Amazon's new shopping cart is simply magical

from the Desk of Rich on Tech

Hello and happy weekend!

If you’re in the Southern California area, did you feel it last night?

We had another one of those middle of the night rumbles. Earthquakes are a strange thing - the shaking starts and you’re just not sure if it’s going to continue to get worse or just stop in a few seconds. Anyway, it was quite the wake-up call last.

It was a big two weeks for tech news with lots of announcements from Apple, Sony, Microsoft, and more. Told you we deep into the holiday gadget season.

Also, I got to visit the first Amazon Fresh grocery store in the nation. The shopping cart there is super high tech and you basically “check out” as you shop.

FYI, the picture above is how I currently go “live” for KTLA and our partner TV stations across the nation. iPhone with an app called TVU. Amazing.

Before we begin, don’t forget to hit that heart button up at the top so I know you enjoy receiving this letter. Better yet, forward it to a friend who would use the tech knowledge.

Let’s get started.

Apple releases iOS 14

Apple didn’t say anything about new iPhones, so those announcements are presumably coming next month. But they did release the big yearly software update for the iPhone. If you haven’t already downloaded it, there’s no rush, but it does add some neat features and unlike some other releases in the past, this is is good to go from day one. I haven’t encountered any bugs and my phone is running smoothly.

To get it, be sure your phone is backed up first, then go to Settings > General > Software Update.

Here is a list of all of the new features, but I’ve highlighted some of the most interesting ones.

PRIVACY ALERT! You’ll notice a little dot in the upper right hand corner of your screen when an app is accessing your camera or microphone. Additionally, you can swipe down from the upper right hand of the screen to access Control Center. If an app has recently accessed your mic or camera it will listed right at the top.

Apple Watch 6 and SE

Apple also released new watches this week. They’re already on sale. I’m wearing the Apple Watch 6 to test it out. It’s very similar to the 5 but it has a brighter always on display and a new blood oxygen sensor. The new bands remind me of a braided rubber band - they are all one piece and you sort of just stretch the watch over your hand to get it on your wrist. They come in different sizes. It starts at $399.

The SE is a less expensive version of the Apple Watch that ditches some sensors to save on price - namely the ECG functionality and the blood oxygen sensor. It still has fall detection, GPS and most of the other sensors. It starts at $279.

Additionally, Apple created a way for kids to use an Apple Watch without requiring an iPhone. Historically, you couldn’t use an Apple Watch without a companion iPhone, but this new feature called Family Setup changes that. A parent can set up the watch using their phone and the child has their own phone number, text messaging, apps, etc. Of course, parents have full control over what the child can do on their watch and when.

I don’t want to get into the whole debate over whether kids should have screens and at what age, but the reality is there will be many parents and scenarios where this feature is a welcome addition.

I’m still testing these new watches and features, so be sure to follow me on TV and social media for updates as I form my opinions.

TikTok and WeChat Ban Update

New downloads of TikTok and WeChat are set to be banned this Sunday. Here’s what you need to know:

On Sunday, September 20, downloads and updates of TikTok and WeChat would no longer be available through Apple's App Store or Google Play

If you already have the app on your phone, it will not "disappear"

Also on Sunday, September 20, all financial related features, like money transfer services, will no longer be available inside WeChat. Core WeChat functionality, like chat, might also stop working.

On November 12, additional TikTok restrictions kick in that would likely render the app useless. Internet service providers in the US would be banned from providing access to TikTok servers, which means you wouldn't be able to use it.

Why is this happening?

The U.S. Commerce Department, under guidance from President Trump, is concerned that the apps, which are owned by China-based companies, could use the data they collect against U.S. citizens.

When I reached out to TikTok, they told me “We've already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security. We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods."

Stay tuned…

Keep the kids on task with a smart speaker

In my house, there are four of us working and schooling from home. It can get pretty hectic, and everyone has a different schedule.

My older kid can log onto his Zoom classes just fine, but my little one needs a bit more reminding. Apprently I’m not the only one who has turned to smart speakers to set timers and reminders to keep us all on task.

I spoke to a family in Santa Clarita who’s using Alexa to remind the kids to log in. You can also use Siri or Google Assistant to set recurring reminders.

Google also has a neat feature in its Home app called Family Bell which can make regular announcements for recurring activities like “time to read” or “time for lunch.”

Hit the link for details on how to set them up.

Free products in exchange for 5-star reviews on Amazon

Here’s a darker side of the internet: people getting free stuff in exchange for posting 5-star reviews on Amazon. It’s been going on forever and there’s probably no way to stop it.

The best thing is to be aware it’s happening and to realize that just because something has thousands of reviews doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice. Personally, I like to look at the negative reviews to see what people “don’t” like about something.

Also, that’s why there are people like me who give real opinions on stuff. ;)

First Amazon Fresh grocery store opens

For such a large company, Amazon isn’t afraid to take risks. They are contsnatly innovating and trying new things. Even the boxes and packaging your stuff arrives in is always evolving.

Their latest is a brand new grocery store concept called Amazon Fresh. The first location in the nation opened in Woodland Hills, California.

The best way to describe this store is the Amazon Fresh website brought to life. There’s a mix of local brands, national brands, Amazon brands, conventional and organic.

I wasn’t blown away by all of the prices - some are really good, others are just OK. But it is a one stop shop for everything you need.

And the grocery cart? Well, you just have to watch the video below to see for yourself how cool it is. You literally check out as you go, so you can just walk out of the store with your stuff. They’ll bill the card on your Amazon account. It FEELS like the future we were promised.

Tech Tidbits

Microsoft has revealed pricing on the upcoming new Xbox consoles for the holidays.

Sony has released pricing and availability for its upcoming new PS5 consoles for the holidays.

You can now add a Google search widget to your home screen in iOS 14.

Rich on Tech Podcast

In this week’s show:

iOS 14 features; Apple Watch 6; Apple Watch SE; letting a child use an Apple Watch without requiring an iPhone; Apple One bundle; PlayStation 5 pricing details; TikTok Ban update; Arlo Wireless Video Doorbell; Verizon acquires TracFone.

Listeners ask about a way to stay connected between different rooms of the house, best sites to sell used goods, podcast equipment recommendations, keeping an old router versus upgrading, blue light filters and more.

Listen here:

https://bit.ly/RichOnTechPodcast

Tweet of the Week

Conclusion

So, I watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma and I recommend you give it a watch.

It centers on the potentially damaging effect of all of these social networks on people and society at large.

While I agree that notifications are basically the everyday equivalent of a slot machine (you hit the jackpot with those likes!), there are defintetely pros and cons to all of this technology.

Am I guilty of looking at my phone too much? Probably. But am I aware of the psychological warfare developers are waging with their apps? Yes.

Like nearly anything else where money is at stake, this stuff is engineered to keep us engaged by feeling happy/sad/angry/anything to get us to interact with it more.

Trusted sources of information, close friends and time spent offline will only become more important in the future of our 24/7 connected society.

I’m also reading a book right now called Stillness is the Key. It’s sort of the antidote to this documentary, and I highly recommend it.

So pare down those notifications to just the most important ones and take more stock in what you see with your own eyes than what you see through your screen.

Have a great weekend.

Rich

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