Amazon expands program that pays Alexa skill developers

Earlier this year, Amazon introduced a program that pays developers of the most popular Alexa skill games. Today they’ve announced that the rewards program is expanding to now include Alexa skills in six more categories. Developers of Alexa skills in the categories Education & Reference, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Music & Audio, and Productivity will now also earn money if their skills receive enough engagement. Amazon has still not revealed specifics on how much can be earned, but they will use metrics such as the total minutes a skill is used, the number of new customers, the number of recurring customers, the skill’s customer ratings, and more to determine how much a developer is paid each month. One Alexa developer tells TechCrunch that he estimates the top skill in a category receives about $5,000 each month, #6 gets about $2,000, #7 gets about $1,000, and #300 gets about $100.

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Amazon Fire TV Edition televisions gain new option to turn on with Alexa

When Amazon made it possible for stand-alone Alexa devices, like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, to control the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, control of Fire TV Edition televisions was not quite ready initially. It is now possible to control the televisions with Alexa as well and Amazon has added a new option in the TV’s settings menu to allow Alexa to turn on the TV. In order for Alexa to turn on the TV, it must remain in a low power state, similar to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick’s sleep mode, so having the feature enabled will consume a little more power than usual while the TV is off. If you don’t plan to use Alexa to turn on your Fire TV Edition television, it’s probably a good idea to turn the feature off. You can do so from the Settings > Alexa menu on the TV. With the option enabled, giving any Alexa command that relates to your TV, like “Alexa, launch YouTube,” will power on the TV if it is off. Of course, you can also just say “Alexa, turn on Fire TV” if you prefer. See here for a list of other commands that can be used.

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App Deal: Riptide GP2 is Free and Riptide GP Renegade is on sale for $0.99

The very popular racing game Riptide GP2 has just gone free to celebrate the game’s 4 year aniversary. This game is normally $1.99 and has a great 4.5 star rating from over 1,000 reviews. The sequal to that game, Riptide GP: Renegade, is also celebrating the aniversary with a sale. Riptide GP: Renegade is normally $2.99 but is currently down to $0.99, which is the new lowest price it has ever been. Both of these games are compatible with all Fire TV devices except the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick. They are both playable with either a remote control or game controller.

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Nick Jr. app by Nickelodeon arrives on the Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition television

About a week after they released their Nick app, Nickelodeon has now released a Nick Jr. app for all Amazon Fire TVs, Fire TV Sticks, and Fire TV Edition televisions. This new Nick Jr. app is tailored for kids under 6 years old, while the Nick app is for older kids. As you’d expect, the two apps are very similar in their design and features, so take a look at my overview of the Nick app to get a feel for both apps. To access all of the content in either app you’ll need to activate the apps with a subscription television provider, but both apps do have a decent assortment of free ad-supported content that does not require activation to view. The free content does include full-length episodes of most of the shows available through these apps.

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UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom portable speakers now have Alexa

The UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom are among the most popular portable Bluetooth speakers available and now they’re even better with the addition of Alexa capabilities. Ultimate Ears has released a software update to their speakers that adds access to Amazon’s voice assistant directly from the speaker. Once configured, you just tap the Bluetooth button on the speaker and speak Alexa commands into the speaker’s microphone. The option to use Alexa is only available through UE’s Android app at this time. That seems to imply that the speaker must be connected to a phone for Alexa to work, but their help pages don’t make it clear if that’s the case or not. If that is the case, it’s distinctly different from the Amazon Tap which truly has Alexa built into the speaker without needing a phone. Either way, if you want access to Alexa through a much better sounding portable speaker than anything Amazon offers, the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom are definitely the way to go.

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Amazon Instant Pickup makes orders ready in just 2 minutes


If Amazon’s 1-hour Prime Now delivery wasn’t ridiculously fast enough already, Amazon has launched Instant Pickup which promises to have orders ready in just 2 minutes. The new service offers “everyday essentials” at select pickup locations, which are currently on or near college campuses. Pickup locations in Berkely, CA and Los Angeles, CA are already available, with Atlanta, GA; Columbus, OH; and College Park, MD coming soon. Shoppers can see the items available for intant pickup through the Amazon shopping app by selecting “Instant Pickup” under the “Programs and Features” section of the app’s menu.

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This all-in-one adapter is the easiest way to add Ethernet to the Amazon Fire TV Stick

A little-known feature of the 2nd-generation Amazon Fire TV Stick, which Amazon has never advertised, is that it supports USB OTG by default. This allows you to connect much more than a power cord to the device’s micro USB port, like wired keyboards, mice, hubs, and external storage, but by far the most common use is to connect an Ethernet adapter in order to get a fast and stable internet connection to the Fire TV Stick. If all you want to do is connect the Fire TV Stick to Ethernet, this all-in-one Ethernet adapter by UGREEN is by far the easiest way to go. Read more ›

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Downloader app for the Amazon Fire TV passes 5 Million Users


My Downloader app for the Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition television has just passed 5 million users. There were 1 million new users that tried the app last month alone. The app has also just passed 7,000 reviews while maintaining a 4.5 out of 5 star rating and has held the #1 free app spot in the entire Amazon appstore for most of the last few months. Thank you to everyone who has supported the app through in-app donations and through Patreon. It’s only through your generosity that I have been able to keep the app 100% free without any ads, while continuing to pay my awesome developer Johannes Bramauer to add new features and improve the app. Read more ›

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Eufy Genie Review: How it compares to the Amazon Echo Dot

Anker is a company best known for their highly reviewed portable powerbanks and charging cables but they’ve been expanding into numerous other consumer electronics lately. They launched Eufy, a smart home brand, late last year with products like a robotic vacuum and a smart scale. Now they’ve released the Eufy Genie, an Alexa powered smart speaker that closely resembles the Amazon Echo Dot in both form and function. At $34.99, the Genie undercuts the Echo Dot by $15 and claims to have a better speaker, so I picked one up to see if it’s a good budget alternative to Amazon’s own smart speaker. Read more ›

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Logitech K400 Plus Keyboard w/ Touchpad on sale for $17.99

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The Logitech K400 Plus keyboard with built-in touchpad is on sale for $17.99 at Amazon. That matches the lowest price this keyboard has ever been. Many Fire TV owners, including myself, swear by this keyboard as the best bang-for-your-buck keyboard for couch use. This keyboard uses a wireless USB dongle to connect, so it works with the 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV. It will also work with the Fire TV Stick 2 if you use an OTG adapter. This sale is part of a larger sale where multiple Logitech accessories are up to 30% off.

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