Product Promotion Network

Amazon

Amazon Echo 2017 price slashed ahead of Black Friday

Amazon’s second-gen Echo smart speaker[1] will be going for ?20 less ahead of and during black Friday. The more friendly-looking Echo comes with a 3.5mm out, so you can hook it up to another speaker, if you need some extra oomph. Along with the new Echo, the smaller Echo Dot smart speaker[2] is also taking a tumble, down to ?34.99 from the usual ?49.99.

If you need a smart plug to connect everything to your router, you’ll also be able to pick up this TP-Link smart plug, which normally costs ?30, for a tenner. Other Amazon-related products that are getting the pre-Black Friday snip include Dash Buttons[3]. Normally a fiver at a time, these Pavlovian single product order buttons can be stuck anywhere in the home and let you add individual items to your next Amazon Prime delivery with a simple tap.

While you’ll want to keep these out of the reach of smaller hands for obvious reasons, Amazon’s also cutting the cost of its range of children’s tablets; the Fire 7 Kids and Fire HD 8 Kids will cost ?69.99 and ?89.99 each, down from the regular ?99.99 and ?129.99.

Note that the following prices won’t apply ’til tomorrow, but you can use the following links to jump to the relevant pages and bookmark them in the meantime:

References

  1. ^ second-gen Echo smart speaker (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ the smaller Echo Dot smart speaker (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Dash Buttons (uk.pcmag.com)

Can you spot a copycat website?

A Which? investigation published today reveals how a crackdown on ‘copycat’ websites – which look like their official counterparts but charge extra for doing little or nothing – has failed to stop the problem. Whether you’re getting a European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) or trying to contact the DVLA, chances are you’ve searched online and encountered an impostor with convincing branding. Which? examined the results of popular searches for official sites and found many riddled with copycats attempting to charge over the odds for items such as travel documents.

For example, 10 out of the top 20 UK results for ‘Esta visa’ (for those travelling to the US under the visa-waiver system) weren’t official sites; this is a search that more than 40,000 people in the UK carry out every month.

Copycats costing millions

Copycats are a problem only if they’re fooling consumers – so we tested some by asking more than 4,000 Which? members to pick the official site from a line-up of four. In our test, 29% couldn’t spot the right one. We also asked National Trading Standards (NTS), which is responsible for combating the problem, how much copycats cost consumers; it believes the bill has hit tens of millions of pounds since 2014.

This is the despite a crackdown which began that year, when NTS received extra government funding for it. NTS says it’s still ‘testing where the boundaries of the law are’. Can you pick the official site?

Try our test, below.

The searches teeming with copycats

Some sites are dealt with quickly. In July, officials found impostors selling disabled Blue Badges, which should cost ?12, for more than ?50. In October, none of the top 20 UK search results for ‘blue badge’, ‘disabled badge’ and ‘blue badge application’ returned any copycats.

However, other search results are riddled with them. Prominent search results for ‘Ehic’ include sites asking for payment for a card that is free. What’s more, the top result for ‘E111’ – the old name for Ehic – was a copycat website.

We’ve included the results of our research in the chart below, along with how many UK people are searching for that service each month in brackets. The red circle indicates a copycat or misleading site.

Call-forwarding copycats

One version of a copycat ‘service’ is to charge you a fee of, say, ?3.60 a minute simply to connect you to a free or low-cost number. One member alerted us to the website dvla-contact-number.co.uk, which offers an 0844 phone number charging 7p a minute.

A spokesperson from the DVLA confirmed it wasn’t an official number, despite the fact that it connects to the DVLA’s free helpline. Similarly, when we searched for ‘Amazon UK contact number’, the Google answer box (the ‘featured result’ that can appear at the top of searches) advertised an 0843 number at 7p per minute. This number just connects you to the free 0800 number on Amazon’s website.

The site that supplied the result, contactnumbers-uk.co.uk, also offers 0843 numbers for HMRC and Sky. While Amazon didn’t comment on our findings, it has its own sponsored ads to make its contact details more prominent. We’ve found similar sites simply connect to the London Congestion Charge number at connectmynumber.co.uk.

The line charges ?3.60 per minute to connect to a free number. Despite scouring the sites, we weren’t able to find contact numbers for Contact Numbers UK and DVLA Contact Number to ask them to justify these fees.

How to find the official site

Looking for ‘.gov’ in a web address isn’t always the answer, as many government-affiliated sites – such as The Pensions Advisory Service (pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk) – don’t contain it. Here are our tips:

  • Is it a paid search engine ad? Look out for paid-for search engine results.

    These are the boxed adverts displayed at the top of search engine result pages. Quite often, the official site is the first or second non-paid-for link that appears below the ads.

  • Read the homepage Take a couple of minutes to double-check the site; don’t dive straight into filling out an application form. Visit the homepage and read the text there.

    It may even say that the site is not officially affiliated with the official body.

  • Check the web address Don’t be fooled by a .org web address, as this is no guarantee that it is a body’s official website. Any website claiming to be an official government website should have a .gov.uk address. To be sure, check the list below.
  • Https vs http Although it’s not a guarantee, you can check for ‘https://’ at the beginning of the website address.

    On pages where you are entering personal information, this indicates that there is encryption in place to protect your personal details; websites just with http:// don’t encrypt your details.

The following are all official sites:

Find out more

Decorate your home with augmented reality

How would you like to see how a new sofa, wallpaper or paint scheme looks in your home before you go out and buy? With augmented reality (AR) and your smartphone it’s perfectly possible, and these sorts of apps are becoming more popular by the day. Augmented reality works by overlaying things into the world around you through a camera, typically the one on your smartphone.

If you remember the Pokemon Go phenomenon that gripped the world earlier this year then you’ll understand the basics. Point your phone anywhere you like and the app will overlay images into the environment – making it look like they’re actually there. You can often interact with these objects too, making them larger or smaller, changing colours, or changing where they are in the space, and it’s this functionality that makes augmented reality so useful.

Apple and Google have put their considerable weight behind AR and huge retailers, including Ikea and Amazon, have jumped on the idea too, creating apps that let you preview how furniture, rugs and even paint will look in your home, so you don’t buy a new sofa that doesn’t fit your space or match your decor. Top smartphones for 2017[1] – choose a great phone to begin your AR journey

Amazon’s new AR app

Amazon has recently launched ‘AR view’ on its Amazon shopping app. For now it’s only available for customers with an iPhone 6S and higher, using iOS 11, but the concept could well be the future of online shopping.

The idea is simple – choose a product you’re interested in from Amazon’s website – from small appliances and cookware to tables and tech, and you can hold up your phone to see how it will look in the home. This may not be as useful as checking the size of a sofa, but it will help you decide if the walnut or oak finish on the 2nd generation Amazon Echo looks best on your book shelf, or whether you want a 55 or 60-inch TV. Take a look at how it works below – and be sure to check out our guide to Black Friday deals on home products[2] to narrow down your shopping list.

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Ikea Catalogue – sofas, tables and more

For some, a trip to Ikea is a fun day out. Grab some Swedish meatballs, sit on a few sofas and end up buying a spatula. Great fun.

But for others, it’s a hellish, one-way trip around crowded aisles desperately trying to find that one rug that will really tie the room together. The Ikea Catalogue app is great if you fall into the latter camp, but even if you love visiting the big blue warehouse, the app is a great way to get your fix between visits. Unsurprisingly, it lets you browse the entire Ikea range, but that’s the boring bit, it also lets you see how all that Swedish furniture will look in your house.

The app will overlay rugs, tables, sofas, lamps and more into any room of your house. The products are to scale, so you’ll know whether a new arm chair will fit in your nook without getting your tape measure out. If fitted kitchens are on your radar, be sure to check out our list of best and words kitchen brands[3].

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Dulux Visualizer – painting and decorating

Before you pop out for some testing pots, you might want to give the Dulux Visualizer app a try to narrow things down. You can choose any colour from Dulux’s enormous range and a quick tap on your phone screen will instantly paint the wall in your chosen colour. There’s the option to take a picture too, so you can easily compare different colours and, once you’ve made you choice, you can buy the paint from within the app.

All things are not equal when it comes to DIY supplies, as our guide to best DIY shops and websites[4] explains. [embedded content]

What do you need to use AR?

The beauty of AR is it’s really easy to give it a try – all you need is a smartphone. Many AR apps will work whether you’ve got the latest software from Apple and Google, but you may find some of the more advanced ones don’t work if you’ve got an older phone. iPhone users should update their devices to iOS 11 to get access to ARKit, as Apple is calling it, and a whole host of AR apps.

Android’s software is called ARCore. It’s currently available on Pixel 2 handsets and the Galaxy S8, but Google is planning to roll it out to as many handsets as possible by the end of the year.

What’s next for augmented reality?

Much like virtual reality, the sky’s the limit. The fact that Apple and Google are getting involved by creating a platform for people to build more AR apps means they clearly see potential for future growth.

Useful apps like Google Translate – which allows you to hold a phone up to a street sign or menu written in a foreign language and see it in English, and Layar, which brings magazines and landmarks to life when you hold your phone up to them, are just two examples of a wealth of content around today, and plenty more is expected in the future.

Keen to get involved in more virtual worlds?

Find out how to get started with virtual reality[5].

References

  1. ^ Top smartphones for 2017 (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Black Friday deals on home products (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ best and words kitchen brands (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ best DIY shops and websites (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ how to get started with virtual reality (www.which.co.uk)

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