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Amazon reportedly removes the most obvious promotions for its private brands from search results – TechCrunch

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If it feels like your Amazon search results have been overwhelmed with promotions for their private-label brands, like Amazon Basics, Mama Bear or Daily Ritual, that may be changing. As lawmakers pay more attention to the most powerful tech companies, Amazon has begun quietly removing some of the more obvious promotions, including banner ads, for its private-label products, reports CNBC, which spoke to Amazon sellers and consultants.

Amazon’s aggressive marketing of its own private brands, with ads that often appear in search results above listings for competing items from third-party sellers, have raised antitrust concerns. The company’s increasingly strong gripe on the U.S. retail market has been under scrutiny for years, but pressure intensified last month when Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential primary candidate Elizabeth Warren announced that breaking up tech giants Amazon, Google and Facebook (and other companies with an annual global revenue above $25 billion that provide marketplace, exchange or third-party connectivity as “platform utilitilies”) in order to reduce their economic dominance will be a major part of her platform. This means that Amazon Marketplace and Basics would be split apart, and acquisitions including Whole Foods and Zappos would be spun out.

While there isn’t a banner ad, products from an Amazon private label brand, Daily Ritual, still dominate results for “black jersey tunic”

Amazon’s private brands quickly became a major threat to third-party sellers on its platform, increasing from about a dozen brands in 2016, when some of its products began taking the lead in key categories like batteries, speakers and baby wipes, to a current roster of more than 135 private label brands and 330 brands exclusive to Amazon, according to TJI Research.

While Amazon benefits from higher margins, cost-savings from a more efficient supply chain and new data, third-party sellers often suffer. For example, they may have to cut prices to stay competitive, and even lower prices may not be enough attract customers away from Amazon’s promotions for its own items, which show up in many search results.

Other recent measures Amazon has taken to ward off antitrust scrutiny include reportedly getting rid of its price parity requirement for third-party sellers, which meant they were not allowed to sell the same products on other sites for lower prices.

TechCrunch has contacted Amazon for comment.

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Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch is the do-all fitness tracker

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The Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch will cost you approximately $400 – let’s talk about why. The Garmin Venu 2 does everything the original Venu does, but ALSO adds an array of new features. This watch works with GPS (and GLONASS, GALILEO), heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer, ambient light sensor, pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor, and a battery time of up to 10 days in smartwatch mode. It has a touchscreen, color display, and is able to connect to Android and iOS devices.

In addition to the features included in the original Venu, this device is available in two distinct sizes and multiple colors. This version has “enhanced battery life” with both rapid recharging and a battery saver mode – which for the Venu 2 means it’ll have up to 11 days of up-time, and the 2S rings in at 10 days (both in smartwatch mode).

This series also has new HIIT workouts with on-screen animations, as well as activity profiles for HIIT, hiking, bouldering, and indoor climbing. Venu 2 works with Health Snapshot to record and share health stats, and has a “Fitness age” system.

With the fitness age system, the watch “estimates the body’s age” given activity, resting heart rate, chronological age, and either body fat percentage (if you’ve got a Garmin Index scale) or BMI. The Venu 2 also adds new sleep score and insights with Firtbeat Analytics. Below you’ll see a presentation video from Garmin about this new Garmin Venu 2 series.

The Garmin Venu 2 has a 45mm watch case and a 22mm band. The Garmin Venu 2S has a 40mm watch case and an 18mm band. The bands work with “industry-standard quick release” silicone band connections, and the watch has a stainless steel bezel.

The display is an AMOLED touchscreen panel protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. If you’re looking at the Venu 2S, you’ll have a 1.1-inch diameter display with 360 x 360 pixels. The Venu 2 has a 1.3-inch diameter display with 416 x 416 pixels. Both have 5 ATM water ratings, meaning they’re able to withstand pressure equivalent to a depth of 50 meters. That means you’ll be protected against splashes, showers, diving, snorkeling, swimming, and your basic rain and snow.

Both the Garmin Venu 2 and Garmin Venu 2S will cost you approximately $400 USD. These watches were made available for purchase through Garmin (dot com) starting this week.

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iOS 15 features could include Apple’s big notification upgrade

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Apple’s iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, its upcoming major software refreshes for iPhone and iPad, will include a significant rework of how notifications are handled, according to a new report, potentially addressing a growing criticism of alert overload on mobile devices. The two new OSes – one designed for phones, the other for tablets, after Apple opted to cleft development in two – are expected to be previewed at WWDC 2021, the company’s annual developer event in early June.

Notifications and the Lock Screen in general has increasingly become a point of contention for iOS and iPadOS users. In the early days of the iPhone platform, Apple’s treatment of each notification as a separate block made sense; more recently, however, with a dramatic uptick in the number of apps and services wanting to push out their respective alerts to users, the Lock Screen has arguably become unruly and it’s easy to potentially miss a notification.

Apple has finessed the UI over the years, including grouping notifications by app, and there are settings which can control whether software can show a full notification or a more fleeting one. All the same, chatter of a revamp has been around for some time, and it seems iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will be when it lands.

Users will be able to set different notification preferences, based on their current status, sources tell Bloomberg. That could include whether their iPhone or iPad makes a noise. Unlike the current, fairly blunt “Do Not Disturb” or driving modes – the latter which can automatically activate when the iPhone is in CarPlay mode in a vehicle – there’ll be multiple settings supposedly accessed via a new menu.

For example, users could set that they’re working, sleeping, driving, or a custom category – such as exercising – with a different set of notification preferences for each. That menu will be accessible from the new Lock Screen as well as in the Control Center. Automatic message replies, as are currently supported in driving mode, will also be supported for each status.

For iPadOS 15 specifically, there’ll be new Home Screen options. The widgets that Apple added to iOS 14 last year, which can be intermingled with regular icons on the Home Screen, will be expanded to iPadOS 15 it’s suggested. Currently, iPad widgets are corralled into a separate pane.

Both iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will also expand Apple’s focus on privacy, the sources say. There’ll be a new menu which lists all of the personal data being collected and shared by apps, in part of an attempt to make more clear what information may be gathered in the background. It follows new rules Apple has applied to developers around disclosing data sharing policies and more.

Finally, there are said to be changes afoot to iMessage, Apple’s messaging platform. Though possibly not arriving in time for WWDC 2021, the updates are believed to be with a mind to making iMessage more of a social network than it is now, though exactly how that would operate is unclear at this stage.

WWDC 2021 kicks off on June 7, and – like last year – will be held entirely online rather than as an in-person event. Registration is open now, and unlike in previous years will be free and uncapped in number to developers.

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AppleCare+ plans can now be extended for longer than 36 months

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Anytime someone buys a new Apple product such as an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac, they often buy the AppleCare+ extended warranty. That warranty covers the devices for all manner of accidental breakage and other issues. Apple recently announced that in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US, owners who originally purchased AppleCare+ can renew their coverage for longer than was previously allowed.

Users are required to purchase their new coverage within 30 days of the date of their original coverage ending. Users who pay monthly or annually for AppleCare+ don’t need to take any action to renew their plans. Plan coverage can be continued beyond 24 or 36 months on a monthly or annual basis until the user cancels the coverage.

Apple does note that users who choose to continue their coverage will be subject to the current AppleCare+ terms and conditions. Buyers in China who purchased 24 months of coverage upfront will be able to continue coverage on an annual basis when their 24-month initial period is over. Those who paid annually will renew annually each year until they cancel.

Users in China can renew within 30 days of the end date of their current coverage. The coverage end date can be found in “settings – general – about” where they can tap the AppleCare+ Coverage Available option and follow instructions to register. Users can follow the “settings – general – about” path and then tap the name of their AppleCare plan to see when their coverage expires.

Coverage can also be verified on the mysupport.apple.com website. Expiration dates are also noted in the Proof of Coverage or Plan Confirmation message sent when the AppleCare+ plan was initially purchased. Apple outlined the steps on its support page with an updated document published on April 20.

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