Alexa Skills Can Now Make Money

Alexa Skills Can Now Make Money

Developers of Alexa skills now have a way to make money off their offerings.

Alexa skills can now include money-making features, according to The Verge. If you use Alexa skills, you have probably noticed they’re all free. This is a refreshing change of pace from other services, like app stores on phones that can offer apps for large amounts of money. With Alexa’s available skills, you never have to worry about whether a skill you’ve found is going to end up costing you.

But now the developers of these skills do have some small ways to make money. The Verge notes that now skills can offer one in-skill purchase. This means they can have extra content or special features available for a cost. This can be a one-time fee or a subscription that continues. Compared to many apps, having one in-skill purchase is still a nice change of pace, since so many apps lock feature after feature behind a pay wall.

Developers can also now allow users of their skills to buy items. With Alexa, users could already use their voices to buy products from Amazon. But now they’ll be able to ask to buy things within other skills. This new feature will make use of Amazon Pay, letting developers offer a way to order through the skill. The Verge mentions that TGI Fridays and 1-800-Flowers are already making use of this new feature. With these skills, you can now directly place orders for the companies’ products.

While the skills themselves are still free (and there seem to be no plans to change this in the near future), adding a way for developers to make money through in-skill purchases and the use of Amazon Pay could end up being a big change. It could make Alexa skills seem more appealing to other developers who have yet to bring their ideas to the Alexa skill format. It may also make ordering items from companies other than Amazon much easier. Keep watch on Alexa’s skills to see which ones begin making use of these new capabilities.

Amazon is Raising Prime Cost Again

Amazon is Raising Prime Cost Again

If you’re a Prime subscriber, take note: your yearly cost will soon go up.

Amazon’s new price jump for their Prime service isn’t particularly small, either: an annual subscription is soon going to be $119 instead of the current $99, says Variety. That’s $20 more than before, which is about a 20% increase.

Amazon Prime has a large number of subscribers. Digital Trends reported earlier this month that Amazon had revealed how many people subscribed to the service. At the time, it was reported that there were over a hundred million subscribers across the world.

Prime likely draws in so many people because it has features that appeal to many different interests. With Prime, you can get free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible offers. You can also watch a great deal of TV shows and movies for free. This includes some Prime-exclusive shows, like their popular shows Sneaky Pete and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. You can also stream music and rent e-books. Plus you have access to things like Prime Pantry (where you can have household items and groceries sent to you), Amazon Fresh (grocery delivery in select areas), and photo storage in the cloud.

It’s unclear if Prime’s price hike will cause some subscribers to skip renewing in the future. It is a significant price increase, but Prime membership can also become embedded in peoples’ lives because of how many different things are offered.

If you’re considering subscribing for the first time, you have until May 11 to sign up at the current $99 fee, says Variety. They also explain that for current subscribers, rates won’t increase until June 16. So if you’re trying to decide whether to renew your membership or create a new one, you still have a little bit of time to decide before the price jumps.

Want to Have All Your Food Delivered?

Want to Have All Your Food Delivered?

Online shopping is nothing new. We’ve been able to go online and buy clothes, toys, hardware, and most everything else for many years now. Shopping online can be a major time-saver and make things extra convenient.

Over the past few years, one specific type of product has become easier and easier to have delivered: food. In the past, having food delivered could be a little trickier. Local stores often didn’t offer online delivery services. And if you wanted hot food delivered from a local restaurant, you’d have to search around to figure out which ones delivered.

Now, though, if you live in a decent-sized city, you probably have more access to food delivery than before. Here are some popular services you might not know deliver. Check them out to see if they service your area!

Groceries

Groceries have typically been less likely to have online delivery services. That’s been quickly changing. Here are some of the popular services you might have access to!

AmazonFresh: This service from Amazon can bring your groceries and some other items wherever you are, even including some items from local vendors. It’s only available in select cities right now.

Hy-Vee Aisles Online: Hy-Vee has hundreds of stores across the Midwest, so you might have one near you. In some cities, they offer online delivery service.

Instacart: Instacart is a service that can deliver from many different grocery stores. This includes (but isn’t limited to) stores like Kroger, Safeway, and Costco. It’s available across the country.

Shipt: This company also offers delivery services for a number of different grocery stores. For instance, Target’s online delivery program uses Shipt. Shipt is currently available in a number of locations, most of which are in the midwestern, southern, and eastern areas of the country (like Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia).

Walmart Grocery: Walmart offers online shopping with their Walmart Grocery service. In some select cities, they can deliver your order right to your door. In most cities, you have to drive to the store where an employee will bring the order to your car. However, Walmart recently announced they plan to bring grocery delivery to more than a hundred areas before the year ends. If Walmart doesn’t deliver to you yet, keep a close watch, because it might become available near you very soon.

Local restaurant food (from almost anywhere)

Before new services began being offered, if you wanted food delivered from a restaurant, it was hit or miss. Now there are plenty of local services you might have that can bring you nearly anything you want. Here are just a few!

DoorDash: This food delivery service delivers in some select cities currently. They deliver from many different restaurants, including local restaurants. Delivery fees vary from place to place.

GrubHub: This service delivers from quite a few restaurants, focusing on local restaurants. Delivery fees vary from restaurant to restaurant.

Lightning Delivery: This delivery service can deliver from many different restaurants, including chains and some local restaurants. Their delivery fee is a minimum of $3.99 (but can be more depending on how far away you are).

Uber Eats: The ride sharing service also delivers food! If you have Uber in your area, you might have Uber Eats as well. You can order food from chains and some local restaurants. The delivery fee depends on distance and other factors Uber takes into account (like how busy an area is).

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

It’s that time again—time for Tech Spotlight! I’m keeping my eyes open to spot technology you should check out. In the Tech Spotlight, I describe three different products you can find on Amazon right now. This week, I’m talking about a helpful little clock, a showerhead speaker, and tech for better sleep. Have a look at what I’ve found before you add them to your Amazon cart!

Clocky, The Original Runaway Alarm Clock on Wheels

If you’re ever late to work or class because you slept in too late, Clocky is the answer. This clock makes it much harder to go back to sleep once the alarm has gone off.

Clocky’s concept is pretty straightforward, but it’s also a fantastic idea. Clocky has wheels that allow it to “run away.” If you hit the snooze button, Clocky will run away while beeping loudly at you. It can drop off of nightstands and roll across the floor. This means you’ll be forced to get out of bed if you don’t want to hear Clocky beeping insistently.

If you happen to have a day where snoozing is okay, you can also turn Clocky into a normal alarm clock by disabling its wheels. You can also customize it by deciding whether to allow some snoozing or disabling the snooze.

If you’re a habitual oversleeper who loves to hit the snooze button too much, check out Clocky and see how you can make it easier to force yourself awake in the morning!

KOHLER K-9245-0 2.5 GPM Moxie Showerhead and Wireless Speaker

This device is two products in one. Looking for a new showerhead? Want a speaker so you can sing along to music in the shower? Moxie does both.

As a showerhead, Moxie is meant to provide a good showering experience. Its full spray is achieved through its “60 angled nozzles,” meaning you won’t just get an unsatisfying trickle of water. You can also choose from five different colors, keeping it simple with white or making things lively with a bright blue, red, or one of the other color options. And the showerhead is just as easy to install as a typical showerhead; there’s no added difficulty just because it’s also a speaker.

The speaker uses a lithium-ion battery that’s built in, and it can be taken out of the showerhead for charging purposes. Bluetooth devices can connect to the speaker, and KOHLER promises as many as 7 hours of playing before the speaker needs to be charged again.

If you’re interested in getting a new showerhead, and if you don’t really want to take your Bluetooth speaker into the bathroom where it’ll get all steamed up, take a look at Moxie from KOHLER!

S+ By ResMed Personal Sleep Solution

If you think you could be getting a better night’s sleep than you are, you might want to look into a device like S+ By ResMed.

With this device, you can learn more about your sleeping habits and your surroundings. S+ uses its sensor to learn about your breathing patterns and movements as you sleep. It specifically focuses on your chest moving as you breathe in and out, as well as how (and how much) you move as you sleep. You don’t need to be touching the device, and you don’t need anything special for your bed. It just uses its sensor to gather information.

It also takes note of things like sounds, light, and temperature as you sleep. After it gathers all its information, it analyzes it and provides suggestions for better sleep. It can take into consideration your environment overnight and then suggest environmental changes that will improve sleep quality.

S+ from ResMed is a straightforward and easy way to learn about how you sleep. If you’d like to get a better night of sleep, learn more about the S+ on Amazon!

Get a Cheaper Prime Membership If You’re on Medicaid

Get a Cheaper Prime Membership If You’re on Medicaid

Amazon is now offering their Prime membership cheaper to another range of people—those who are on Medicaid.

Amazon’s Prime service offers free two-day shipping for eligible items, streaming shows and movies, music, borrowed ebooks, cloud storage for photos, and more. It can often be considered pricey for some, despite the many different benefits. Because of the $99 yearly charge (or $12.99 monthly charge), it simply hasn’t been affordable for a lot of people. Amazon’s new discount will hopefully change this.

Amazon already provided another way to get a membership on the cheap. Amazon Prime Student offers Prime memberships to students for about half the yearly price ($49 instead of $99). Students simply have to provide information to Amazon that proves they’re currently enrolled as a student. This discount can be used for up to 4 years, as long as proof is provided during each year’s renewal.

Now more people will be able to join Prime without killing their budget. Amazon’s monthly charge for Prime is normally $12.99, but for those who receive Medicaid, it will only be $5.99. This is a significant discount, not only compared to the normal monthly charge, but even compared to the yearly charge. A year’s subscription to Prime is $99, but for Medicaid recipients, Prime membership will add up to a little more than $70 for the 12 months.

Medicaid is used by millions of people. CNN reported last year that 74 million people were on Medicaid. This number includes adults and children.

According to Amazon’s discount page, those with an EBT or Medicaid card must provide proof that they’re eligible for the discounted service. Then they can sign up and get Prime for less than half of what it typically costs on a monthly basis. For more information, head over to Amazon’s website to get started.

Ebay Launching Its Own ‘Under $10’ Section

Ebay Launching Its Own ‘Under $10’ Section

Ebay is making things a little easier for those on a budget by launching their ‘Under $10’ section.

You may recall the recent introduction of Amazon’s ‘$10 and Under’ section which I wrote about back in January. Amazon collects inexpensive items and groups them in different categories like Men’s, Electronics, and Household.

Now Ebay is doing something similar, giving shoppers a chance to find inexpensive deals in a number of different categories. Ebay’s ‘Under $10’ section collects a large number of items from different sellers, all of which ship free (just like Amazon’s budget section).

Ebay’s section has a much more detailed selection of categories to narrow down your browsing. On Amazon, there are 8 categories to choose from, and then you browse through a bunch of items within that category. On Ebay, however, there are 6 main categories to choose from, but within those 6 categories, there are over two dozen sub-categories, and in those sub-categories, there are sub-sub-categories.

For instance, if you look in the ‘Fashion Under $10’ category, you can narrow down to ‘Men’s Clothing & Shoes’ (or another sub-category), then narrow further with sub-sub-categories like ‘Jeans’ and ‘Sandals.’ This means you don’t have to scroll through a ton of items you have no interest in. It’s easier to focus in on what you really want to browse for. The six main categories on Ebay’s new section are ‘Fashion,’ ‘Electronics,’ ‘Home & Garden,’ ‘Sports,’ ‘Lifestyle & Entertainment,’ and ‘Motors.’

The ‘Fashion’ category includes things like off-the-shoulder blouses, workout pants, and reflective sunglasses. In ‘Electronics,’ you can find waterproof bluetooth speakers and PS4 games. ‘Home & Garden’ includes artificial succulents and vegetable slicers. In ‘Sports,’ there are yoga mats and canteens. ‘Lifestyle & Entertainment’ features things like vinyl records (from many different artists, including Buddy Holly and Incubus) and cat hammocks. And in ‘Motors,’ you can expect to see items like windshield cleaning tools and auto repair parts.

If you’re on a budget but still enjoy shopping, it’s a good time for you. With Ebay joining Amazon in offering a whole section devoted to items $10 or less, online shopping might be a little more convenient. Ebay’s section is great in that it has so many different categories to make finding what you need (or didn’t know you needed) a little easier.

Check out Ebay’s ‘Under $10’ section and see what you can find!

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

It’s that time again—time for another Tech Spotlight! I’m on the watch for cool, fun, and helpful technology you can buy right now. Each week, I’m writing about three of the items I’ve found.

This week, I’m shining the spotlight on a 360-degree camera, a light for indoor plants, and a stress management device. Take a closer look at each item, then add it to your cart on Amazon!

Giroptic IO2-2K iO Pop HD 360 camera

This camera from Giroptic makes it easier to take 360-degree photos and videos with your smartphone. It’s available for Android and iOS, so whether you have a Galaxy or an iPhone, you can capture in 360 degrees.

iO Pop is pretty straightforward when it comes to setting up. You use the iO360 app to manage the device, and you simply plug the device into your phone using one of the included connectors. After you plug in the device, the app will open.

Photos are in 4K, while videos are in 2K. Photos and videos are stored on your device, and using the app, it’s easy to share them all on the social media platforms you use. You can also livestream—your 360-degree video can stream straight to Facebook, YouTube, or Periscope.

Though it is possible to create 360-degree content in less expensive ways, it can often be tricky, and the results aren’t always great. The iO Pop promises to be easy and provide good quality photos and videos. Check out more about the iO Pop on Amazon!

SimLife LED Plant Grow Light Kit

This pretty flower pot is a smart way to take care of your houseplants inside by providing them with all the “sunlight” they need.

The light kit from SimLife is an attractive white or pink basket-shaped flowerpot with an LED light. It’s meant to mimic sunlight so plants can get the light they need to survive and flourish. The light has 3 settings so you can choose what’s best for your environment. When the flowerpot is turned on, the light stays on at all times. When it’s set to auto, the sensor in the front of the flowerpot detects whether there’s enough light for the plant and turns the LED light on and off as needed. Off, of course, turns off the light.

This grow light kit is designed to be convenient. It plugs in to any USB port, even with low power. You can also use a DC adapter if you don’t want to stick with USB. You’re also able to take the soil pot out of the grow light pot, which makes it easier to remove, add to, or work with your plant. And the item even comes with a little watering pot for keeping plants hydrated.

If you like to keep indoor plants but have trouble keeping them in the sun, try out this grow light kit from SimLife!

Spire Stone: Stress Management and Activity Tracker

The Spire Stone is meant to help you stay aware of your stress and work to manage it.

This wearable device is attached to specific areas of your clothing and keeps track of your breathing and other activity. The device is always working to monitor your breathing and make sure your breathing patterns don’t suddenly change. When the Spire Stone detects stress indicated by a specific change in breathing, it gives a “gentle notification” so you can address the issue. It also keeps up with things like your steps and other activity.

Using the accompanying app, you can pause during times of stress and follow along with a guided meditation or with visual exercises. You can also look at your “breath-wave,” which shows you your breathing in real-time.

Spire Stone is designed to be as convenient as possible. Its battery can last up to 10 days, and when it needs to be charged, it’s placed on the wireless charging pad that comes included. It’s also “washer-proof,” meaning if you accidentally keep it attached to your clothing when you wash your laundry, it won’t be ruined.

If you’re dealing with stress and want to learn more about the Spire Stone, check it out on Amazon!

12 Personalized Gift Ideas

12 Personalized Gift Ideas

There are tons of gift options out there, but one cool way to make someone feel special is to get them something that has been personalized just for them. With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking gifts—and even if you won’t really be buying winter holiday gifts, you might at least be hunting for good birthday presents.

With all the custom gift ideas out there, it might be hard to pick out some of the more interesting or fun ones. It’s hard to go wrong with a custom photo gift, like a mug or a canvas print. But if you want something just a little bit different, you’ve got a lot to work with.

Whether you’re shopping around for a child, a friend, a family member, a significant other, or anyone else on your list, the following twelve items might give you some ideas for a special gift!

Books and Prints

I See Me! Personalized Books
I See Me! personalized children’s books are great for kids of many different ages. There are storybooks, coloring books, and assorted sets. Some of the books include photos of the child, and others have various customization options. The book can use your child’s name and other relevant pieces of information. For instance, “My Night Before Christmas” lets you customize the name and town, as well as other bits of information, and you can include a dedication, photo, and more. There are books for different occasions, like birthdays and Christmas, and there are different adventures and stories, as well. If you know a child who enjoys reading, one of these personalized books could make them feel pretty special.

Custom House Portrait
The home can create warm feelings for a lot of people. With a custom portrait, you can gift someone artwork that represents an important home. It might be a new family home, a childhood home, or any special place. If you have detailed photos of the outside of the home, you can have a custom portrait handmade as a gift. There are many artists and shops offering this service—a quick search will find a lot of them. One with good reviews on etsy is Custom house Portrait by AllaboutANN. These portraits are done in watercolor. You can see examples on their product page and then have a special home portrait made for that important person on your list.

Jewelry

Soundwave Jewellery
Soundwave Jewellery is a shop that makes custom soundwave engravings from short sound clips. You could record yourself saying “I love you,” reciting a short quote, or speaking some special phrase. How long your recording can be depends on the jewelry you choose to have engraved. You might also want to use a short recording from a loved one who has passed away. There are rings, necklaces, and bracelets available for customization. Having a soundwave engraved is a special and beautiful way to hold on to a memory.

Custom Birthstone Necklace
Birthstones can be a lovely gift for a friend or family member. Even better are customized birthstone pieces. This custom birthstone necklace by delezhen has birthstones in the shape of leaves and includes a small engraved pendant with a letter or number of choice. You could gift someone a necklace with their own birthstone, or you could customize a necklace with the birthstones of the giftee’s children. There are a lot of options—you can even have one that has 20 birthstones and 20 engraved leaves (though that might be a bit much). There are other customizable birthstone pieces on etsy and elsewhere, but this particular necklace might be the right gift for someone on your list.

Morse Code Bracelet
Morse code jewelry, like soundwave jewelry, gives you a special way to send a message. You can have all sorts of morse code pieces made, using pendants, charms, rings, and nearly anything you can think of. The morse code bracelets by Houseofcharmz are particularly fun. They arrive on a card that says what the morse code means. There are some message ideas, like “Friend” and “Mother,” but you can also use a custom word. They’re also a reasonably priced but special customizable gift. These bracelets are a great option if you want to send a message in a slightly different way.

Toys and Games

Cuddle Clones
A Cuddle Clone is just one of the many options available for custom stuffed animals. You can have stuffed toys created using all different sources. With Cuddle Clones, you can give the gift of a stuffed toy replica of a beloved pet. You can also have a figurine made. Cuddle Clones are made using photos and descriptions as guides. A stuffed toy could be a great way to make sure someone remembers their companion forever. It’s also pretty funny to capture the real deal trying to figure out what’s going on with their stuffed doppelganger. You might want a Cuddle Clone for yourself, too, but one could be a wonderful gift for pet lovers of all ages.

Crayola Imaginables
With Crayola Imaginables, you can turn a piece of art into something cuddly. If you know a child who likes to create, you might have their work made into a toy for them to keep. All you have to provide is a picture and description of the art. The art is turned into a plush that’s around 16 inches tall (or you can ask for a 30 inch plush). he toys are hypoallergenic and sewed by hand. Like most custom plushes, an Imaginable doesn’t come cheap. But one could be a memorable present for a child during the holidays or on their birthday.

Personalized Monopoly Board Game
You can have many different games customized in some way, whether it’s putting your photo on a deck of cards or having initials engraved in a chess board. A cool twist on this, though, is the Personalized Monopoly Board Game. Your customized Monopoly board can have all kinds of different layouts and sayings, and they can be for different occasions, like graduations or birthdays. You add your own photos to the Monopoly board’s center area. A customized Monopoly board could be a great gift for a family member or friend who wants to have a special gameboard to play with and hold on to as a keepsake.

Housewares

Personalized Pint Glass
The Gold Rimmed Personalized Pint Glass by HomeWetBar is a simple but elegant personalized gift. Pint glasses are nice to have even if you’re drinking non-alcoholic beverages, so they can make a nice present for most adults. There are many options for having personalized drinkware made, but these particular glasses are well-reviewed, and they’re simple enough that you can feel confident most people would like them. You can have an individual’s or couple’s monogram placed on the glass. Take a look at their design and see if this is the right gift for someone you know. Whether you want this specific design or not, you’ll have plenty of choices for personalized glassware.

Portrait Personalized Cookie Cutter
This personalized cookie cutter is a cute way to give someone a gift they’ve almost certainly never received before. The shop owner, Copypastry, uses the image you submit to make your custom cookie cutter with 3D printers. This gift could be pretty tasty if you also included some cookies made with the cutter. If you’re not sure anyone you know would want cookies shaped like their faces, you can also have a cookie cutter made from a pet’s portrait. Not only would this gift make interesting cookies, it could also just be something cool for your friend or family member to keep on display.

Accessories

Custom Pet Pillow Keychain
Keychains are another popular way to give someone a customized gift. Instead of having initials or a name engraved in wood, consider giving someone a Custom Pet Pillow Keychain from Red Cloud Studio. These keychains are about 2” by 4” and display pets on small, custom-shaped pillows. The keychains are double sided and are a fun way to show love for a pet, whether the pet is still around or has crossed the rainbow bridge. Just submit a photo and they’ll print it for your keychain—simple. If you know someone who loves their pet(s) and wants to proudly display them, this could make a special gift.

Custom Face Magnets
You might not think of magnets as the most exciting gift to give (or receive), but some personalized magnets are different from the rest. These Custom Face Magnets by JordanGraceOwens are illustrated by hand using the photo(s) you submit. They’re small—about an inch—but look cute and fun. You can have six made in one order, so you could give these as a gift to a family. Or you could have two made for a couple’s special occasion, or just one for a friend. There are plenty of options. They’re a little pricey, but they’d make a unique gift for someone on your shopping list.