How to disable Alexa calling and messaging

This past week, there was an alarming incident reported where a family from Portland’s private conversation was sent to a contact through Alexa. Amazon acknowledged the gaffe and claimed that it was due to an unusual sequence of events where Alexa thought it was summoned to send a recorded message to a contact stored within the family’s Alexa account.

Amazon provided this statement:

“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

I am not surprised this happened. In my family, we have had numerous incidents where our Echo or Echo Dot was awakened by something we said even though we don’t recall saying the wake up word.

As an avid Alexa user, I’ve signed up for Alexa Calling & Messaging and only tried it out a few times. It was not a very useful feature as I had mistakenly called a known and even unknown person! My kids tried to reach me by calling, “daddy” through our Echo but it called my friend Debbie. Another time I tried to reach “home” by calling through my Alexa app hoping to reach my kids on my Echo but it called someone random. Till this day, I don’t know who that person was as I don’t have anyone in my contacts list with just “home” on it.

I then searched all over my Alexa app to see how I could disable Alexa Calling & Messaging. I looked through settings, I could only find drop in settings which I already had disabled. Then I realized that I couldn’t completely disable this feature nor could I remove contacts already uploaded to the Amazon server!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When searching Amazon help, this is what they offer:

Add and Edit Your Contacts to the Alexa App

Sync your contacts to the Alexa app to communicate with friends and family using Alexa Calling and Messaging.

To add or edit contacts for Alexa Calling and Messaging, update your phone’s local   address book and then open the Alexa app. Contacts from your address book who also use Alexa Calling and Messaging automatically appear in your “Contacts” list in the Alexa app, with the same names from your address book.

If you have multiple members within your household, your Alexa contacts are shared across all devices registered to that account. However, in the Alexa app you can only start conversations with your Alexa contacts.

That’s not good enough.

If you want to completely remove yourself from this service and have contacts removed, follow these instructions:

  1. Contact Amazon Help

 

 

 

You will be asked to sign into your Amazon account.

After signing in, navigate to

-> Devices

-> My device or app is not shown

-> Select your issue as ‘Echo & Alexa’

-> Select, ‘Account & Settings’

 

 

 

 

Note: If you access the contact us page via your computer, you will only have access to chat or receive a call. If you access the contact us page via your phone or tablet, you will have the option to email customer support.

In your message or chat, state the following:

“I want to delete my contacts from my Alexa account and disable Alexa Calling & Messaging feature.”

It should take them a day to respond to your email or immediately if you are using the chat / phone support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the confirmation, log onto your Alexa app and it will prompt you to re-register for Alexa Calling & Messaging service which confirms the service is no longer on your account.

History and How to get a discount for Amazon Prime

Amazon recently announced and increase for Amazon Prime membership from $99 to $119. Amazon Prime was first introduced in 2005 to offer free two day shipping within continental United States on all eligible products for a flat rate of $79. This was eventually raised to $99 in 2017. During Amazon’s April 26, 2018 earnings call, they announced that starting May 11, 2018, new Prime customers in the United States will pay $119 per year for their Prime membership. Throughout the years, Amazon has launched several perks as part of Prime membership. Below is the history and timeline of when those services were launched:

Sept 2006 – Amazon Video
Nov 2011 – Kindle Owners’s Lending Library
March 2014 – Amazon Music
April 2014 – Prime Pantry
Nov 2014 – Amazon Photos
Dec 2014 – Prime Now
Oct 2016 – Prime Reading
Others –
Amazon First Reads
Audible Channels
Amazon Lightning Deals
Ad Free Twitch Streaming
Amazon Freetime (kids)
Prime Early Access
Prime Lightening Deals

Still doesn’t justify the price increase? There are ways to pay less for Amazon Prime which isn’t widely known.

Household / Family Sharing
Amazon allows each paying Prime member to share their account with 2 adults, 4 teens and 4 child profiles in a household. These benefits will be shared – Free Prime Delivery, Streaming Access to Prime Video, Prime photos and video sharing, Free books through Amazon, Unlimited listening on Audible, early access to Amazon Lightning Deals. This can potential equate to 15% discount! Sign up people in your household here.

Students
If you are a college student, you pay only $59 annually for Amazon Prime.

EBT or Medicaid
Amazon have a monthly Prime Membership for anyone on EBT or Medicaid. If you are on EBT or Medicaid, Amazon Prime will be $5.99/month which comes out to $71.88. You do need to submit proof through the following page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ending Membership
If you feel that the $50 price increase from the original cost of Prime isn’t worth it, you can unsubscribe and get a refund here.

Lastly, if you have any questions about Amazon Prime, reach directly to a Prime representative through calling +1-888-509-7040.

Worth to buy the all new 2017 Amazon Fire TV

Amazon recently announced the all new Amazon fire TV in 2017 and as of now it is available for purchase for $69.99. In the earlier days, the question to consumers were if these devices warrant a place in our homes. It started with Google’s Chromecast then Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. You can also look at devices such as the different iterations of Roku, Apple TV, and more.

At my household, we have all generations of Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast. We never quite got into the more expensive Fire TV as it was pricier. Let’s take a look at the 2017 Fire TV (pendant) edition and see how it differs from the previous generation Fire TV.

4K Ultra HD and HDR (high dynamic range) support

The biggest difference between the original Fire TV and 2017 Fire TV is 4K Ultra HD at 60fps and HDR support. The previous iteration of Fire TV only supported 4K at 30fps but the smaller Fire TV has the capability to stream at 60fps and support HDR-10. So if you bought a TV that supports HDR, then you can enjoy full HDR content. Below are the best bang for the buck HDR TV’s in the market as this article is being written.

One thing that is often overlooked is that Amazon Prime has a number of 4K content in their library. Back when 1080p HD became mainstream, I recall buying a TV that supported 1080P HDTV. However, not a lot of subscription TV had full 1080P but was limited to 1080i. The only way for me to get 1080P was through Blu-Ray DVD or PS3 games. It is different with 4K. You can find numerous content through Netflix, Amazon Prime, and even Youtube for 4K content. HDR is a bit more limited but available through the same streaming services.

Below is the list of TV shows and movies that is available in HDR according to Amazon:

TV (full seasons): Bosch Seasons 1 and 2 (second season also available in Dolby Vision, Mad Dogs Season 1, Man in the High Castle Season 1, Mozart in the Jungle Seasons 1 and 2, Red Oaks Season 1, Transparent Seasons 1 and 2
TV (pilot episodes): Good Girls Revolt, Highston, One Mississippi, Patriot, The Interestings, The Last Tycoon, Z: The Beginning of Everything
Movie: CHI-RAQ
Documentary: Coral Reef Adventure, Dolphins, The Living Sea, Van Gogh: A Brush with Genius

Size:

If you have a sleek TV console or you mount your TV on the wall, you will appreciate the small form factor of the 2017 Fire TV. You no longer need to find real estate to place your Fire TV but can hang it on your HDMI port similar to the Fire TV Stick.

Performance and other upgrades:

Below are other upgrades. Processor and graphics processor has been upgraded as well as the bluetooth.

What is missing?

Sadly, the new Fire TV removed the ethernet port and the microSD slot. In order to connect it to wired Internet, you will need to purchase a separate ethernet adapter. The missing microSD slot is a bummer for those who want to increase the storage capacity for offline viewing.

OS6

The new Fire TV offers an updated version of Amazon’s GUI. There are quite a number of 1 – 2 star reviews complaining about this interface as it contains ads and not as smooth. The good thing is that Amazon can improve on the OS with updates.

Conclusion

If you have 2015 Fire TV, our recomendation is to hold off. There are just too many kinks that doesn’t quite convince us to recommend it. If you have a Fire TV Stick and want to move to 4K, then it is worth the upgrade.

Below is a full comparison chart of technical specs.

Amazon Fire TV 2015 2017
Size 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.7″ (115 mm x 115 mm x 17.8 mm) 2.6” x 2.6” x 0.6” (65.0 mm x 65.0 mm x 15.0 mm)
Weight 9.5 oz. (270 g) 3.1 oz (87.1 g)
Processor MediaTek Quad-core up to 2 Ghz Amlogic Quad-core 1.5 GHz | ARM 4xCA53
Dual-core @ 2.0 GHz + Dual-core @ 1.6 GHz
GPU Power VR GX6250 Mali450 MP3
Storage 8 GB internal 8 GB internal
Memory 2 GB 2 GB
Wi-Fi Connectivity Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks. Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks.
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.1 + LE, with support for HID, and SPP profiles Bluetooth 4.2 + LE
Voice Support Yes, with Alexa Voice Remote (included) or free Fire TV Remote App (available for download on Fire, Android, and iOS) Yes, with Alexa Voice Remote (included) or free Fire TV Remote App (available for download on Fire, Android, and iOS)
Game Controller Support Yes, optimized for Amazon Fire TV Game Controller and most games are compatible with other Bluetooth controllers
Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content Free cloud storage for all Amazon content
Ports DC Jack, HDMI output, 10/100 Ethernet, microSD slot, USB 2.0 HDMI output, micro USB for power or optional Amazon Ethernet Adapter (no included Ethernet port or micro SD slot)
Audio Support Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound, 2ch stereo, and HDMI audio pass through up to 7.1 Dolby Atmos compatibility, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Digital
Content Formats Supported Video: H.265, H.264, Audio: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC), Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP Video: HDR-10. H.265, H.264, Audio: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC), Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
Output Resolution Supported 2160p up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps 2160p, 1080p, and 720p up to 60 fps
System Requirements Compatible high-definition or ultra high-definition television with available HDMI input, Internet connection, a power outlet High-definition television with available HDMI input, Internet connection via Wi-Fi, a power outlet.
TV Compatibility TV must support minimum HDCP requirements for protected content playback. Learn more. Compatible with (1) 4K ultra high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60 Hz and HDCP 2.2, including popular models from LG, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, and others or (2) high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 1080p or 720p at 50/60 Hz, including popular HDCP-compatible models from Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio, Westinghouse, and others. TV must support minimum HDCP requirements for protected content playback. Compatible with (1) 4K ultra high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60 Hz and HDCP 2.2, including popular models from LG, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, and others or (2) high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 1080p or 720p at 50/60 Hz, including popular HDCP-compatible models from Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio, Westinghouse, and others. Learn more.
Warranty and Service 1-year Limited Warranty and service included. Optional 2-year and 3-year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Fire TV is subject to the terms found here. 1-Year Limited Warranty and service included. Optional 2-Year and 3-Year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Fire TV is subject to the terms found here.
Regional Support Certain services may not be available outside the U.S. Certain services may not be available outside the U.S.
Accessibility Features VoiceView screen reader enables access to the vast majority of Fire TV features for users who are blind or visually impaired. Watch videos and TV shows with closed captioning displayed. Captions are not available for all content. Learn more. VoiceView screen reader enables access to the vast majority of Fire TV features for users who are blind or visually impaired. Screen magnifier enables viewers to zoom in and out, and pan around the screen. Watch videos and TV shows with closed captioning displayed. Captions are not available for all content. Learn more.

Amazon Announces new Echo Show

Amazon announced its new Alexa product – Echo Show. It is priced at $229.99 and is available in black or white. The echo show is basically an amazon echo equipped with a touch screen and a camera. You can pre-order now and will be available June 28.

It’s functionality is very interesting and makes sense. On the surface, it looks no different than previous attempts made by other manufacturers for video conference. However, echo show is based on Amazon’s Alexa operating system which has been immensely popular for Amazon users especially with Amazon Prime.

On it’s youtube intro video, it featured a family with twin infants. The parents were managing their day by using echo show integrated in their life. They used the echo show as baby monitors to see their baby, they used the video conference feature to connect to each other and to their parents. When playing Prime music, you can see the album jacket and the lyrics when available. It seems this is the logical step for Echo devices and most importantly, the timing is right.

The intro video also had a grandfather painting the walls to the bedroom of a child. They searched youtube to watch tutorials on how to sponge paint. Once completed with their artwork, they did a video conference to showcase what they did.

Features that we know:

-Integration to video chat
-Picture frame to photos from Amazon photos
-Alarm clock
-Watch short video clips from youtube and news
-Front facing camera is 5pm
-Stream music
-Setup Google Calendar
-Integrate with Alexa compatible smart home devices (thermostat, light, locks, etc)

Unknown:

-Stream longer videos such movies from Amazon Prime or Youtube (honestly, not sure you want to do that on a 7″ screen)
-Battery backup
-Callout to 911 emergency services

Promo:

For a limited time, you can buy two and save $100. use promo code SHOW2PACK

How to watch Super Bowl on my Fire TV

Super Bowl weekend is here and the talk of town is where you will watch the game. Super Bowl will be broadcast by Fox channel. You can check our your local Fox affiliate through this chart from Wikipedia. This is for over the air channels you get from your antenna. If you use premium TV service such as cable or satellite, you should check your digital TV guide or your provider’s website. There may be more than one channel for Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD). Some may even have a different channel for Ultra High Definition (UHK or 4K).

If you don’t have access to Fox through antenna or don’t have premium TV service, then you can stream via the Internet with your Fire TV. First, you download the Fox Sports Go app from the Amazon App store. You can also do this via your computer and have it auto install to your Fire TV.

 

Turn your TV into a Digital Sign – App

I will explain how you can turn your TV into a digital sign using just an app and Fire TV stick. This is great when you want to turn your TV into a sign for a restaurant menu signage, instruction or floor plan, directory of an office building, daily schedule of the day at a hotel banquet all, funeral home, pictures at a dental office and more. Here is what you need.

The app is free for the first 30 days. After, you can sign up for an annual unlimited subscription of SignageCreator. With this subscription, there are over 1000+ templates which you can use to create your sign. Signagecreator have two pricing plans. Standard license is for $100/template for just one use. Unlimited usage is for $30/month.

If you want to make it vertical, you can change the setting on the TV and use the app and set it up the way you want.

digital sign app

PBS Kids and Amazon Prime TV!

20160630_211552_911217_pressimageCan you watch shows like Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood?
Do you like Wild Kratts?
How about Odd Squad, Dinosaur Train, Nature Cat, and Ready Jet Go!

Well you are in luck. Amazon signed a deal with PBS Kids to be the exclusive premium subscription service on their Prime video service. This is an agreement that will span multiple years. For people with Amazon Prime membership, you will be able to watch PBS Kids on the PC through www.amazon.com/primevideos through a web browser or use the Amazon Video App. I just gave this a try and a quick search yielded 53 TV show results! Some are individual videos and some are entire season series so the actual videos are much much more.

2016-07-02 17.41.13And of course, you can watch PBS Kids through Amazon videos through Fire TV stick, Fire TV, or Fire tablets.

 

 

 

Erosnow available on Fire TV

erosnowErosnow, the Bollywood movie entertainment production group has signed a deal to offer its on demand service to Fire TV. Eros International is a publicly traded company on the NYSE and has been a big player in distribution and licensing of the latest Hindi, Tamil, and other Indian language movies and TV shows across Fire TV users. The huge library of films will be accessible to users across US, UK, and Western Europe.

To access the movies, navigate to the Amazon App store and install the ErosNow app. From there, you will be able to search and watch movies similar to Netflix.
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I browsed a bit and you can watch popular movies such as Bajirao Masani, Piku, Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon, Calendar Girls, Kuch Kuch Locha Hai. You can see the rest of the most popular Hindi movies here.

How much is Amazon Prime’s Stream monthly cost?

Amazon announced yesterday that they will offer a monthly subscription to its Prime video library for $8.99/month. Previously, you had to subscribe to its full Amazon Prime membership to reap the benefit of Amazon Prime video. Now you can subscribe to its video only services without the added on features of Prime shipping, Prime music, and other benefits. This is great for people who found the $99 annual Prime membership to be too expensive or not worth it but interested in the Amazon Prime video offerings.

Currently, you can sign up for a 30 day free trial to test drive the Amazon Prime video library.

If you tried the free trial and still not interested, you can cancel or change your Amazon Prime membership here.

Amazon also announced the option of paying for Amazon Prime membership on a monthly basis at $10.99/month. If you use it for a full year, you end up paying $131.88 which is $32.88 more.

Below is a breakdown between the different Amazon Prime subscriptions.

amazon prime

What is the difference between Echo Dot and Echo Tap?

Amazon surprised everyone by following up to the hugely successful Amazon Echo with the Echo Dot and Echo Tap. The Echo Dot will go for $90 and Amazon is currently accepting pre-order only from current Echo owners. Although some have reported loopholes allowing you to start ordering it now but it may no longer work. The Echo Tap will go for $130.

Amazon Tap:
Amazon Tap is basically an Alexa powered bluetooth speaker with WiFi capability. There is a microphone button which will allow you to ‘Tap’ the button to ask and command Alexa the same things you did with your Echo. You need to be connected to a WiFi network or a mobile hotspot for it to work. The Tap is intended for you to carry with you outside your home. It can stream music, powered by Dolby, from Prime and other apps or music from your device.

A fully charged Tap can last up to 9 hours of continuous use and 3 week on standby.

The device will come with a cradle and as we have learned through Amazon Echo, Alexa simply continues to surprise us with new features as it matures. Recent upgrades allow you to order Dominos pizza or request an Uber from your Echo. The same will be supported via your Tap.

Amazon Dot:

The Amazon Dot looks like a squashed Echo or Tap. It also features Alexa operating system and allows you to issue voice commands to get answers or trigger an activity. The Dot is a bit less purposeful than Echo or Tap. A Dot can serve the purpose of a 2nd device in your house and avoiding the purpose of a 2nd Echo. The speakers are not intended to stream music but it does have a speaker for things like notifications such as alarms.

You may not be able to stream music directly through Dot, but it has a 35mm audio jack as well as bluetooth capability to sync with a speaker.

The Dot will be first sold in limited quantity. For now, you can only order an Echo Dot through an Alexa powered device such as Echo or Fire TV by asking Alexa, “Alexa, order an Amazon Echo Dot.”