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While American readers will be used to ordering whatever they want from Amazon and getting it delivered quickly, things are slightly different outside of the United States. Some countries have their own local Amazon site, and others don’t even have that.
This can make it impossible to order items from Amazon. It’s either literally not possible, or the shipping costs and hoops you need to jump through mean it’s not worth your while. Which is why Amazon has launched the International Shopping Experience…
Amazon’s International Shopping Experience
The International Shopping Experience is a feature exclusive to the Amazon Shopping App on Android and iOS. It essentially lets customers from countries outside of the U.S. shop on the U.S. version of Amazon without worrying about the costs involved.
There are millions of items on Amazon that can be shipped to countries such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Peru, Thailand, and Uruguay. The problem is working out the costs involved.
Amazon’s International Shopping Experience lets you see what items are eligible to be shipped to your location, and displays clear pricing, shipping costs, and an estimate of import duties. And you can choose from five languages and 25 different currencies.
In a press release, Samir Kumar, VP of Amazon Exports and Expansion, said:
“We are always innovating on behalf of our customers, and with today’s launch, we are making the shopping experience on mobile devices even better and more convenient for our customers who live outside the US. Customers have been asking for a way to easily find and shop only for products available to be shipped to them. The International Shopping experience solves this customer need and makes it simple to browse, shop and ship more than 45 million products to over a hundred countries around the world.”
Anyone downloading the Amazon Shopping App from one of the aforementioned countries will automatically see the International Shopping Experience. Everyone else will need to go to the settings, find Country & Language, and choose International Shopping.
Making Life Easier for Shoppers
This makes absolute sense for everyone involved. Amazon is likely to add new customers from different countries, and those customers get to shop on Amazon without having to worry about unexpected costs being added on afterwards.
If you’ve got all the way through this article before realizing it doesn’t apply to you, don’t worry, as MakeUseOf has you covered. Perhaps our ultimate guide to shopping on Amazon will be of use. Alternatively, there are better ways to shop on Amazon.
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If you’ve gone ahead and activated a 30-day free trial for Amazon Music Unlimited but aren’t quite sure what to do next, don’t feel bad. Amazon Music’s interface is far from intuitive, and Music Unlimited’s best features can be hard to find.
To help you get more out of your Amazon Music Unlimited subscription, there are a number of tips and tricks you should start making use of straight away…
1. Download Songs for Offline Playback
Like all of the best music streaming services, Amazon Music Unlimited does allow you to download songs for offline playback—but only when using the Android or iOS apps. This means offline playback isn’t available on the Windows, Mac, or Web apps.
There’s no limit to how many songs you can download this way. However, downloaded songs are protected and can only be played through Amazon Music, meaning they can’t be exported to external storage or transferred to any other devices.
To download for offline playback, just go to any song, album, or playlist and open its “More Options” menu (the three dots), then select Download.
To see all of your downloaded music, go to My Music > Offline Music on Android or go to Settings > Offline Music Mode on iOS. On either platform, you can also go to Recents > Downloaded to see only recently downloaded songs.
2. Change Bitrate to Reduce Data Usage
No matter which platform you’re using to play Amazon music, you can alter the streaming quality and reduce the amount of data used by the service. This is a crucial tip to know when you’re listening on 4G LTE, or if your ISP enforces a monthly data cap.
In the web player, click your account name at the bottom left, then click Streaming audio quality. By default it’s set to Auto, but we recommend setting it to Low when you need to conserve data and High when you don’t.
In the desktop app, click your account name at the top-right, then click Preferences > Advanced > Audio Quality. In the mobile apps, tap the gear icon in the top-left, then select Streaming Quality. Again, choose between High or Low depending on whether you need to conserve data or not.
If you want to get technical, we’re talking about High and Low bitrates. You can learn more about this in our article detailing how audio files are compressed and optimized.
3. Discover New Music
The search box will be your most used feature in Amazon Music Unlimited, but searches can be limiting when it comes to discovering new music because you can’t exactly search for something you aren’t aware of, right?
Fortunately, Music Unlimited can help you with that in a few ways:
- More Like This: On the web player, go to any album, click the more button, and select Customers also listened to to get recommendations for similar music that others like. You can also go to any artist page and scroll down to the bottom for Related Artists, which works on any platform, not just the web player.
- New Releases: Go to Browse > Home > New Releases. Here you’ll find all newly released songs, albums, and playlists, which you can filter by genre. Check this once a day to never miss interesting new music.
- Top Charts: Go to Browse > Home > Charts. Here you’ll find the most popular songs, albums, and playlists being played on Amazon Music, which you can filter by genre.
- Recommended: Go to Browse > Recommended. Based entirely on your recent listening patterns, Amazon Music will suggest songs, albums, playlists, and stations that you may enjoy.
- Stations and Playlists: Stations and Playlists are the best music discovery tools, which you can access by going to Browse > Stations and Browse > Playlists. Scroll all the way to the bottom to explore by genres. Or you can start an artist-based station by going to any artist page, clicking the more button, then selecting Start [artist name] station.
4. Control Playback With Echo Voice Commands
All Echo devices have dozens of music-related voice commands, but here are the most useful ones compatible with Amazon Music Unlimited and worth keeping in mind:
- “Alexa, play [song title or artist name or album name].”
- “Alexa, play [emotion or genre or holiday] music.”
- “Alexa, play brand new music.”
- “Alexa, play the song that goes [lyrics].”
- “Alexa, play [station name].”
- “Alexa, play new [genre].”
- “Alexa, play some music.” (Anything from your library)
- “Alexa, play a playlist.” (Any playlist in your library)
- “Alexa, play the song of the day.”
- “Alexa, what’s playing right now?”
- “Alexa, who sings this song?”
- “Alexa, skip this song.”
- “Alexa, I’m tired of this song.”
5. Save Money With a Special Plan
Amazon Music Unlimited costs $9.99/mo for regular users and $7.99/mo for Prime members—and to be frank, it’s hard to recommend Music Unlimited at full price. You can get much more for the same price with Spotify or Google Play Music.
But you may be eligible for some steep discounts, in which case Music Unlimited could very well be worth the price tag:
- The Family plan is the cheapest way to get Music Unlimited, but requires finding five others who are willing to split the bill. If you can do that, you’ll only have to pay $2.50/mo (or $2.00/mo if registered for by a Prime member).
- The Echo plan is for users who only want to access Music Unlimited with a single Echo device, which is available for a highly discounted $3.99/mo.
- The Student plan is a special discount for students who can prove enrollment at an eligible educational institution, available for $4.99/mo. Sign up for the Amazon Music Unlimited student discount.
- The Annual plan is a discount for Prime members who pay for one year up front, which comes out to about $6.58/mo.
6. Migrate Your Music Between Countries
If you ever move to another country and need to start using the local version of Amazon (e.g. Amazon.de), then you may run into a snag: all of the music you saved is stored on your Amazon.com account.
Here’s how to re-associate your account and migrate your music:
- Open the web player for Amazon Music.
- In the left sidebar, click your account name at the bottom, then select Your Amazon Music settings.
- In the new page that opens, scroll all the way to the bottom under the “Your Country Settings” section and click on View music library country settings.
- It’ll tell you which country your account is currently associated with, and allow you to change it by clicking Change.
As of this writing, transfers are only supported to the U.K., Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Spain.
7. Share Links to Songs, Albums, Playlists, Stations
With a single click or tap, Amazon will generate URLs that you can use to share links to specific songs, albums, or playlists that you want to bring to someone else’s attention.
In the web and desktop players, just click the Share icon, then click Copy Link. In the mobile apps, tap the More button at the top right, then tap Share Song, Share Album, Share Playlist, or Share Station (depending on the context), then Copy to clipboard.
You can also select </> Embed to embed a special Amazon Music player on your website, allowing others to hear a sample of the song(s) you’ve embedded.
Note that the recipient needs to be an active Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited subscriber in order to listen to anything you share, but they can still see everything even if they aren’t a subscriber, including full track listings, track details, album art, etc.
If you don’t have Amazon Music Unlimited (your questions, answered) yet, you can get a risk-free taste by signing up for a 30-day free trial. If you find the service unsatisfactory, you can cancel your subscription before it ends to avoid being charged when it renews.
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Have you just got your hands on one of Amazon’s excellent streaming devices? The Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are fighting with Roku devices and Google Chromecasts for control of your living room.
Once you’ve spent the necessary time setting up your device properly, it’s time to install some Fire TV apps. But with so many to choose from, where do you start?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll introduce you to some essential apps that you need to install on your Fire TV or Fire Stick right now.
Preparing Your Device
Before we talk about the apps themselves, you need to prep your Fire TV device.
Why? Because you will need to sideload some of the apps we discuss; they are not available in the Amazon Appstore.
To make sure you can install sideloaded apps on your device, you need to change two settings.
- ADB Debugging: To enable ADB debugging, head to Settings > Device > Developer Options > ADB Debugging and select On.
- Unknown Sources: To allow apps from unknown sources to be installed on your Fire Stick, go to Settings > Device > Developer Options > Apps From Unknown Sources and select On.
Done? Great, let’s look at the apps in more detail.
Downloader is an essential tool if you’re planning to sideload Fire TV apps onto your device.
The app lets you download APK files directly from the internet and then install them on your Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. It means you won’t need to use a PC or network connection to transfer the file.
ES File Explorer is the other common method for getting APK files onto your device so you can sideload them.
Although the app (deservedly) has a reputation for being a bloated mess on Android, on Amazon Fire devices it runs well, and it’s easy to use (at least for the purpose of downloading APKs). You just need to enter a URL and the app will take care of the rest.
Naturally, given the app is a file explorer, you can also use it to browse your storage.
3. Mouse Toggle
Although you can sideload just about any app on your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, many of them have not been adapted for the TV screen. They still require finger taps and other gestures to navigate them.
The solution is to install a mouse pointer. The best is Mouse Toggle. With a double-tap of your remote’s Play button, you can launch an on-screen mouse icon. You can control it using your remote’s D-pad.
To install the app, enter http://tinyurl.com/firetvmouse into the aforementioned Downloader or use the Google Play app linked above.
Plex surely needs no introduction. Along with Kodi, it’s one of the best ways to stream your locally saved media to other screens and devices around your home. If you pay for a Plex Pass, you can even access your content remotely.
Unlike Kodi—which we will discuss next—Plex is one of the Fire TV apps available through the Amazon Appstore, thus making installation a breeze.
Kodi is Plex’s biggest competitor. Both apps have pros and cons, but broadly speaking, Kodi is more customizable but requires more maintenance.
As we just mentioned, Kodi is not available in the Amazon Appstore. You will need to sideload it onto your device.
Luckily, we’ve explained how to sideload Kodi on your Fire TV Stick in an article elsewhere on the site.
If you want to watch YouTube on your Fire device, you need to install a browser app.
The issue dates back to a 2017 argument between Amazon and Google. The same argument is responsible for the lack of Google products (such as Chromecast) in the Amazon store.
Most long-term Fire users agree that there are only two browsers worth considering: Firefox and Silk.
If you already use Firefox on your other machines—or you value open source software—this is the browser you should install.
7. Silk Browser
Because you can sideload apps, you can install any browser you want, including Chrome. But Silk is more popular.
In case you’re not aware, Silk is Amazon’s in-house browser and has been specially designed to work on Amazon Fire devices.
It lets you control web videos and music using your remote’s Play, Pause, and Skip buttons, and offers lots of standard browser features like a password manager and browsing history.
We can’t write a list of best Fire TV apps without mentioning Netflix.
With over 100,000 hours of content and 50,000 TV shows and movies (at the time of writing), you don’t really need to pay for anything else—especially once you realize that sports fanatics and news nerds can still get their fix for free after they’ve cut the cord. The company’s services are not free. But having looked fully at the price of Netflix, we think it represents good value for money.
Remember we just said news nerds could get their fix for free? Euronews makes it possible.
Euronews is a collaboration between a group of 23 European and North African national broadcasters, including ITN, RAI, RTE, and VGTRK.
It was founded in 1993 and has since grown to offer free news in 156 countries and in 12 European and Middle Eastern languages.
The channels for four languages—English, Dutch, Hungarian, and Turkish—are available for Amazon Fire devices. The non-English channels are a fantastic resource if you’re trying to learn another language.
10. Haystack TV
Let’s stick with the theme of news. Haystack TV is another option for you to consider.
Unlike Euronews, it does not offer live TV. Instead, it aggregates clips from hundreds of reputable online sources to deliver you videos about the topics you’re interested in.
The more you watch the app and rate the videos and topics it shows you, the more it learns about which sources you enjoy and which subjects you care about.
11. TuneIn Radio
Televisions aren’t only for watching stuff. They’re also for listening to stuff.
One of the best ways to fill your ears with music is to install TuneIn Radio. Although Spotify also offers an Amazon Fire app, you need to have a premium membership. TuneIn Radio is entirely free for all users.
As you probably already know, TuneIn provides access to 100,000 radio stations from around the world, along with four million on-demand programs.
We end the list of best Fire TV apps with VLC Player. But why would you need VLC on a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick?
There are two primary reasons:
- Often apps that give access to illegal content need a third-party video player to display their content.
- You can use VLC to watch content saved on another local device using your home network.
Explaining the process for using VLC to stream locally saved media is beyond the scope of this article. You’ll just have to take our word that it’s a must-have app!
Cut the Cord With Fire TV Apps
The Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick have helped turn cord cutting from a trend into a phenomenon.
As we hope this article illustrates, the Fire devices offer so many apps across such a broad range of categories that’ll you’ll never be stuck for something to watch or listen to, even after you cancel your cable TV plan.
Remember to make sure you do your research and consider the potential pitfalls of cord cutting before you take the plunge.
Outrage that Facebook made the private data of over 87 million of its U.S. users available to the Trump campaign has stoked fears of big US-based technology companies are tracking our every move and misusing our personal data to manipulate us without adequate transparency, oversight, or regulation.
These legitimate concerns about the privacy threat these companies potentially pose must be balanced by an appreciation of the important role data-optimizing companies like these play in promoting our national security.
In his testimony to the combined US Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was not wrong to present his company as a last line of defense in an “ongoing arms race” with Russia and others seeking to spread disinformation and manipulate political and economic systems in the US and around the world.
The vast majority of the two billion Facebook users live outside the United States, Zuckerberg argued, and the US should be thinking of Facebook and other American companies competing with foreign rivals in “strategic and competitive” terms. Although the American public and US political leaders are rightly grappling with critical issues of privacy, we will harm ourselves if we don’t recognize the validity of Zuckerberg’s national security argument.
Examples are everywhere of big tech companies increasingly being seen as a threat. US President Trump has been on a rampage against Amazon, and multiple media outlets have called for the company to be broken up as a monopoly. A recent New York Times article, “The Case Against Google,” argued that Google is stifling competition and innovation and suggested it might be broken up as a monopoly. “It’s time to break up Facebook,” Politico argued, calling Facebook “a deeply untransparent, out-of-control company that encroaches on its users’ privacy, resists regulatory oversight and fails to police known bad actors when they abuse its platform.” US Senator Bill Nelson made a similar point when he asserted during the Senate hearings that “if Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions, then we are going to have to. We, the Congress.”
While many concerns like these are valid, seeing big US technology companies solely in the context of fears about privacy misses the point that these companies play a far broader strategic role in America’s growing geopolitical rivalry with foreign adversaries. And while Russia is rising as a threat in cyberspace, China represents a more powerful and strategic rival in the 21st century tech convergence arms race.
Data is to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th, a key asset for driving wealth, power, and competitiveness. Only companies with access to the best algorithms and the biggest and highest quality data sets will be able to glean the insights and develop the models driving innovation forward. As Facebook’s failure to protect its users’ private information shows, these date pools are both extremely powerful and can be abused. But because countries with the leading AI and pooled data platforms will have the most thriving economies, big technology platforms are playing a more important national security role than ever in our increasingly big data-driven world.
China, which has set a goal of becoming “the world’s primary AI innovation center” by 2025, occupying “the commanding heights of AI technology” by 2030, and the “global leader” in “comprehensive national strength and international influence” by 2050, understands this. To build a world-beating AI industry, Beijing has kept American tech giants out of the Chinese market for years and stolen their intellectual property while putting massive resources into developing its own strategic technology sectors in close collaboration with national champion companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.
Examples of China’s progress are everywhere.
Close to a billion Chinese people use Tencent’s instant communication and cashless platforms. In October 2017, Alibaba announced a three-year investment of $15 billion for developing and integrating AI and cloud-computing technologies that will power the smart cities and smart hospitals of the future. Beijing is investing $9.2 billion in the golden combination of AI and genomics to lead personalized health research to new heights. More ominously, Alibaba is prototyping a new form of ubiquitous surveillance that deploys millions of cameras equipped with facial recognition within testbed cities and another Chinese company, Cloud Walk, is using facial recognition to track individuals’ behaviors and assess their predisposition to commit a crime.
In all of these areas, China is ensuring that individual privacy protections do not get in the way of bringing together the massive data sets Chinese companies will need to lead the world. As Beijing well understands, training technologists, amassing massive high-quality data sets, and accumulating patents are key to competitive and security advantage in the 21st century.
“In the age of AI, a U.S.-China duopoly is not just inevitable, it has already arrived,” said Kai-Fu Lee, founder and CEO of Beijing-based technology investment firm Sinovation Ventures and a former top executive at Microsoft and Google. The United States should absolutely not follow China’s lead and disregard the privacy protections of our citizens. Instead, we must follow Europe’s lead and do significantly more to enhance them. But we also cannot blind ourselves to the critical importance of amassing big data sets for driving innovation, competitiveness, and national power in the future.
In its 2017 unclassified budget, the Pentagon spent about $7.4 billion on AI, big data and cloud-computing, a tiny fraction of America’s overall expenditure on AI. Clearly, winning the future will not be a government activity alone, but there is a big role government can and must play. Even though Google remains the most important AI company in the world, the U.S. still crucially lacks a coordinated national strategy on AI and emerging digital technologies. While the Trump administration has gutted the white house Office of Science and Technology Policy, proposed massive cuts to US science funding, and engaged in a sniping contest with American tech giants, the Chinese government has outlined a “military-civilian integration development strategy” to harness AI to enhance Chinese national power.
FBI Director Christopher Wray correctly pointed out that America has now entered a “whole of society” rivalry with China. If the United States thinks of our technology champions solely within our domestic national framework, we might spur some types of innovation at home while stifling other innovations that big American companies with large teams and big data sets may be better able to realize.
America will be more innovative the more we nurture a healthy ecosystem of big, AI driven companies while also empowering smaller startups and others using blockchain and other technologies to access large and disparate data pools. Because breaking up US technology giants without a sufficient analysis of both the national and international implications of this step could deal a body blow to American prosperity and global power in the 21st century, extreme caution is in order.
America’s largest technology companies cannot and should not be dragooned to participate in America’s growing geopolitical rivalry with China. Based on recent protests by Google employees against the company’s collaboration with the US defense department analyzing military drone footage, perhaps they will not.
But it would be self-defeating for American policymakers to not at least partly consider America’s tech giants in the context of the important role they play in America’s national security. America definitely needs significantly stronger regulation to foster innovation and protect privacy and civil liberties but breaking up America’s tech giants without appreciating the broader role they are serving to strengthen our national competitiveness and security would be a tragic mistake.
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