the service could appeal to anyone who just wants to deposit some cash in their Amazon.com account, without hassle.
These customers will be able to use the Amazon iOS and Android app to bring up their unique Amazon Cash barcode, which will be reused any time they want to add more money to their account. After telling the cashier how much they want added and scanning the barcode, the customer pays at the register with cash and the amount instantly appears in their Amazon account. Confirmation of the money's arrival will be sent to users via email, text, or push notification.

Amazon Cash will even let users print out their unique barcode at home and bring it into the store in lieu of using a smartphone. Those who have a smartphone with a cracked screen are also recommended to print out the barcode instead of using their phone.

Participating U.S. stores at launch include: CVS Pharmacy, Speedway, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Sheetz, Family Fare Supermarkets, and VG’s Grocery, with more coming soon. The service is launching now across the U.S.

Tag: Amazon

Discuss this article in our forums

‘AmazonFresh Pickup’ Beta Test Lets You Pick Up Groceries Without Leaving Your Car

Amazon has launched another grocery initiative, this time for Amazon employees in Seattle. The service is called AmazonFresh Pickup and it allows customers to order groceries from the Amazon mobile app on iOS and Android, or on the web, select a pickup time, and show up at the AmazonFresh Pickup location to get their items bagged into their vehicle by an Amazon worker.

Although it's limited to Amazon employees right now, when it opens to a wider audience AmazonFresh Pickup will be available to Prime members (who are near a location) as a free addition to their membership (via TechCrunch).


The service has no minimum order requirement, so customers can create grocery lists for dozens of items or for a single bottle of mouthwash, for example -- whatever is ordered will be waiting for them when they drive up. Customers can order fresh produce, meats, bread, dairy and a range of household items off of AmazonFresh Pickup, which currently has two locations in Seattle's SODO and Ballard neighborhoods.

Amazon previously tested out "Amazon Go" pop up stores, which let customers walk in, purchase groceries, and walk out of the store without needing to go through any lengthy check out process. That service worked by having customers scan their smartphone when entering, and the Amazon Go app tracked every item taken from the store's shelves and tallied it all up in a virtual cart, which charged a customer's connected payment card.


Recently, it was reported that Amazon is delaying a wider launch of Amazon Go locations to "work out kinks" related to the cashierless technology that charges customers automatically. Amazon is constantly testing out and slowly launching neat new ideas that could see a wider debut for its customers in the future -- like Amazon Prime Air, which has evolved from futuristic reveal to small-scale, working delivery drone in just over three years. With today's announcement, it appears that AmazonFresh Pickup is the next in line.

Tag: Amazon

Discuss this article in our forums