Did you know that Amazon will donate money to charity from every purchase you make? It’s a program called AmazonSmile, and it doesn’t cost you anything to sign up. The best part about it? You get to pick the charity! AmazonSmile has been around since October, and you can kick off the charitable giving simply by going to smile.amazon.com when you’re ready to shop online. Amazon has recently begun re-emphasizing the program to encourage more charitable giving by prominently featuring messages on its homepage, reminding shoppers of the AmazonSmile program. The only catch? The message only appears to customers who have visited the AmazonSmile site before. If you want to get involved, head to smile.amazon.com, choose the charity you’d like Amazon to donate to, and you’re all set! And, to make sure you never make an Amazon purchase that doesn’t give a little kickback to charity, download a browser plug-in – like Smile Always for Google Chrome – that automatically re-directs you to Smile whenever you go to Amazon.
iPads have advanced to the point where they can do most things a full computer can do. Certain things, like photography and photo editing, are still better left to a computer. But if you’re a photo hound and want to give up your laptop forever, it’s not impossible to make the switch. Here’s what to do. To offload photos directly from your camera, Apple’s accessories – like the iPad Camera Connection Kit or Lightning to SD Card Reader – will let you move photos directly onto your iPad. Storing them can be tough, though, even if you shell out for a top-of-the-line 128 GB iPad. To keep all that data organized – and keep free space on your tablet for apps and other documents – cloud services like Dropbox or Amazon Cloud Drive can do the trick, as can home-based cloud networks and networked attached storage devices. Finally, photo editing will always be better on a computer, but apps like iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop Touch offer decent options for touching up your photos.
Just like Icarus, mobile app Flappy Bird flew too high too fast, and paid the price. One of the most popular games in recent memory, the creator of Flappy Bird removed the game from the iOS App Store and Google Play for being “too addictive.” Demand for the game – which is incredibly tough and even more frustrating – reached such a fervor that phones and tablets with Flappy Bird installed were seeing bids in the thousands of dollars on eBay. Those auctions were pulled, though, as eBay requires devices to be restored to factory settings before being sold. But if you want to play Flappy Bird on your phone, you still can – without paying a dollar. A software developer has recreated Flappy Bird in browser form, and since it’s powered by HTML5, you can play in on any mobile device, as though it never went away. There are also plenty of Flappy Bird clones in both app stores, but be wary: many are actually malware, waiting to harm your device.
After signing a massive deal with Starbucks a year and a half ago, mobile payment company Square has landed its second major retail partnership: this time, with Whole Foods. The new deal puts Square Stands – complete point-of-sale systems powered by an iPad with Square’s payment system attached – in every Whole Foods location. The Square Stands won’t be found at checkout lines, but rather at the “in-store venues” – places like sandwich counters, pizzerias and coffee bars. These checkout locations will make it much quicker for customers just picking up lunch or dinner to get in and out, instead of having to wait on a regular checkout line with regular grocery shoppers. Square’s checkout process is a smart choice for these locations, as they seamlessly let you add tips or have your receipt emailed to you. Square Stands can currently be found in seven stores – including locations in New York, San Francisco and Austin – but will be expanding to other locations across the country soon.
Imagine knowing exactly when you need to change your baby’s diaper, without a need to check or guess. A new ‘smart diaper’ designed by a team of Japanese researchers can do just that. The diaper is powered by flexible circuits that are thinner than a piece of plastic wrap, and have been implanted in the human body to monitor temperature and blood pressure in the past. The version of the sensor used in the diapers is organic and disposable, and is printed on film using inkjet technology. The sensors look for changes in pressure, temperature and – most importantly – wetness. If any of these triggers are hit, it sends a signal to an external monitoring device. The research team believes the sensors can be produced for no more than a few cents, so it wouldn’t drastically jack up the price of diapers. And since the sensors receive their power from that external monitoring device, they’re completely safe to have next to the skin with no risk for electrical shock.
When Oyster launched last fall, it let you read as many books as you wanted for less than 10 bucks a month on your iPhone or iPad. Oyster recently launched a brand new children’s category on its service, featuring 100 new titles just added in a deal with Disney Publishing. The section gathers the new additions along with the children’s titles already available on Oyster, up through those categorized as “Young Adult.” The new section, which includes about 10,000 available titles, is far more than just “picture books.” While some picture books are available, almost all children’s titles on Oyster are text-based. This update is an important one for Oyster, as several other companies have launched similar services aimed at children since Oyster launched in September. Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime Unlimited and Epic both specifically target kids in the unlimited-reading market, so Oyster’s a bit late to the party. Will it catch up? Decide for yourself on your iDevice today, or Android in the coming months.
Netflix may be the streaming site claiming awards for its original shows, but Amazon has started to bring the heat. Amazon recently released its second batch of 10 original pilots, and is asking its Prime customers to vote on which they want to see turn into full series. Amazon’s first batch of pilots last year led to two new shows: Betas and Alpha House. Both were fairly well-received, but neither was a critical darling like Netflix’s House of Cards. Could Amazon’s second batch of pilots hold its breakout hit? Five of the ten new shows are aimed at kids, but others include a series from X-Files creator Chris Carter that’s vaguely reminiscent of LOST, while another follows a Los Angeles detective in a story based off a best-selling novel from Michael Connelly. Watching any of these shows will make it obvious that Amazon’s production values were much higher this time around. Time will tell if any of these series will take off, but one thing is clear: Netflix should watch its back.
Look out, brick-and-mortar retailers: Amazon is coming for you. Again. Amazon recently updated its main iOS app to include a shop-by-camera function called Flow. In the past, you could search for items you find in stores by scanning their barcodes in Amazon’s app. Flow just asks you to point your phone at something you want to buy, and it will automatically search Amazon.com for that same thing. Amazon’s been testing this feature for a couple years – it’s been featured in the standalone “Flow” app since 2012; its addition into Amazon’s main app signifies that Amazon knows it’s 100 percent ready to go. Flow can identify media package covers, as well as logos, artwork and other unique visual features. You can even scan things not in their original box. Love your friend’s headphones? Scan them with flow and they can be yours in seconds! The Flow feature isn’t out on Android just yet, but is available in Amazon’s main iOS app now – make sure your app is up-to-date and you’re free to start shopping!
Have you ever wanted to send flowers to someone “just because”? A new company in northern California called BloomThat offers handwritten notes and flower delivery by bicycle in less than 90 minutes. Think of it like Uber for flowers. BloomThat recently raised a $2 million seed funding round as it aims to expand beyond the San Francisco area. BloomThat’s co-founder, Matthew Schwab, said he thought the process for sending flowers was too complicated, expensive and inconsistent. Schwab thought the process was SO bad, in fact, that people would only send flowers on special occasions – or when they messed up and needed to say they were sorry. Schwab and the team at BloomThat aimed to create an experience so simple and enjoyable that you’d be compelled to send flowers far more often. BloomThat’s freshly-cut bouquets – primarily featuring a garden aesthetic – typically cost between $35 and $60, without an additional delivery surcharge. While only available in California for now, BloomThat is headed to more areas in the coming months.
If California lawmakers have their way, the growing trend of cell phone theft could soon come to a screeching halt. State Senator Mark Leno recently introduced a bill that would require all smartphones and tablets sold in California after January 1 of next year to include a “kill switch” – a form of anti-theft technology that makes devices unusable after they’re stolen and therefore very tough to sell. If passed, the new bill would subject manufacturers to a fine of up to $2,500 for each device sold without a kill switch. Though only proposed in California, the bill’s effects may be seen throughout the country, as companies probably wouldn’t make cell phones meant only to be sold in California. With over 2,400 cell phones stolen in San Francisco last year – which is 23 percent more than in 2012 – it’s clear some kind of deterrent is needed. There are drawbacks to the kill switch – hackers could render your cell phone useless from afar – but this bill, if passed, would likely do more good than harm.