Amazon’s pop-up store at the Queens Center mall in Elmhurst, New York, in late 2016. The store has sold Amazon tablets, e-readers, Echo smart speakers and smart-home gadgets.
Ben Fox Rubin/CNET
Amazon’s big push into physical stores is taking a small step back. Well, 87 small steps back to be precise.
The online retailer plans to shutter all 87 of its pop-up kiosks in malls and shopping centers in the US next month, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
“After much review, we came to the decision to discontinue our pop-up kiosk program,” an spokeswoman told the Journal.
The closures show how Amazon is continuing to experiment with physical store formats and hasn’t yet landed on the perfect fit. Many industry watchers expect the company to ramp up store openings once it finds a format that it feels works best. While Amazon is the world’s biggest online seller, most retail sales still take place in stores — a major reason Amazon is working on building its own stores.
For now, the company is developing a lot of different concepts. Amazon started opening these pop-up locations, which showed off the company’s lineup of gadgets, about five years ago. Along with these smaller-format stores, Amazon has opened three 4-star stores, which focus on top-rated items on its website; 18 Amazon Books bookstores and 10 Amazon Go convenience stores.
The company also owns and operates 500 Whole Foods supermarkets, and is planning — according to the Journal — another grocery store line that will offer cheaper prices.
The spokeswoman confirmed to the Journal that Amazon plans to expand its 4-star and bookstore locations this year, saying they both offer greater selection than the pop-up format.
7 things data privacy experts wish you knew about app security – CNET
Keep your data safe from prying phone apps. James Martin/CNET Can you really trust the apps on your phone? When it comes to data privacy, smartphone apps are notoriously tough to trust. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell at face value if an app is tracking you, even when you say stop, and no protection is…
Keep your data safe from prying phone apps.
Can you really trust the apps on your phone? When it comes to data privacy, smartphone apps are notoriously tough to trust. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell at face value if an app is tracking you, even when you say stop, and no protection is foolproof in today’s world of ever-evolving technology. An app that behaves well today could turn into a bad actor tomorrow if the company behind the app is sold, changes its direction or winds up compromised because of a flaw. There are ways to find and delete the data Google has saved about you, along with some new privacy settings in Android 12 and iOS 14 to stop apps from tracking you. And Apple also launched a “privacy nutrition label” in iOS 14, which allows you to see what kind of data an app collects before you download it.Read more: Apple boosts your privacy in 4 new ways on iOS 15But there’s more you can do to protect your data privacy and improve your smartphone security. We reached out to data privacy experts for their top tips to protect your personal data when using apps. Here are their seven suggestions.1. Use a password manager
The strongest passwords are random strings of characters. A series of letters, numbers and symbols in no particular order is less likely to be found in the dictionary and harder for a computer to crack with brute force. The downside is that these complex passwords are much harder to remember.This is where a password manager app comes in handy. Password managers keep all your passwords in one encrypted and password-protected app. They also generate and remember strong passwords. While apps like Google Chrome and Samsung’s proprietary phone app will offer to save passwords for you, security experts always go to the password manager.It’s also best to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If one account is compromised in a data breach, all the accounts are compromised. With a password manager, each one of your accounts can have a different, complex and hard-to-crack password. Some will even generate passwords for you.We recommend one called Bitwarden, but there are many other password managers to choose from.
2. Use a VPN on public Wi-FiIf you’re going to get on a public Wi-Fi network while on your phone instead of using your mobile data, experts suggest using a VPN. A virtual private network can keep your data from being snooped on by other people lurking on the same public network. They can also mask your data transmissions, avoid filtering and censorship on the internet and allow you to access a wider variety of content around the world. For our purposes, it can shield you from having to get on a free public network that others can use to gain access to your phone. When looking for a provider, it’s important to research the company to find out if it’s well-known and trustworthy. The Apple App Store and the Google Play Store have dozens of VPN apps that are free, but some have questionable practices, so take care.Regardless of how frequently you plan to use a VPN, it’s important to read through the service agreement so you know what data might be collected and where it will be stored. See CNET’s guide to the best VPNs.
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3. Be mindful of app permissionsOne tip that almost all of the experts mentioned was double checking which permissions the app asks for. You should also ask yourself whether it makes sense for an app to ask for certain permissions. An app asking for access to data that isn’t relevant to its function is a major warning sign.”[If] you’re downloading a simple app for a pocket calculator for instance and the app is requesting access to your contact list and location,” said Stephen Hart, CEO of Cardswitcher. “Why would a calculator need to see your contact list and location? Requests like that should ring some alarm bells.”
Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET
In addition to paying attention to permissions that you grant to an app, it’s also important to monitor how your phone behaves after you download it. Shlomie Liberow, a technical program manager and security guru at HackerOne, said that drastic changes in your device’s battery life are another red flag, since malicious apps can constantly run in the background. “If after installing an app, you notice your battery life decreasing faster than usual, that may be a tell-tale sign that the app is up to no good and is likely operating in the background,” Liberow said. Here’s how you can keep your app permissions in check.4. Research the app or companyWhile you can’t tell at face value if an app has sinister motives, a quick Google search can supply more information. The experts suggested searching the name of the app and the phrase “data scandal” or “scam.” Hart said the results should tell you if the company has experienced any recent privacy or data leaks.”This search should also tell you if data breaches are a common occurrence at that company and, if they have experienced any, how they have responded to them,” Hart said. “If the company has been affected several times and done nothing to address the problem, steer clear of the app — it suggests that they aren’t taking the issue seriously.” Joe Baker, an IT Systems Administrator at Anderson Technologies, said it’s wise to avoid an app if it’s the only one a developer has produced or if the developer was responsible for any other shady apps.5. Limit social media exposureFacebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal put the popular social network in hot water. But even people who’ve freed themselves from Facebook’s siren call after the fallout (or never created a profile in the first place) might still be at risk for privacy invasion. If you appear on a friend or family member’s account, you’re still visible online. After those accounts are observed, companies can construct a “shadow profile” that details a person’s likes, dislikes, political leanings, religious beliefs and more.
Loads of Android apps are skirting privacy controls
It’s wise to limit the amount of information you share on social media, regardless of what the site asks for on your profile. The more information you share, the more data that’s available to create advertisements for you. Only fill out the absolute minimum amount of information necessary. The more information is at risk in the event of a data breach.”Smartphone apps are generally more ‘thorough’ when it comes to targeted advertising. There’s even concern among some about those programs accessing your phone’s microphone (presumably for more targeted advertising),” Bobby Kittleberger, head of Legal Software Help, told CNET. 6. Keep software up to dateMaking time to update your smartphone’s operating system is critical to keeping your data safe, according to Walsh. The updates let you stay a step ahead of hackers and the latest exploits they’re spreading across the internet. Hart suggested adjusting your phone’s settings so it’ll update automatically.”Think of software updates like vaccinations for your smartphone,” Hart said. “The methods that criminals use to hack into your phone and steal your data are constantly evolving, so the ways that we protect our smartphones need to evolve too.”While you can side-load apps, it’s more secure to only install them from the Google Play Store or App Store.
With upgrades, Amazon’s 2020 Fire HD 8 costs more but remains a bargain – CNET
With models available in 7-, 8- and 10-inch screen sizes and priced as low as $50 before Prime Day discounts, Amazon’s Fire tablets have long been the go-to option for bargain gadget hunters. But with its 2020 refresh of the 8-inch Fire HD 8 tablet, long the Goldilocks option of its line, Amazon is adding…
With models available in 7-, 8- and 10-inch screen sizes and priced as low as $50 before Prime Day discounts, Amazon’s Fire tablets have long been the go-to option for bargain gadget hunters. But with its 2020 refresh of the 8-inch Fire HD 8 tablet, long the Goldilocks option of its line, Amazon is adding a twist that may leave you wondering which one to buy. There are now two 8-inch models to choose from: a baseline Fire HD 8 starting at $90 (£90), and the $110 (£110) Fire HD 8 Plus, which adds wireless charging and slightly better performance. The tablet isn’t currently available in Australia but the starting price converts to about AU$160.
LikeFaster processor than last versionFast USB-C chargingBetter front camera placement2GB of RAM (up from 1.5GB)Hands-free Alexa voice assistantImproved battery life
Don’t LikeHD 8 Plus offers nice step-ups for just a bit more moneyDisplay is HD but not 1080p (could be sharper)Amazon Appstore is limited compared with Google Play and Apple App StoreAmazon Prime membership is a must
The two models look identical on the outside. The HD 8 Plus is only available in a slate color while the standard HD 8 is available in black, white, plum, twilight blue and slate. But apart from the white version, they all have a black bezel around the display. Both models are improved over the previous 2018 Fire HD 8 version with a faster processor, USB-C charging, better Wi-Fi performance and a bump from 16GB to 32GB of storage in the base model. The standard HD 8 has 2GB of RAM — that’s up from 1.5GB — and the HD 8 Plus has 3GB of RAM, which is where you get the performance boost. The USB-C charging does help reduce charging times by about an hour from the previous HD 8, with the HD 8 Plus charging even faster.The 2018 Fire HD 8 (left) is taller but slightly slimmer than the new Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus.
What’s a big deal is that Amazon has moved the front-facing camera. It used to be at the top of the tablet when you had it in portrait mode. Now it’s on the side, so it’s at the top when you have it in landscape mode. That helps when you’re doing video calls with Zoom and other video-calling apps, including Amazon’s own. The new model is a bit wider than the 2018 HD 8, but it’s shorter and the bezel is now a similar width around the whole display, which remains the same 8-inch size. Only a high-end tablet like the iPad Pro has more screen and less bezel: Other budget tablets typically have wide bezels.
Thanks to the combination of a new 2GHz quad-core MediaTek 8168 processor and some software updates, battery life is now rated at 12 hours of “mixed use” instead of 10. The other small upgrade is that the microSD expansion slot now accepts up to 1TB cards. Previously, the maximum capacity was 512GB.So all in all, there are some substantial changes. And you’ll have to pay more for them. As stated above, the standard HD 8 now costs $90 instead of $80 and the HD 8 Plus with wireless charging and the extra gigabyte of RAM is $20 more at $110. The price for the Plus goes up another $20 if you buy the companion wireless charging dock for the Plus, which you probably want to do.The Fire HD 8 now features USB-C charging.
Both new Fire HD 8 models have the same 1,280×800-pixel resolution display as the previous HD 8. The screen is technically HD but it’s basically 720p and not 1080p. It’s fine for watching videos but it’s not nearly as sharp as the screen you get with, say, an iPad, which is why you’re paying a lot less for this. At 355 grams, the new Fire HD 8 weighs a touch less than its 363g predecessor.
A few years back, the HD 8 seemed sluggish, but its performance has steadily improved and now it’s pretty zippy (Amazon says the new HD 8s are 30% faster than the 2018 HD 8 thanks to the new processor and software optimization). It isn’t as responsive as an entry-level iPad, which is often on sale for about $250, but it’s overall pretty smooth and I didn’t have any problem running games like Asphalt 9: Legends. That said, the eight-core processor and GPU — the graphics processor — are faster in the 10-inch Fire HD 10, which also has a sharper 1080p display. When that model goes on sale for $100, it’s probably the best value in tablets. But some people are looking for a smaller, lighter tablet and the HD 8 is a significant bump up from Amazon’s cheapest tablet, the Fire 7.The more expensive HD 8 Plus features wireless charging and is available in a bundle with a wireless charging dock. The HD 8 Plus automatically goes into Show Mode when in the dock.
I didn’t see a big difference in performance between the HD 8 Plus and standard HD 8, but the extra gig does help. Apps open a touch faster and it can help with multitasking and more graphically intense applications. It never hurts to have more RAM, I can tell you that. The HD 8 Plus seems to wirelessly charge on any Qi-enabled charging pad — at least the ones I tried with 7.5 watts or greater charging power. But you really want the charging dock that Amazon bundles in for an extra 20 bucks. That’s because one of the big appeals of the Fire HD 8 Plus is that you can drop it in the dock and it automatically goes into show mode, turning your tablet into something much like an Echo Show 8, complete with hands-free access to the Alexa voice assistant. It’s still using the tablet’s internal speakers instead of a real speaker and the tablet doesn’t have a more extensive microphone array for picking up your voice like an Echo speaker does. But it works well enough and the sound is OK for watching video (it’s not so great for music). You could wirelessly connect a Bluetooth speaker to augment the sound.The standard Fire HD 8 is available in white and other color options.
I put the dock in my kitchen and used the HD 8 Plus as a mini TV because I have Spectrum TV as my cable provider. There happens to be a Spectrum app that gives me all my channels on the Fire HD 8 or HD 8 Plus so long as I’m on my home network (you get a reduced number of channels when you’re away from your home network). Like the Fire HD 10, the HD 8 now has a picture-in-picture mode for watching video in a small window in the corner of the display while using the tablet’s other applications, such as using a browser to look up recipes. You could get a cover with a built-in stand — Amazon sells plenty of those, including its own nicely designed but expensive covers — and create the same setup for watching videos with either the HD 8 Plus or standard HD 8. But you wouldn’t be able to wirelessly charge the tablet at the same time.The Fire HD 8 has always been a handy tablet for consuming Amazon video content, ebooks and music, and it’s still particularly useful for Prime members. You can also watch other streaming video services such as Netflix and Hulu, but the selection of apps in the Amazon Appstore has always been limited compared with what’s available for Android and iOS, especially when it comes to games. You won’t find apps for Vudu or HBO Max, for instance (though HBO Max may be coming).The tablet runs on Amazon’s latest Fire OS, a customized version of Android P, which was released in the fall of 2018. And while Amazon doesn’t encourage it, you can install the Google Play store by following some instructions on the internet. That would allow you to run a lot more apps. But some people may feel intimidated by the process.The previous Fire HD 8 was popular with parents wanting an affordable tablet for their kids. If that’s who you’re buying this for, the standard HD 8 is going to be just fine. (There’s also a $130 Kids Edition that bundles in a protective case and a year of Amazon’s Freetime Unlimited all-in-one subscription service that gives kids access to thousands of age-appropriate books, videos, apps, Audible books and games.)I like being able to wirelessly charge the Fire HD 8 Plus and the dock is nicely designed. I think you’ll end up using the tablet more because it does double duty as a more modest Echo Show substitute; it’s basically always charged and ready to go when you want to use it outside the dock. That said, the bundle with the dock is currently $40 more than the standard HD 8, and for some folks that’s a big jump in price if you’re looking for a budget tablet.The previous Fire HD 8 sold for as low as $50 during the holidays last (and other flash sales this year). This one probably won’t go that low, but expect to see it for $20 to $30 off at some point in the future. At $90, it’s a decent value, and it’ll be a real bargain if it drops to $60 or $70. I do wish the screen were 1080p, but you apparently can’t have everything at this modest price.Editors’ note: Because the Fire HD 8 reviewed here is very similar to its sibling product, the Fire HD 8 Plus, most of this language is borrowed from our review of that model.
Best Walmart Prime Day deals: Save on Google Pixel Buds, Beats headphones and more – CNET
This story is part of Amazon Prime Day 2021, CNET’s guide to everything you need to know and how to make sure you get the best deal. Amazon Prime Day has its first day of sales in the rearview mirror, but Walmart is not to be outdone: The retail giant launched a four-day sale called Deals…
This story is part of Amazon Prime Day 2021, CNET’s guide to everything you need to know and how to make sure you get the best deal.
Amazon Prime Day has its first day of sales in the rearview mirror, but Walmart is not to be outdone: The retail giant launched a four-day sale called Deals for Days to compete with Amazon, and it’s well underway. Below, we’ve rounded up the best deals we’ve seen so far from Walmart, including some that beat Amazon on price.You’ll also find amazing bargains on Switch games including The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Super Mario Odyssey and Luigi’s Mansion 3. Plus, you can find discounts on everything from robot vacuums to Kamado grills. Keep reading for the best Walmart deals worth shopping for.