There's a new way to amuse, educate or just distract your offspring while Mommy has a little sippy-poo for the holidays -- Amazon has just dumped a bunch of new content into FreeTime Unlimited. The kid-centric service runs $2.99 a month for Prime subscribers, and includes around 4,000 educational books, 400 "age-appropriate" apps and several thousand TV shows and movies. Amazon's added "thousands of new titles," including games Frozen Free Fall from Disney and Dora's Great Big World, along with e-books from Dr. Seuss and Sesame Street. If you're on FreeTime Unlimited and have an Amazon Kindle reader, Fire TV or Fire tablet (like the Kids Edition shown above) you can access the content now, or sign up for a free trial.
Even though the majority of Britons don't own an 4K TV, that isn't stopping streaming providers from upgrading their video quality before ultra high-definition (UHD) becomes the next big thing. Netflix began delivering pixel-rich versions of House of Cards and Breaking Bad (and charging a little extra for the privilege) earlier this year, but now Amazon is getting in on the act. After the online retailer begun rolling out ultra high-definition streams in the US just over a week ago, it's now extended the same benefits to customers in the UK. If you're a Prime member, you'll now be able to binge-watch shows like Transparent, Alpha House and many other of its Originals in 4K, and download a selection of Sony Movies titles (starting at a costly £14.99) via Amazon's store. You will, of course, be able to stream the same movies and TV shows on your regular HD set, but today's rollout might provide you with an incentive to upgrade during the post-Christmas sales.
Years of being dinged for ineffective and unresponsive customer service may be catching up to Comcast, which is finally responding with some much-needed tweaks. Charlie Herrin became its SVP of Customer Experience in September, bringing new features to the My Account app (iOS, Android) that track the progress of field technicians and now, arrange customer service call backs. The way it works, customers can initiate troubleshooting within the app, and if that doesn't work or doesn't apply, choose a convenient time for a rep to call them instead of wasting time sitting on hold. There's also an option to tweet for support as well, so whatever way you prefer works. Options like this have existed before, with phone prompts during periods of high call volume, but putting it in the app should make it easier for customers to monitor when their issue will be addressed without having to go through the phone tree in the first place.
Source: Comcast Voices
You haven't had many choices for streaming music on the Xbox One so far; you've largely been limited to Xbox Music or the occasional YouTube mix. You'll have some proper options very shortly, though. Apps for both Pandora's internet radio service (US-only) and Vevo's music videos (in 14 countries) are reaching the game console this week. The two apps don't have any surprising Xbox-specific features in store, but they'll definitely help if you need some tunes for your next house party. And don't worry, movie and TV fans -- you'll get a few apps as well. Bravo Now and Telemundo Now let American TV subscribers stream shows from those networks on demand, while Popcornflix gives North Americans "hundreds" of free movies. If your Xbox One doubles as your media center, you're in for a treat in the days ahead.
Source: Xbox Wire
As we've said so many times (this week) the battle between streaming services has become all about what exclusive content each one has to offer, and with HBO joining in soon it's only going to get tougher. It's no surprise then, that Hulu's next attempt to get a leg up on the competition is coming with help from the cable arm of part-owner (and former employer of its CEO Mike Hopkins) Fox. Hulu is about to become the best/only place to watch FX (and FXX, and FXXX whenever that launches) shows without a cable subscription and access to FX Now apps. So don't expect to see hows like Tyrant, The Strain, You're The Worst and Married on Netflix or Amazon, they're spoken for. That also goes for new shows debuting next year like the Louis CK / Zach Galifianakis production Baskets and the M Night Shyamalan Fox miniseries Wayward Pines.
Source: Hulu Blog
Want to know what Christmas morning was like back in (not-so) old uncle Jim's day? Well if you own a Wii U, maybe this year you can. As you wipe the sleep from your eyes on December 25th and run downstairs, you'll finally be able to take the digital wraps off Duck Hunt -- as Nintendo's just confirmed that's when it will be available via Virtual Console. Finally you can pop a cap in a few majestic mallards -- just like uncle did all those years ago -- only with a Wiimote rather than a light gun (at least Nintendo didn't mention one yet). There's no word on whether you'll need to pay up for the privilege yet, either. If you are uncle/aunt Jim/Jane/whatever (like me), then perhaps instead you can show your favourite niece/nephew, exactly how it's done -- you old dog.
'Minecraft' is geting a story-based game from the studio behind 'The Walking Dead' and 'Game of Thrones'
Minecraft's silent landscaper Steve is exiting his blocky world and stepping into Telltale's world of stories: Minecraft is getting a "narrative-driven" game from the folks behind The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones games. Like Telltale's other work, Minecraft: Story Mode will be episodic and available on a wide variety of platforms when it launches "some time in 2015." Apparently Microsoft's promise to keep Minecraft multiplatform is holding, despite the acquisition.
GE has taken some time off from making washing machines, jet engines and whatnot to get back to its true loves: music and dance. The Brilliant Rhythm collection launches December 24th on Vevo (streamable via Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, Fire TV and Samsung) wrapping together four features examining the link between music and science. Interest not yet piqued? We should mention that two of them involve Nas (not NAS), as the rapper is executive producer for the breakdancing video "Shake the Dust", and participant in a "Science of Rhythm" roundtable with Dust director Adam Sjoberg and neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley. The other two videos consist of one where the doctor goes inside the head of Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, and a "Drop Science" music video for the song made exclusively by sounds from GE's machines -- a preview trailer is embedded after the break.
It's almost time for CES to come around again, but Samsung and Comcast are just getting around to fulfilling the promise of 4K streaming they made at the last show earlier this year (DirecTV launched last month). The Xfinity in UHD app arrives today on Samsung's 2014 Ultra HD TVs (which also have high-res video from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Samsung's $300 hard drive add-on) and right now, it's offering up every episode of Chicago Fire, Suits and Covert Affairs at no additional charge to customers. In February, they'll be joined by Parks & Recreation (futuristic 2017 teaser trailer embedded after the break), but there's no word on content beyond that. Looking for 4K service on other platforms? Comcast VP Matt Strauss says it will come to other platforms with Xfinity TV Go access later in 2015, plus an upgraded X1 cable box that will launch next year.
You've been able to catch up with episodes of Jersey Shore through MTV's iOS and Android apps for around a year. But, if you wanted to gasp along with the action as it was broadcast, you'd have to make an appointment to take over the family TV. Thankfully, the reality channel has updated apps on both platforms to bring a live feed of both MTV and MTV2 to your device (assuming you have a participating pay-TV provider to log in with). That said, we can't imagine anyone persisting with the feature for too long -- those ad-breaks are a lot shorter when you're catching up.
The usual pre-CES flood of information is under way, and LG is announcing details of the webOS 2.0 package its smart TVs will ship with in 2015. Improving on the menus we already dug at last year's show, LG says that the new versions will improve mainly in speed, with power-on boot time reduced by 60 percent, and a 70 percent improvement when switching from the home screen to YouTube. Sluggish, unresponsive apps have been a major pain point for "smart" TVs since their introduction, so it's good to see that addressed. One thing that will remain an issue however, is that the 2.0 upgrades will require a new display, as we haven't heard about an upgrade for existing sets (or other platforms like smartwatches, or even phones). According to LG, the first webOS sets were quite popular, with over five million sold through eight months.
Source: LG Newsroom
You can finally buy a virtual reality headset and use it in your home. Right now -- today -- that is possible. It doesn't cost $10,000 and it doesn't come with caveats like, "This is made for developers." Samsung is officially the first to market with an accessible, impressive virtual reality headset, all powered by software from Facebook's recently acquired Oculus VR team. That alone is very exciting: We are standing at the precipice of a new medium, finally technologically possible. Wireless, consumer-grade virtual reality! In your home! Today!
Samsung's Gear VR is both an astounding feat and an illuminating vision into our near future; it's the closest anyone's come to making virtual reality into a palatable consumer experience, and a stark example of how far we still have to go before that dream is completely realized.%Gallery-slideshow252874%
Not all conventional TV providers are at odds with Netflix. Dish just announced that its second-generation Hopper DVRs (and eventually Joeys) are getting an integrated Netflix app starting today. Yes, you can now jump from satellite broadcasts to internet streaming without switching devices. The interface will be familiar if you've used Netflix elsewhere, but Dish hopes to one day integrate Netflix's library into search results -- you could find House of Cards sitting next to recordings and Dish's own internet services. The app may not make the biggest difference when you probably have at least one living room device that already does subscription internet video. Nonetheless, it's good to see at least one TV giant treating Netflix as a complement to its own services, rather than a mortal enemy.
When Plex first arrived on the Xbox One, we figured it would only be a matter of time before the service made its debut on the PlayStation 4. It's taken two months, but finally the company has released an app for Sony's latest console, giving Plex Pass subscribers another way to stream their favorite shows and movies on their TV. It's begun rolling out in Europe and Asia, but we suspect it'll reach the US PlayStation Store soon enough.
Source: Plex (PlayStation Store)
While Amazon and Netflix take their fight to the awards arena, Hulu is still looking for ways to make its content library stand out. Of course, it has plenty of recently or currently airing TV shows, but these days it's all about the exclusives and that's at the heart of a new deal between Hulu and ABC / Disney. According to a blog post, Hulu is the "exclusive subscription video on-demand" home for Resurrection, Mistresses, and those Devious Maids episodes you've been meaning to watch. While we wait for The Wrong Mans to fill in the holes, it's also adding some non-exclusive shows, including the X-Men cartoon (RIP Saturday mornings, and it looks like they're not on Netflix anymore), Melissa & Joey, Alias, Body of Proof, Twisted, Make it or Break It, Spider-Man and Iron Man: Armored Adventures.
Source: Hulu Blog
Apple isn't the only one making changes to how it deals with the Russian ruble. Valve is taking measures to protect PC game publishers on its Steam platform too, as spotted by NeoGAF's ever-vigilant eyes. The online storefront is region-locking games in an effort to prevent users from exploiting low currency values. For example, you could buy a Russian game on Steam for a few bucks as opposed to, say, $40 to $60 when purchased through the US storefront. Now, that's a little harder to do and it's causing a bit of an uproar because PC games have typically not been subject to region locks the way console games, on the other hand, have. The move has an impact on areas outside of Putin's backyard too, with reports that Brazil, Indonesia and their neighboring areas are affected too.
MoviePass' usual watch-every-day subscription is tempting, but it's limited to standard presentations. What if you want to see that shiny new blockbuster in an advanced format? That's where the company's new, experimental MoviePass Premium comes into play. Paying up to $45 per month lets you see a movie each day at an AMC theater regardless of the technology involved -- 3D, IMAX and AMC's own ETX are fair game. The main catch, aside from finding time to visit the theater that often, is the availability. Premium is currently in a trial phase in Boston and Denver, and it'll only be available elsewhere in the US if and when the test run proves successful.
[Image credit: Jeff, Flickr]
If you've wanted to (legally) watch NBC's live broadcasts away from home, you're in luck... more or less. The media giant is offering live TV streams on its website starting today, and mobile app viewing is due in early 2015. Unfortunately, it's not the independent service you may be looking for. Unlike CBS and HBO, you'll need a conventional TV subscription (as with WatchABC) to tune in online -- not surprisingly, Comcast (NBC's parent) would like to keep you paying for cable programming. With that limit in mind, this is still big if you've ever wished that you could watch that new episode of Constantine without retreating to the living room.
Source: Wall Street Journal
It's no secret that four-player online heists are coming to Grand Theft Auto Online, but information on what Rockstar's new co-op missions will entail has remained scarce. Well, thanks to an in-depth interview with IGN and a brand new trailer (embedded below), we're finally getting an idea of what we can expect when the company drops the long-awaited DLC early next year. According to GTA Online producer Imran Sarwar, the update will deliver "five unique strands involving over 20 total missions, which will add up to around 20 hours of gameplay." Each online mission will require four players who have levelled to rank 12 or higher, with one player assigned the role of leader.
Netflix has taken its sweet time bringing its Android app up-to-date, but at least it's bearing extra nice gifts for you and your inner circle. You can now privately endorse shows to Facebook friends without clogging their news feeds -- a feature that's already been available on the web and iOS for several months. Netflix did throw in a couple of exclusive Android extras, though: you'll be able to use your smartphone to thank a friend for a recommendation, see movie info and images, and even pause or play shows. But, the best part for nerdy film-lovers: you can now use an Android Wear smartwatch to do all that too, including remotely controlling shows (as shown above). Being the last to get an update sucks, but I'll gladly trade that for the double-takes when I launch House of Cards from my watch, Dick Tracy-style.