Fresh off the IT Block, 14th September 2020
Welcome back all, to our fresh off the block news stories! Today we'll be discussing; Amazon caught out selling their products at inflated prices during a pandemic? Android 11 is finally released worldwide, and how Fortnite is spurring back into action through in-game concerts.
Amazon has been caught selling its products at inflated prices on their marketplace
Are you surprised by this? Amazon has been caught inflating their own prices on their marketplace. In a deliberate breach of their own Fair Pricing Policy, the tech giant has been found out by the consumer watchdog that some of their products were inflated by as much as 1000 per cent from pre-pandemic prices.
The kind of items Amazon were caught selling at high prices were the basic essentials people have been frequently stocking up from, such as toilet paper and antibacterial soap. Amazon has challenged these claims, stating that it was so-called "bad actors" mimicking the tech brand, who were able to sell the products in large quantities, despite the price hikes. Some other items on the list included other forms of PPE, such as face shields, gloves, hand sanitiser and face masks. The bad actors are sometimes able to display their products as "sold by Amazon", which artificially increases their appeal to consumers.
Thousands of these sellers have reportedly been banned by Amazon in their own attempt to stop price hiking from happening, allowing for a more fair playing field. Back in June, there was a pack of eight toilet rolls being sold for $36.39 USD - Now when you compare this to your usual supermarket packet of toilet rolls, this is probably where the 1000 per cent price hike was centred upon, as you can get an 8 pack for probably $4 USD in a supermarket.
Third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace only actually account for 25% of Amazon's online retail revenue, so it is pretty likely that Amazon did manipulate the price for some of their own products.
Regulators have called for more price transparency, from both Amazon and their third party sellers. There have been multiple calls to enable a pricing history feature, so consumers know that prices have been hiked or dipped. Sadly for most consumers, there aren't many alternatives for some products, and they are somewhat forced into buying more expensive items if they need to have them delivered, instead of going to a supermarket for example.
Regulators also want to stop Amazon from being able to relist existing products onto new product pages, as this inflates the price for every other consumer that doesn't notice the cheaper listing. According to Amazon, over 10,000 selling accounts have been banned this year, with more than a million pricing offers being received by the tech giant.
Volatile pricing has been one of the biggest elements of this pandemic, with consumers being the biggest losers. Amazon is one of many online stores that has seen prices being hiked - There has been price gauging in other areas too, such as for laptops and webcams due to the rise in working from home globally.
The price gauging from Amazon seems to have died down a lot now in comparison to earlier in the year - As you probably remember, panic buying was very widespread back in March and April, as people feared that lock downs would be strict and long lasting. Now, we have a bit more certainty, and with online stores, it makes stocking up on essentials a bit easier than having to go to a physical store.
Android 11 has finally arrived, what can it do for your device?
The long awaited software update has just landed for Android users, and there are many reasons to be excited to install it!
Android 11 is now available for Google Pixel phones, as well as some OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Realme phones. Google has announced that the update will become available to more applicable devices in the coming months, but for now (if you have a Pixel) let's discuss what there is to look forward to:
The most obvious change is how Google has ramped up the messaging function in your Android device. Now there will be a drop-down feature, where notifications from messaging apps will be grouped together to make them more accessible to users.
Next up is a very smart one - Notifications history.
This new feature takes away the all too common problem of being unable to locate notifications you may swipe off, and then want to get back. Now, you can view "recently dismissed" notifications from the previous 24 hours after they were swiped away from your home page. This feature does need to be activated, and simply updating your device won't enable it to work. To enable notifications history, head to Settings > Apps & notifications > Notifications > Notifications history.
Going back to the communications aspect of Android 11, Google has also rolled out a chat bubbles feature. If you are already familiar with Facebook's Messenger app, you'll known how this might work. In a very similar way, chat bubbles will display for messages received across all applicable conversations for your applications.
This can include apps like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, & WhatsApp. This feature was expected to arrive in the last update (Android 10), however Google never had it down as a priority, and the stable version never took it to a full launch. The chat bubbles feature can be enabled in your notifications settings, by going to the specific app you want to enable the chat bubble feature for.
Last on our list of new features is the new built-in screen recorder. Android has never had its own built-in screen recorder before - Windows desktops and laptops were perhaps one of the only devices to have the built-in screen recording short cut, until now.
The Android screen recorder is available in the quick settings tiles, and comes with a few bonus toggles. You can choose whether you would like the recorder to register each time you click the screen - This will display as a circle pulsing each time you click. The other bonus is that you can choose to either record the audio being played on your device, or have it muted.
On the face of it, Android 11 is full of many helpful new features - The ones we have covered are just a fraction, but they are probably the most important ones for most users considering they are centred around communication and collaboration.
If you would like to check out a breakdown of each feature in more detail, check out this guide from Android Authority.
Hopefully Android 11 rolls out to all applicable phone models soon, as it is definitely a step in the right direction for speed, convenience and modern features.
Fortnite is spurring back into action through in-game concerts
In a bid to bounce back from their recent bans from the Apple store and the Google Play Store, Epic Games has rolled out a party royale feature, that will hopefully boost their fan base.
Dominic Fike was the first to play over the weekend (12th of September), where he performed some of his old tracks, as well as some songs from his new album "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?".
The concerts will be streamed from a specially designed studio based in Los Angeles, and will be made available for any active Fortnite player. The move comes amid growing uncertainty over whether regular concerts will be able to return any time soon. Socially distanced concerts might work, but they'll never replicate the full experience - This "basically free" alternative gives both Fortnite players, and music fans a great way to connect with artists they may not have been able to see due to their real life concerts or festivals being cancelled.
Other artists that have already featured in Party Royale include Steve Aoki and Diplo - Not only that, but Fortnite has been used as a platform to show the trailer for Tenet, a highly anticipated Christopher Nolan film.
The Party Royale studio itself comes with built-in LED wall lighting, as well as cameras that move around whilst the artist performs. Epic believes the feature is a great way for new and upcoming artists to showcase their new songs too. Similar to when artists play on shows like Fallon or Saturday Night Live, it is hoped it'll give them some recognition, while also giving players cool additions to look forward to every couple of weeks, or every month.
These smaller scale events dwarf in comparison to when artists like Travis Scott and Marshmello played, but Fortnite hopes to announce more artists for players to watch in their Party Royale. The game mode is very popular among players, and it'll likely grow in popularity the longer we go without real life concerts.