Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft: Together, these tech giants are the Frightful Five, and they’re always up to something. From Amazon headquarters suitors and the iPhone X to Facebook and Google payments and Microsoft’s attempt at a smart speaker, we bring you each company’s top stories of the week — just in case you missed it.
238 cities in the U.S., Mexico and Canada submitted proposals to become home to Amazon’s second headquarters — a status that would bring the winning city not only prestige, but also 50,000 new jobs and a $5 billion investment in housing, infrastructure and other projects.
The eCommerce giant has teamed up with First Data and Clover POS to power mobile order ahead from the Amazon mobile app. Restaurants that have an Amazon Pay account and a Clover POS station can take advantage of the mobile order ahead offering. Amazon Pay processes transactions using stored customer information from the linked Amazon account.
Amazon announced it will offer unattended delivery via its Amazon Key service for Prime members beginning Nov. 8. The Key kit includes an Amazon Cloud Cam and smart lock so homeowners can monitor deliveries while they’re away from home. Amazon plans to extend keyless access to the home to friends, relatives, cleaners and pet sitters by the same method.
Finally, pour one out for Amazon Wine: the wine marketplace is shutting down at the end of the year due to the legal challenges of selling and shipping alcohol in the U.S. However, customers will still be able to order wine from Amazon Prime and Amazon Fresh, with Prime Now delivering wine in as little as two hours to customers in select U.S. cities.
The iPhone X becomes available for presale today, Oct. 27. It’s the moment of truth for all who have been saying that iPhone X preorders will make up for lackluster iPhone 8 sales. Some fear that the starting price of $999 for the iPhone X base model may put a damper on sales.
Due to manufacturing challenges related to components of the new Face ID authentication feature, production and thus inventory will be limited. In theory, Face ID will enable users to unlock their phone and send payments just by smiling for the camera, but in practice, manufacturers have struggled with the dot projectors in the TrueDepth camera system.
Even Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak isn’t planning to buy the iPhone X, saying he doesn’t believe the Face ID feature will work as intended and he’s quite content with his iPhone 8, thank you very much.
Facebook is rolling out in-app purchases and advertisements in games developed for its Messenger app and implementing paywalls for publications using its Instant Articles feature. These various new features all mean one thing: Facebook needs a safe, easy way to accept payments. The social media giant is reportedly testing APIs to power these in-app purchases.
Meanwhile, friends can already send friends money over Messenger, thanks to an expansion of Facebook’s partnership with PayPal to fuel peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers. PayPal already enables customers to shop within the Messenger app. In Q3, PayPal processed $24 billion in P2P payments – that’s 47 percent more than the same quarter of 2016, proving that this method of transfer continues to grow in popularity.
Finally, ATB Financial has partnered with FinTech Finn.ai to launch a virtual banking assistant that utilizes Facebook Messenger. ATB’s 700,000 personal banking customers will now be able to pay bills, check balances, send e-Transfers, transfer money between accounts, and even perform cross-currency money movement, all just by initiating a chat in Facebook Messenger.
Google is now a mobile wallet. Ish. Users will be able to Pay with Google across apps and mobile devices using registered credentials linked to their accounts across Gmail, YouTube, Chrome and Google Play.
Anyone who has added a tokenized payment to their Google account and has loaded in credit or debit cards to any one of them can use Pay with Google, which launched globally on Android devices and across mobile devices and digital assistants.
The functionality is powered by an API announced at Google’s annual I/O conference in May. When consumers buy from merchants who have integrated the API, they simply authenticate their identity by fingerprint, password, or whatever method they choose.
In further news, Google has added new shopping features and reporting capabilities that will benefit local merchants this holiday season by helping brick-and-mortar retailers drive and measure store visits from Google properties. One feature will tie local inventory data to Google Assistant results — so, if a user asks her Assistant where to buy X and the merchant has uploaded X on its local inventory feed, that retailer will now appear in the search results of nearby stores with X in stock.
Microsoft jumped on the smart speaker bandwagon with its Invoke speaker, created through a partnership with Harman Kardon. However, reviews say it’s “more speaker than smart” — a great product for music lovers, with impressive bass and crisp trebles, but not so much for techies or anyone looking for a true virtual assistant. Microsoft’s assistant Cortana boasts only 174 skills compared to Alexa’s 15,000 and counting, and it did not integrate easily with Google and work calendars — making the Invoke speaker useful for setting timers and playing music, and that’s about it.
However, the tech company is trying something new in the realm of mobile devices. Leaving smartphones by the wayside, Microsoft has instead turned its focus to a new iteration of the Courier “digital journal” concept — a tablet that folds and focuses heavily on pen input. The product, code-named Andromeda, could reach consumers as early as next year, according to Engadget.