Tag Archives: app

TripAdvisor says it’s taking a stand on animal exploitation

TripAdvisor says it’s taking a stand against animal exploitation by no longer selling bookings to attractions where travelers can make physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species.

The policy, six months in the making, was formed with input from tourism, animal welfare and conservation groups including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but many of the millions of travelers who post reviews to the company’s website have been concerned about animal welfare for years, company spokesman Brian Hoyt said.

The company, based in Needham, Massachusetts, also will start providing links on its site to take users to educational research on animal welfare and conservation.

“TripAdvisor’s new booking policy and education effort is designed as a means to do our part in helping improve the health and safety standards of animals, especially in markets with limited regulatory protections,” said Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor’s president.

But the president of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums said she was “disappointed” TripAdvisor never consulted her Virginia-based organization, whose members include branches of the SeaWorld and Six Flags theme parks and dozens of other marine life parks, aquariums and zoos internationally.

“It’s an unjust demonization of the interactive programs that are at the heart of modern zoo and aquarium programs,” president Kathleen Dezio said. “They give guests the magic, memorable experiences that make them want to care about these animals and protect them in the wild.”

The TripAdvisor policy, announced Tuesday, is in line with increasing public sentiment against the exploitation of wild animals to entertain people. SeaWorld this year announced it would stop using killer whales for theatrical performances, while Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus last year stopped using elephants.

TripAdvisor will cease booking some attractions immediately, but the policy, which may affect hundreds of businesses, takes full effect early next year.

In announcing the policy, which also applies to the affiliated Viator booking website, TripAdvisor specifically mentioned elephant rides, swim-with-the-dolphins programs and tiger petting.

Several U.S. businesses that offer such attractions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The policy does not apply to horseback rides and children’s petting areas with domesticated animals. It also exempts attractions such as aquarium touch pools where there are educational benefits and visitors are professionally supervised.

TripAdvisor won’t bar user reviews of tourist attractions, even those it stops booking. The company has long banned reviews of businesses that use animals for blood sport, including bullfights.

A San Francisco-based travel analyst, Henry Harteveldt, said because TripAdvisor is so widely used the wildlife attractions could see a noticeable hit to their business.

However, if TripAdvisor merely stops selling the tickets but continues listing the attractions, he said, the effect won’t be long-lasting. He said those attractions may just go through other booking websites to sell tickets.

TripAdvisor said if a wildlife attraction changes its business model it would consider selling tickets again.

 

Free episodes to disappear from Hulu

Hulu is dropping free TV episode as it works on an online television service to rival cable TV.

Free episodes — typically the most recent four or five episodes from a show’s current season — will be gone from the site within a few weeks. Instead, Hulu is making free episodes available through Yahoo.

While Hulu started as a free site, supported by advertising, free video has become increasingly more difficult to find as Hulu tries to lure viewers into a subscription — $8 a month for a plan with ads, and $12 without. In recent months, visitors to Hulu.com have been presented with prominent links to subscribe, with links to free video buried in a menu after signing in.

And free episodes haven’t been available on Hulu’s mobile apps or streaming-TV devices, just on Hulu.com from a traditional computer. Now, they won’t be on Hulu.com at all.

Devotees of Hulu’s free on-demand videos will be able to find them by visiting the new Yahoo View site from a computer. The Yahoo site will not have free episodes of CW shows such as “Arrow” and “The Flash,” as Hulu has been offering, because CW has a broader deal with Netflix instead. Yahoo says it will have the past five episodes of ABC, NBC and Fox shows available. The Fox shows will appear eight days after their TV airing, as is the practice at Hulu.com now. Yahoo will also have some older CBS shows.

The episodes on Yahoo are not currently available on a phone, although Yahoo is working on a mobile web version and an app. Yahoo says the mobile version will be free, but it may not have all the same video as the desktop computer site because of content licensing restrictions.

Hulu says relatively few people watch the free videos. It now has about 12 million subscribers who pay for original shows, the entire current seasons of some network shows and access to Hulu’s library on mobile and streaming-TV devices like Roku.

Hulu also plans to launch a live online TV service next year. It would show broadcast and cable channels in real time, without making viewers wait until the next day for episodes. In a move that could make that service more appealing, Time Warner Inc. recently took a 10 percent stake in Hulu, joining the TV and movie conglomerates — Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox and Comcast’s NBCUniversal — that already owned it. Time Warner plans to contribute some of its channels, including TNT and TBS, to the new service.

Several other companies already offer live, paid TV over the internet, including Sony and Dish. DirecTV plans a service for later this year as well.

Yahoo also has broader ambitions for View. It wants to add video from other Yahoo properties and from other networks and studios. However, its previous attempt at an online video hub, Yahoo Screen, shut down in January, despite having new episodes of the cult comedy “Community” after its cancellation by NBC.

Verizon, which is buying Yahoo to help the phone company grow a digital advertising business , makes TV episodes and short videos available on its go90 mobile app. Phil Lynch, the head of media and content partnerships at Yahoo, says that as the deal gets closer to closing early next year, it “makes sense that we have integration discussions.”

Groups using Pokemon Go to register voters

A political group in swing-state Ohio is using the game Pokemon Go for a purpose beyond catching cute Pikachu: registering voters.

NextGen Climate Ohio, a group drawing attention to climate change, says the rollout — coming days before the two political conventions get underway — is just one of the creative ways it’s trying to engage millennial voters.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is to really meet them where they are,” said state director Joanne Pickrell. “This is where they seem to be. It’s a very popular game.”

The Democrat-backed NextGen is dropping “lures,” which draw the cartoon monsters hunted by “Pokemon Go” players, at game locations called Pokestops in parks and on campuses in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo, Pickrell said. Organizers will be on site at the locations to talk to players about the importance of voting and how to get registered.

Planned Ohio locations include the University of Toledo on Friday and, on Saturday, parks in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus and Mirror Lake on the main campus of Ohio State University. The group’s chapters in Iowa, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois are also using a similar tactic to register voters. In New Hampshire, it’s being used to secure commitments to vote in the fall.

Pickrell said outreach to youth voters in Ohio also includes being at music festivals, street fairs and college orientations.

Catching Pokemon Thursday at Columbus’ Goodale Park, one of NextGen’s planned outreach sites, players of the game were positive about the idea.

“Any way to spread the good teachings of knowing when to vote, how to vote, knowing to vote, to register, that your vote matters — any way you can get that, whether it’s through ‘Pokemon Go’ or anything else that’s popular at the time, if it can help the younger generation know what to prepare for it, then I’m all for it,” said Jordan Grubb, 23.

Grubb’s companion at the park, 20-year-old Haley Hamilton, agreed: “Voting’s important. You need to get younger people’s attention, because a lot of younger kids don’t take it seriously.”

Chris Thomas, 29, a doctoral student in education policy, said he loves the social aspect of the game but approaches “lures” with a note of caution.

“Using that to bring people to you is a really cool idea for registering people to vote, but I did find a story about people using it to lure people for purposes of robbing them, so there are pros and cons of that,” he said.

Thomas said bumping into other “Pokemon Go” players while looking down at your phone to play the game has been a pleasant surprise of the game experience. Instead of being stereotypical detached smartphone users, players begin to talk and even work together.

“We’re alone, together,” he said. That’s not unlike voters.

What’s a Zubat? Pokemon Go, how to play

Confused by the Pokemon Go mania sweeping the world?

You’re not alone.

For those who don’t know the difference between a Squirtle and a Zubat, here’s a look at the game, how to play it and some of the problems it’s causing.

WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO I GET IN ON IT?

Pokemon Go is a free game app that you can download for your iOS or Android smartphone. The game asks players to wander their real-world neighborhoods on the hunt for the animated monsters made famous years ago by cartoons, video games and trading cards. Players build their collections, make their Pokemon more powerful and do battle with those held by other players.

Set up is relatively quick. You customize your avatar – choosing the color of its hair and style of clothing – then set off on your adventures. Fans like how it takes gaming into the streets and gets people walking around outside instead of sitting in front of a console system hooked up to a TV.

Part of the setup process also involves signing into the app with a Google account, at least unless you have an existing account with the Pokemon site’s own “training club .” (It’s rationing out new signups.) The Google sign in process prompted a backlash over privacy concerns, but we’ll get to that later.

SO, IN A NUTSHELL, HOW DO I PLAY?

The app displays your avatar amid a grid of streets and other bits of geography, such as rivers and parks. It’s like a bare-bones version of Google Maps with a pretty sky above it. You can see in all directions by spinning your character around.

But it takes a little getting used to. The streets don’t have names on them, making it tough to determine which way you need to walk until you actually start moving. (A compass icon points north, if you find that helpful.)

Look around and you’ll see floating light-blue blocks that signify “Pokestops,” landmarks that could be anything from the entrance to a park to fancy stonework on a building. Tagging these spots with your phone earns you “Pokeballs,” which you can use to throw at, and ultimately collect, Pokemon, along with other items.

The actual Pokemon — there are 128 initially listed in your profile’s “Pokedex” — also appear on your grid from time to time. Tapping on them brings them up on your screen, allowing you to fling your Pokeballs at them. The idea is to bop them on the head and capture them inside the ball.

Fair warning, some Pokemon are easier to hit than others. Some can escape from Pokeballs, forcing you to re-capture them.

HOW DOES AUGMENTED REALITY FIT IN?

The app makes it look like the Pokemon are right in front of you by using your phone’s camera to capture an image of the street and display the Pokemon on top of it. This has resulted in some pretty funny pictures on social media.

But the augmented reality feature also makes it tougher to hit the Pokemon, because you have to point the phone at the beast’s supposed location. Turning the feature off by flipping the switch in the top right-hand corner of the screen puts Pokemon right in the middle of the screen, making them easier targets.

SOUNDS LIKE FUN. WHAT’S THE BIG PROBLEM?

While it’s great that people are out walking and exploring, a lot of them are also walking — often the busy streets of big cities like New York — with their heads down and eyes glued to the screens.

This has prompted worries about people walking into traffic, trespassing onto private property or finding themselves in unsafe situations. Many players are children, raising the anxiety level.

Some real-world locations aren’t so keen on attracting players, either.

Operators of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland have asked that their site be removed from the game, saying that playing it at the former Nazi German death camp would be “disrespectful.” The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery have also asked visitors to refrain from playing.

IS THE APP ACTUALLY READING MY GMAIL?

No. Well, at least, not anymore.

When it first launched, the app asked users who signed in with Google for access to their accounts, but didn’t specify that it was asking for access to their entire account including their Gmail, Google documents, Google search history and maps.

The backlash was a strong one. Niantic, the game’s developer, said Monday that it never intended to request such sweeping data access and hadn’t collected information beyond the user’s ID and email address. And on Tuesday, it issued an update that pared back the authorization in the Google sign in to just that data.

App to provide anti-viral drugs prompts praise, concern

A new app has the potential of broadening the use of a prescription drug that can prevent HIV infection among those at high risk.

But some HIV/AIDS activists are raising concerns because the app allows people to order prescriptions online for pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, without direct contact with a doctor.

PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 90 percent. It’s recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people at high risk, including sexually active gay men and people with infected sex partners.

Earlier this year, Nurx, a company headquartered in the San Francisco area, announced it would add PrEP to the prescriptions available to users of its innovative app.

The service currently has limited reach, delivering prescribed oral contraceptives to customers in California and New York. On its website, Nurx promotes its services: “If you have health insurance, Nurx is free. If you pay cash, you can get birth control from $15 per month.

“Whether you are currently on the pill or new to birth control, Nurx is for you. We always ship you three months of birth control, for your convenience.”

Most recently, Nurx announced the availability of PrEP “right from the app with our clinical team. No need to go into the doctor’s office, or to the pharmacy.”

Customers would apply online with Nurx and receive a prescription after completing a health survey and undergoing lab tests that show normal kidney function and no HIV infection.

Some public health officials see services like Nurx as a new way to help lower new HIV infection rates, especially in areas that lack HIV/AIDS services or where such services are overburdened.

However, others, such as activists with the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are concerned.

“While the goal to improve access to effective HIV prevention tools is admirable, removing any or all direct contact with a physician or medical provider is not,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. The organization has taken a position against widespread deployment of PrEP as a communitywide public health strategy. In 2014, Weinstein referred to Truvada, the anti-viral medication used for PrEP as a “party drug.”

AHF does support the use of PrEP on a case-by-case basis that’s decided between a medical provider and patient.

Weinstein said STD rates are skyrocketing, particularly among young people using hookup apps like Grindr and Tinder.

“We challenge the wisdom and ethics of an app that allows people to order a drug to prevent HIV as readily as ordering pizza,” he said. “PrEP is not simply a pill taken in isolation: It is a four-part HIV prevention strategy that can be highly effective, but one that offers no protection against any other STDs. Eliminating primary contact with the physician or medical provider from this equation is really a disservice to the patient.”

PrEP primer

PrEP as a prevention strategy includes the use of Gilead Sciences’ medication Truvada to prevent HIV infection in non-infected individuals.

Truvada was first approved for treatment of HIV/AIDS patients in August 2004. The FDA approved use of Truvada as PrEP in July 2012.

Guidelines issued by the FDA for PrEP include:

• An initial baseline negative HIV test.

• Daily adherence to the Truvada medication.

• Ongoing periodic HIV testing to ensure the individual on PrEP remains HIV-negative.

• Continued use of other prevention methods, such as condoms.

In Wisconsin, a key resource for information and access to PrEP is the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, which announced expanded access to health care services across the state on World AIDS Day in December 2015. ARCW is online at arcw.org. — L.N.

Learn more about Nurx.

Zillow poll: Taylor Swift welcome to the neighborhood, Donald Trump can move on

Americans would most like to be neighbors with the singer-songwriter and pop sensation Taylor Swift, according to the ninth annual Zillow Celebrity Neighbor Survey.

Republican presidential candidate and business mogul, Donald Trump, was named the least desirable neighbor of 2015.

The annual Zillow survey asks U.S. adults which celebrities they would most like to be their neighbor and with whom they wouldn’t want to share a fence.

Most Desirable Neighbors in 2016

Taylor Swift was the top choice for a celebrity neighbor, earning 12 percent of surveyed adults’ votes, up from her third place finish last year. The popstar was especially favorable among millennials, receiving 17 percent of their votes. 

Actress Jennifer Lawrence and comedian Amy Schumer rounded out the top three positions, earning 11 percent and 9 percent of votes, respectively. All three women were equally as popular among male and female voters.  

Thirty-four percent of surveyed adults said they would not want to live next to any of the celebrities listed in the poll.

Worst Neighbors for 2015

Republican candidate Donald Trump tops this year’s list for worst neighbor, moving up three positions from his fourth place finish in 2014. Trump earned 24 percent of total votes for worst neighbor, but was especially disliked by females (27 percent) and millennials (33 percent) polled. 

Kim Kardashian and Kayne West came in second with 22 percent of the votes, narrowly defeating last year’s worst neighbor, Justin Bieber, who ranked third this year (18 percent). Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, finished fourth with 11 percent of votes. 

“2015 was a landmark year for Taylor Swift, from her highly successful 1989 World Tour, to being named the youngest female ever on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list – it’s no surprise America picked the down-to-earth singer-songwriter as 2016’s most desirable neighbor,” says Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow chief marketing officer. “Donald Trump on the other hand, is frequently in the limelight for his polarizing comments and non-apologetic attitude which some may see as unattractive qualities in a neighbor.”

Review: Better photos, animated shots in new iPhones

Photography gets even better with Apple’s new iPhones.

Although the iPhone is already among the best smartphones for everyday shots, images from previous iPhones haven’t been as sharp as what rival cameras produce. The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models address that, with 50 percent more detail, while introducing animation for still images and brighter low-light selfies.

Screens remain at 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches diagonally, but they have new technology offering shortcuts to frequent tasks.

The iPhone 6s starts at $200 with a two-year contract in the U.S., and $649 without. The Plus costs $100 more. Both models started shipping Friday in the U.S., China, Japan, the U.K. and several other markets. Last year’s models are now $100 cheaper than the new ones.

You might not need a 6s if you just got a new phone last year, but go for the 6s over the 6 if you’re ready to upgrade from an older model. After testing both new models for nearly two weeks, I find the price difference worth it.

CAMERAS GET BETTER

At 12 megapixels, instead of 8 megapixels, the new cameras produce sharper photos. The difference is particularly noticeable when cropping or enlarging photos for printing. Samsung’s high-end phones are at 16 megapixels, but their images are wider. If you chop off the sides to match the iPhone’s 4-by-3 ratio, resolution is about the same. More important is getting your shot in focus, and the automatic focus on both cameras is good.

Other improvements in the iPhone’s camera result in better contrast and less distortion than before. Trees look greener and buildings browner in several test shots. Samsung’s phones have also been good at contrast, but colors are sometimes off. Orange construction barriers look red using Samsung’s Galaxy S6 phone, while a greenish statue came out grey. The iPhones reproduce colors more accurately.

For video, the iPhone catches up with several Android phones and can now record at Ultra HD, also known as 4K. There aren’t many 4K displays available yet, so this is mostly about recording memories for tomorrow’s screens. But the new phones do let you zoom in during playback, so you can see some of that 4K detail today. The Plus model also has better anti-shake technology, so scenes don’t look as though you’re on a boat.

Still images on the front camera improve to 5 megapixels, from 1.2 megapixels, matching Samsung’s phones. Better yet, the new iPhone’s screen functions as a flash so faces come out when snapping selfies in bars and other low-light settings. This is rare in smartphones.

ANIMATED PHOTOS

When you open the camera app, the phone continually records video in the background. Snap a shot, and the phone saves some of that video leading to that shot, plus some afterward — three seconds in all. Now, that photo comes to life when you view it. Apple calls this “Live Photos.” Just tap and hold the screen to see the three-second animation. Share it with other iPhones, the Apple Watch and Mac computers — and soon, through Facebook.

HTC’s One camera had a similar feature, but you have to know about it and turn that on. With iPhones, it’s on by default. It takes practice and requires about double the storage of a regular photo. But it’s worth it _ especially for parents and pet owners. Imagine taking a shot of your kid blowing out birthday candles, then tapping the screen to see it in action.

A NEW TOUCH SCREEN

The iPhone’s screen is now three-dimensional, as the phone responds differently to light, medium and hard touches.

A light touch does what the phone does today. You can open an app or move a cursor when typing.

Press a bit harder on an app icon to access a contextual menu, similar to right-clicking the mouse on Windows computers. Do this with the camera app to quickly take a selfie or record video. Normally, you have to open the camera first, then choose what you want to do.

Inside apps, this medium touch opens a preview, such as a map when you click on an address in a message. Lift your finger, and you’re back to the message. But press even harder to launch the Maps app. In some apps, options slide up from the bottom with a medium touch.

This feature, called 3D Touch, takes getting used to. Out of habit, I still open apps the regular way, even though 3D Touch is quicker. But it could one day be as useful as the fingerprint reader on phones. Now that I am used to that, I rarely enter passcodes anymore.

WHAT ELSE?

The new iPhones are stronger and faster. Inside, the chips are laid out differently to improve battery performance and let you activate the Siri voice assistant simply by saying, “Hey, Siri.” In the past, the phone had to be plugged in for that.

Storage remains at 16 gigabytes for starters, 64 gigabytes for $100 more and 128 gigabytes for $200 over the base model. With Live Photos and 4K videos, your phone will fill up even more quickly, even with better compression to compensate for the higher resolution and animation. Many rival smartphones, including Samsung’s, start at 32 gigabytes. Apple believes most entry-level consumers should be fine with 16 gigabytes, as that’s still enough for a few thousand shots.

That might be so, but if you plan to take lots of photos and video, consider springing for at least 64 gigabytes.

Twin Cities group adds stray dogs to facial recognition app

The American Humane Society in the Twin Cities is adding photos of stray dogs it takes in to a database that uses facial-recognition technology to reunite lost pets with their owners.

The Star Tribune reports the organization started adding photos to smartphone application Finding Rover’s database last week. Graham Brayshaw with the Animal Humane Society says it’s another tool in helping to find pets’ owners, in addition to collars, identification tags and microchips.

Dog owners can upload a photo of their pet’s face to Finding Rover in case they go missing. Someone who finds a lost dog could use the app to take a photo of its face, and the app uses facial recognition and location to look for matches.

Finding Rover founder John Polimeno says 91 shelters in the U.S. and Australia have used the app.

On the Web …

http://www.findingrover.com

Map of Life app guides naturalists in the great outdoors

The new Map of Life app tells users in an instant which species are likely to be found nearby. The app also helps users create personal lists of observations and contribute those to scientific research and conservation efforts.

“The app puts a significant proportion of our global knowledge about biodiversity in the palm of your hand, and allows you to discover and connect with biodiversity in a place, wherever you are,” said Walter Jetz, a Yale University associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the guiding force behind Map of Life. “This vast information, personalized for where we are, can change the way we identify and learn about the things we see when traveling, hiking in the woods, or stepping in our own back yard.”

Naturalists get a digital guide tailored to their location that. The Map of Life presents localized species information via maps, photographs, and detailed information. The National Science Foundation and NASA provided initial support for the map. Google and Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung also have supported the project, according to a news release from Yale.

The map contains a recording feature so citizen scientists can log their bird encounters and dragonfly sightings, adding to the biodiversity data available to scientists around the world.

“Think of a field guide that continues to improve the more we all use it and add to it. That is the beauty of this mobile application, and its great strength,” said Rob Guralnick, associate curator at the University of Florida and the project’s co-leader. “We hope that the Map of Life app, built from 100 years of knowledge about where species are found, will accelerate our ability to completely close the many gaps in our biodiversity knowledge.”

Making it easier and more globally streamlined for citizen scientists to contribute information is a key motivation behind creating the app.

“The world is changing rapidly and species continue to disappear before we even knew where they existed, what role they had, and how we could conserve them,” said Jetz, who is director of the Yale Program in Spatial Biodiversity Science & Conservation and is involved in several global science initiatives for advancing biodiversity monitoring.

“Too much of our knowledge is limited to too few places and species,” Jetz said. “Helping people everywhere to identify and then record biodiversity carries the potential to hugely extend the geographic and taxonomic reach of measuring the pulse of life.”

The Map of Life app is available in six languages for iPhone and Android smartphones.

On the Web …

For more about the app, go to the website.

WiGWIRED: Five great features that the Amazon smartphone is expected to offer

A report this week in The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

Amazon hasn’t confirmed that it has plans for a smartphone. Introducing such a device would be tough in a crowded market dominated by Apple and Samsung. Even so, innovations like the Kindle Fire and Prime membership program demonstrate that the online retailing giant has a knack for using its massive size and marketing budget to capitalize on gaps in the marketplace.

Some unconfirmed reports say the phone could have a 3-D interface and multiple front-facing cameras.

Here’s a look at five features technology experts believe Amazon might include on its smartphone.

1. 3-D shopping

A 3-D interface doesn’t require special glasses could have a lot of uses. For example, when you’re shopping online, you could pull up a 3-D image of sneakers or a jacket and see all of the features easier, suggests Bill Menezes, principal research analyst at Gartner. Another possibility: you could scan your living room to make a 3-D rendering. Then, when you’re out furniture shopping, take a picture and digitally insert the product into the rendering to see if it fits.

“You could see ‘Oh that’s how that purple couch looks in the bedroom, I think I’ll buy it,’ and you avoid buyer’s remorse,” says Ramon Llamas, research manager of research firm IDC’s mobile phones team.

2. Enhanced games

Amazon is rapidly expanding into the gaming arena with its Amazon Game Studio and video game offerings on its new streaming device, Amazon Fire TV.

“A phone could be a way to help them potentially push more on the game front,” says CRT Capital analyst Neil Doshi.

The phone’s purported 3-D interface could be a way to offer a more robust gaming experience.

3. Seamless grocery shopping

Amazon has been testing a Wi-Fi wand called Amazon Dash that simplifies barcode scanning. Such capabilities could be included in the Amazon phone to improve on current barcode scanning apps. Combine that with Amazon’s same-day grocery service Amazon Fresh, currently in testing in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and grocery shopping could be drastically simplified. Rather than dragging a shopping cart through aisles —or even scrolling through a list of products online— a quick wave of the phone in your pantry could have all your groceries at your doorstep within hours.

“It’s an opportunity to continue to tie users into the Amazon ecosystem,” Doshi says.

4. Free streaming video

IDC’s Llamas suggests one of the phone’s selling points could be a free ad-supported version of Amazon’s current instant Video service, which is included in the $99-per-year Prime membership. The hypothetical service could be viewed on the phone, a Kindle or on Amazon’s Fire TV but not elsewhere like Xbox or Roku, he says, which could be a selling point for the phone.

5. Competitive pricing

Menezes at Gartner speculates that the phone could be offered on different price tiers. One tier could be a one-time payment for the phone that offers Amazon’s apps and services but a limited number of other features. A higher price tier could feature a monthly bill and a phone with more bells and whistles.

It’s difficult to be competitive on price in the cutthroat phone market. But as Amazon has shown with its tablets, the company is willing to deliver high-quality hardware at a loss in order to undercut competitors like Apple and put its devices in the hands of people who will use them to buy Amazon’s goods and services.