Target launches its own mobile payments system with debut of ‘Wallet’


As promised earlier, Target today launched its own mobile payments system with the introduction of “Wallet” in the Target app. Wallet, as the name implies, allows Target shoppers in-store to both check out using their smartphone as well as take advantage of their Cartwheel digital coupons and discounts with only one scan of their barcode.

Already, Cartwheel savings in Target’s app had worked like this – that is, after adding the discounts on selected products to your Target account using the Cartwheel feature, shoppers could present a barcode to be scanned at the point-of-sale to take advantage of the savings. The only difference between that and today, is that shoppers can now also choose to pay using their Target REDcard at the same time.

Target’s REDcard is available as both a debit card that links to customers’ bank accounts and a store credit card, and offers 5 percent back on purchases to encourage its use.

According to the retailer, the advantage for consumers is faster checkout – up to four times faster than “other payment types” it says, a jab at traditional payment methods like chip-and-PIN cards, for example, which are notoriously slow. (Of course, the retailer benefits, too, by pushing users to REDcard where it saves on credit card processing fees.)

In the near future, Target Wallet will also support the ability to add and pay with Target GiftCards as well, the retailer says.

Target isn’t the only major brick-and-mortar retailer with its own payments system. Walmart previously launched Walmart Pay; CVS has CVS Pay; and Kohl’s has Kohl’s Pay, for example. (Perhaps we should give Target credit for not naming its solution Target Pay.)

In addition to saving the company money by shifting consumers to store cards, in-house mobile payment solutions give retailers access to the consumer data they would have otherwise given up, had the shopper checked out with a mobile payment solution like Apple Pay, where that data is not shared.

“Wallet in the Target app makes checkout easier and faster than ever,” said Mike McNamara, Target’s chief information and digital officer, in a statement about Wallet’s launch. “Guests are going to love the convenience of having payment, Cartwheel offers, Weekly Ad coupons and GiftCards all in one place with Wallet.”

The new Wallet feature is available on both Android and iOS versions of the Target app.

You can now import your Instagram contacts into Messenger


Facebook and Instagram have begun testing a feature that allows you to more easily bring your Instagram contacts into Messenger. The experience, which is entirely opt-in for the app’s users, is the latest in a series of integrations between Instagram and Facebook’s properties, which has earlier included the cross-posting of Instagram Stories to Facebook as well as the ability to launch the Instagram app directly from Facebook. 

This time around, the two apps are making it simpler to sync your Instagram and Messenger accounts with one another.

In Messenger, you can now visit the People tab and tap on the new option “Connect to Instagram” to add your Instagram contacts to the list of friends you can reach with Facebook’s instant messaging application. You can also add your Instagram contacts from the Messenger sign-up flow, if you’re a new user.

Only your mutual follow contacts on Instagram will be imported, so there’s no concern that Instagram followers will now be able to spam you on Messenger, even if you don’t follow them back.

The option makes sense given that Instagram Messaging today is a heavily used feature – 375 million users were on Instagram Direct as of this April, for example. Presumably, these are Instagram friends you might want to chat with when on Messenger, too.

The integration is yet another example of how Facebook is leveraging its multiple mobile properties smartly to keep users in its ecosystem, and building out an even larger social network as a result. After all, not all Instagram users are Messenger users or Facebook users.

Plus, when the company combines its social graphs like this it’s able to better connect the dots when there’s overlap (potentially meaning more social data for advertisers in the long run).

Facebook and Instagram aren’t formally announcing the launch of this feature, but we understand it’s something the company has recently begun testing.

[h/t Jose Gutierrez]

The Return of Industrial Espionage and the Building New Wave of Scandals

As powerful men drop like flies due to their inability to resist abusing their authority, it’s clear that the problem is widespread. Similarly, it’s likely that we’ll find the problem of alleged industrial espionage is not limited to Uber. You see, when people misuse authority — and the sexual harassment problem is a massive misuse of authority — folks typically don’t just misuse it in one area.

For some time, I’ve suspected that the harassment issues were just one aspect of a bigger problem. The allegations that Uber aggressively moved to steal intellectual property from Google and colluded to cover up evidence of the theft may be indicative of another area in which executives have been abusing their authority.

Rather than wait for the next scandal to surface, I thought it would be interesting (since I’m an ex-internal auditor who has been through a cycle like this before) to look at the other areas where we likely will find that executives and others who wield authority have been doing scandalous things. I’ll close with my product of the week: one of the few security offerings that could prevent against a significant amount of this immoral behavior, Varonis.

Connecting the Dots

It appears that one reason sexual harassment claims have gotten out of control is that human resource departments have been acting more to cover up problems like this than to correct them. This is largely because HR has the responsibility to make problems like this go away, but it currently lacks the authority either to fire or correct a misbehaving executive’s behavior. Even if it were possible, it’s likely that the career of the poor HR person who took such an action also would be over.

HR is hardly alone in terms of losing authority to do its job. Whenever you have a mismatch of authority and responsibility, you have a crucible for wrongdoing. Currently, a lot of staff organizations — like security, HR and internal audit — are so far below what should be minimal staffing standards that I expect there are a lot of companies that are just as unaware they’re bleeding as Google was.

Industrial Espionage

The last time I saw the rise of industrial espionage was in the early 1980s, when many Japanese technology firms made illegal moves to try to compete better with IBM. They were caught, and the monetary cost in terms of damages and penalties was massive — enough so that it mostly wiped out the practice outside of government-sponsored efforts from countries like China, North Korea and Russia.

Over time, the security organizations that once were staffed and missioned to catch and stop this kind of activity were defunded. They went from being staffed by ex-spooks (basically specialists in catching or being spies) to being run by hourly workers who, in far too many cases, couldn’t even be hired as a beat cop.

There is a lot of money in selling intellectual property. There is a huge advantage if you can get hold of it, in terms of meeting your objectives, advancing, and getting a huge bonus. The incentives are massive. There are state-level players active again with far greater resources and cyberhacking capabilities, along with a ton of employees who haven’t seen a raise since Carter was president.

Expense Abuse

We’ve seen a hint of this in the new Trump administration. Some members of his cabinet massively abused expense policies and either used government jets inappropriately or booked seats on private jets at huge premiums.

These were treated as isolated cases, but the people involved came out of the private sector, and behavior like this is typically learned. It is very likely that this practice of abusing expense accounts and company assets came from the firms where they were working prior to joining the Trump administration.

This suggests these practices are widespread, but because internal audit has been defunded, unlike government oversight, it likely isn’t being caught yet. Much like it has been with sexual harassment, I expect that all we are waiting for is the right post on social media to be picked up by a reporter, and suddenly we’ll have another wave of firings, and the firings for expense abuse likely will be far wider and deeper than the sexual harassment firings have been so far.

This is because accounting and finance, unlike HR, have retained a great deal of power. Boards watch expenses far more aggressively than they do things like sexual harassment (though, if things continue on the sexual harassment front, that likely will change, and it should).

Wrapping Up: Abuse of Power

The key element in all of this is abuse of power. Whether we are talking about jail guards or executives, there are a lot of people who don’t do well when given power. Their limiters don’t work, and the result is that they push the envelope until a catastrophe occurs and they are fired.

There should be controls and oversight to offset this behavior, but it is abundantly clear that those controls in many firms and government agencies currently aren’t doing the job. While we are focused on sexual harassment, we likely are missing other bad behaviors — like selling company assets or expense abuse — that go along with abuse of power.

I’ll leave you with one more example of common power abuse, and that is carrying out vendettas: using your power to get revenge on someone you believe has done you harm, either inside or outside the company. This is extremely common among folks who abuse power, and it can create a vicious cycle and even escalate to violence.

There is a good chance you may not be able to affect change in others, but — and trust me on this — abuse of power is a career ender, regardless of the path you take. Making sure you and your employees (if you are a manager or executive) don’t abuse power increasingly will be critical to preserving your career. In this age of social media, keeping such abuse secret soon may become impossible.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

I’m bringing back Varonis as my product of the week, because intellectual property theft almost cost me my job, and it is a company killer. Varonis has the best protection against IP theft (including customer and employee confidential records).

Varonis

What Varonis does is provide a solution that ensures that people who shouldn’t have access to internal data don’t have access, and that any attempt to violate the related policies, either by internal or external actors, are caught and stopped quickly.

While much of the focus of late has been on protecting customer records, Varonis’ capability to both identify an attempted breach and ensure that it will fail is largely unmatched in the segment.

Given Uber’s alleged theft of Google’s intellectual property was the basis for this column, and that it allegedly was an inside job — something I’ve argued is likely far more common than most firms realize — focusing on a product that could have prevented this theft or provided stronger evidence of it is why I’m making Varonis my product of the week.


Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has undergrad degrees in merchandising and manpower management, and an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

Kinin puts aromatherapy in your mouth


Kinin is a new portable aromatherapy vaporizer that, in theory, offers a refreshing break from THC and nicotine based vapes. Multi-use products let you inhale the strange fragrances of “Narrow leaf eucalyptus,” “Polynesian kava kava,” and “nootropics.”

The product is part of the new trend toward healthier vaping and is aimed at yoga lovers and other outdoorsy folks. The product contains nothing addictive and is essentially a way to gently puff on nicer stuff than tobacco.

Created by a team in San Diego, the product costs $60 for three flavors and $22 for individual flavors including Recover (“Narrow leaf eucalyptus essential oils from Australia combine with peppermint and clary sage to sooth the nose and throat, while acting as an anti-microbial and anti-bacterial agent.”) and Relax (“A rich blend of Polynesian kava kava provides a grounding effect and sense of oneness, while the valerian root and copaiba aid in relaxation and rest.”)

Interestingly many of the same herbs you drink in tea or eat on feed can be vaped. Green tea, peppermint, and even chamomile can be vaped in most dry matter vaporizers and each offer a different effect including headache and congestion relief. While this doesn’t replace a nice bowl of sweet sweet ganja, it’s nice to know there is a clear and futuristic alternative to lighting up a Celestial Season Sleepytime teabag in your bong.

Study finds you tend to break your old iPhone when a new one comes out

Ah, it’s that time of year again! Carols ring, holly glistens, and Apple (AAPL) comes out with a new iPhone model.

And we conveniently start losing or breaking our existing phones.

That’s not just clumsiness at work. According to a study from the University of Michigan, it’s your psychology at work, attempting to help you justify the purchase of a faster, better phone model. (The study’s title is, “’Be Careless With That!’: Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior Toward Possessions.” It was published in the October 2017 Journal of Marketing Research.)

Ordinarily, associate professor of psychology Josh Ackerman says, when we lose or break a phone, we file a report. We ask our insurance to cover it, we cash in on our AppleCare coverage—we somehow report it. But when he studied the numbers over time, he discovered something bizarre: every time Apple or Samsung comes out with a new smartphone model, the number of broken phone/lost phone claims go down.

Josh Ackerman, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, Skyped in to explain his study.

“And our interpretation of that was, once people wanted to start upgrading, they just cared less about the product that they currently had,” Ackerman says. “They’re causing damage to them, losing them, and so on, despite the fact that that is costly to them.”

It’s our subconscious at work, he says. “People have this very strong desire to justify why they’re going to get a new product. If you already own a phone and it works just fine, but a new one comes out that seems really, really appealing, what do you tell yourself in order to convince yourself to get that new phone? Maybe you tell yourself, ‘Well, maybe my phone’s not working quite as well as I thought.’ Or maybe, ‘Oops, I dropped it on the ground and the screen cracked!’ Or, ‘Maybe I happened to leave it in a taxi.’ Those kinds of justifications might mean, ‘Oh, now I get to tell myself that I can really buy that new product.’”

And yet if you ask people if they think they could be susceptible to this kind of mental psyche-out, they’ll deny it. “When we ask people in our studies, ‘Would you go out and intentionally lose your phone?,’ people are like, ‘No, that’s crazy—I would never do this!’”

To test his theory, Ackerman’s team reproduced the psychological setup with less pricey belongings.

“We looked at eyeglasses, sunglasses, coffee mugs. For example, that we gave people coffee mugs—just regular, everyday, kind of boring mugs. And we told some people that they could have the opportunity to get a much better mug, a much nicer mug,” Ackerman says. “And we put them in a position where they could potentially take risks with the mug that they had. And it turns out that people who were wanting to get that better mug took more risks. In fact, they dropped their mug more frequently. And oh, suddenly—“My mug is broken! I better get that new one.!”

There are two takeaways, Ackerman says. First, just be aware that your psychology may be playing these games with you.

Second, if you admit that you want the new model phone, take active steps to do something useful with your old one. “We also found in our research that if you give people another type of justification—not one where they’re damaging their product, but one where you donate or trade it in—that works just as well to motivate people to get these new products. You’ll feel a lot better about yourself.”

More from David Pogue:

Battle of the 4K streaming boxes: Apple, Google, Amazon, and Roku

iPhone X review: Gorgeous, pricey, and worth it

Inside the Amazon company that’s even bigger than Amazon

The $50 Google Home Mini vs. the $50 Amazon Echo Dot — who wins?

The Fitbit Ionic doesn’t quite deserve the term ‘smartwatch’

Augmented reality? Pogue checks out 7 of the first iPhone AR apps 

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, is the author of “iPhone: The Missing Manual.” He welcomes nontoxic comments in the comments section below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email

 

Even when the airwaves clog up, Li-Fi will keep us connected

The internet is vital for many of us. We work, play, and socialize online. Internet access has even been recognized as a basic human right by the United Nations. But fears of an impending spectrum crunch persist.

As demands grow, particularly video streaming, our cellular and Wi-Fi networks are being strained to breaking point. One possible solution to alleviating the strain is Li-Fi, an interesting technology that allows the internet to come through LED lights.

What is Li-Fi?

Li-Fi allows you to transmit data using light. While Wi-Fi relies upon radio frequencies to send data, Li-Fi employs infra-red and ultra-violet light, as well as visible light, to send data back and forth. With PureLiFi’s implementation, a router connects to an access point via Ethernet cable, the access point connects to a Li-Fi-enabled LED light and modulates the light at extremely high speeds. You plug a dongle with a transmitter and receiver into your laptop or tablet and it sends and receives data from and to the light. You can use it just the same way you would use Wi-Fi to surf the web, stream a video, or upload files.

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

We’ve been following the progress of Li-Fi for the last couple of years. After seeing a demonstration at MWC earlier this year, we gave Edinburgh-based PureLiFi our cool tech award. The team has been hard at work since then to miniaturize the technology and it recently took the wraps off a new product – the LiFi-XC.

New and improved LiFi-XC

Previous demonstrations relied on the LiFi-X, a chunky dongle produced as a proof of concept to allow potential customers to test the technology. The new LiFi-XC is much sleeker, with an aluminum casing and a stylish design that resembles a premium USB thumb drive.

“We’ve focused on the miniaturization, productization, and robustness of the technology,” PureLiFi Chief Operating Officer, Harald Burchardt, told Digital Trends. “We also substantially reduced the power draw of the dongle, which is particularly important as we move towards integration.”

“We’re looking at a two to three-year time frame to be able to integrate our technology into devices.”

The LiFi-XC system is comprised of the USB dongle, which plugs into a tablet or laptop, and an access point which connects a router to an LED bulb. It is the first fully certified Li-Fi system, with FCC, UL Listing, and CE approval. It’s designed to be plug-and-play and offers support for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

We tried it out with a Microsoft Surface laptop and walked around the conference room of PureLiFi’s Edinburgh office while streaming a video. It worked flawlessly, offering speeds of 43 megabits per second (Mbps) up and down.

While LiFi-XC is a significant improvement over the original LiFi-X, the company is aiming to get the technology integrated into devices, in much the same way that Wi-Fi is integrated now.

“We were visited by the largest mobile manufacturers at MWC,” explains Burchardt. “We’re looking at a three-year time frame to be small enough for mass integration.”

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If you strip away the casing, the board, receiver, and transmitter inside the LiFi-XC could be accommodated into a laptop today, maybe even a tablet. Further miniaturization will be needed before we see this technology in smartphones, but that’s what PureLiFi is working towards.

“Look at the path of LTE and Wi-Fi from dongle, to increased functionality, miniaturization, and lower power before it ended up in a product,” Alistair Banham, PureLiFi CEO, said. “This will follow the same path. We’re already developing new techniques to miniaturize and manage the way you collect photons.”

To that end, the company has hired another 30 people since the last time we spoke, taking the team up to 50. It’s an international mix that includes some of the best talent in the world. Little wonder then, that PureLiFi has tripled its revenue from last year and hopes to achieve similar growth in 2018.

Compelling use cases

Li-Fi offers some interesting advantages over Wi-Fi and cellular connections, which we’ll mention in a moment, but the main driver of adoption is the fast-growing burden on existing networks.

“Smartphones will need this technology to serve increasing demands.”

“Smartphones will need this technology to serve increasing demands,” Burchardt said.

There’s no doubt that we’re increasingly using smartphones and other mobile devices to access the internet. Global mobile data traffic grew 63 percent in 2016, according to Cisco, when 8 billion mobile devices each generated average traffic of 3.4GB per month. By 2021, it predicts there will be 11.6 billion mobile devices generating an average of 8GB of traffic per month.

“Li-Fi is a complementary technology,” Banham said. “The 5G framework is about using multiple bearers in a wireless environment to transfer data, that bearer could be light, it could be radio frequency (RF), it could be something else, so interoperability is all part of the 5G plan.”

Li-Fi offers around 1,000 times the data density that Wi-Fi can, enabling much more data per square meter. A single access point for each light is the ideal installation and will provide fast, reliable internet access, even in crowded situations.

li-fi explosion shot

There are security advantages as well. While Wi-Fi penetrates walls, light can be easily contained. Each Li-Fi enabled light has a unique IP address, so advanced geofencing is easy.

Some of PureLiFi’s early partners have been attracted by the lack of radio frequencies, which can interfere with equipment. Li-Fi can work well in environments like hospitals, power plants, and airplanes, because interference can be eliminated.

Earlier this year, PureLiFi teamed up with Nokia and Verizon to demonstrate the durability of Li-Fi in the aftermath of a simulated terrorist attack, in the shape of a simulated explosion in an underground tunnel in Georgia. RF often cuts out in these situations, making it impossible to maintain contact with first responders. Backup generators always focus on light first, so Li-Fi technology is a good fit, allowing people to communicate and locate each other in difficult circumstances.

A bright future

There are obviously some limitations to the technology right now, not least the fact you need the right hardware and the light to be on. Li-Fi increases the power needs of lights at a time when most of the industry is striving for greater power efficiency, but PureLiFi is already looking at how to reduce the power draw.

“We have the firm belief that Li-Fi will touch every aspect of our communications in the same way that Wi-Fi does now.”

Further miniaturization will also be vital as it looks to leave the dongle behind. PureLiFi is already working with OEMs on integration, though it won’t name them right now. It has also built partnerships with lighting manufacturers like Lucibel, Linmore LED, and Wipro to get the technology embedded into lights.

“We need a decent install base to serve devices for when smartphone integration comes,” Burchardt said.

The LiFi-XC is a clear step in the right direction and PureLiFi is working towards higher data rates using existing lighting structures and aiming for gigabit speeds in the long term. Li-Fi isn’t going to replace Wi-Fi any time soon, but it’s not aiming to – this is a complementary technology that can work in concert with existing networks to ensure we have seamless internet access all the time.

It may be a while before you see Li-Fi support in your home. For now, the LiFi-XC system is only for business partners, but PureLiFi is confident it will reach the consumer market in the next few years.

“We have the firm belief that Li-Fi will touch every aspect of our communications in the same way that Wi-Fi does now,” Burchardt said.

We’ll have to wait and see whether it can reach the heights of Wi-Fi, but looking at PureLiFi’s progress over the last year, we believe Li-Fi has a very bright future ahead of it.

Editors’ Recommendations

The Sun Exchange funds solar installations with micro-investments and bitcoin


Solar power could transform small communities around the world, but remote villages can’t always scrape together the thousands of dollars required to install the requisite cells. The Sun Exchange wants to change that by leveraging the hearts and wallets of hobby investors who cover the installation costs and then have their share of the revenue trickle in for years to come. There’s even a cryptocurrency!

The whole thing, as explained on stage at Disrupt Berlin today, works like this. First, the Sun Exchange and its partners (solar companies in various sun-drenched locations around the world) locate projects where a small installation — think less than a megawatt — could make a big impact, for instance rural clinics or villages with inconsistent power.

The installation is planned and priced out, and this info is put online at a dedicated page. At that point people can purchase shares in the solar cells, from a few bucks’ worth to a major investment.

Once the costs are covered, the array is constructed and put online within 60 days, its power provided to the community for a usage fee like any utility, and investors (and the company) get a part of that fee proportionate to their ownership of the array. And it really is ownership: “You’re now the proud owner of some solar cells soaking up glorious African sunshine,” the FAQ reads, and the Sun Exchange just handles the leasing and fee collection. (And insurance and paperwork, of course.)

Ideally, it’s a win-win situation. The local community gets reliable, cheap power, and you get a steady (if small) source of income essentially coming straight from the sun.

Founder Abraham Cambridge started working on the business years ago, raising a little money on Indiegogo and building a prototype with it in early 2016. But it was only when he got a bit of angel money that summer (from BoostVC) that he began making it into a real business. A $1.6 million seed round announced last month ought to keep the lights on (though that shouldn’t be a problem with all that solar power.)

“Our main goal is to make the deal look attractive enough to encourage customers to take money out of existing investments that are backing fossil fuels and be put into solar energy,” Cambridge told me. “It’s up to you to decide whether it’s a worthwhile investment.”

There’s also the feel-good factor, which can’t be dismissed. These are investments that might otherwise never have been made. As Cambridge pointed out to me, they’re well below the megawatt scale that established power companies would prefer to deploy. And decentralizing ownership is not just a good idea, it’s only possible right now through small deployments of renewables with manageable costs.

The cryptocurrency side of things isn’t a gimmick. It’s a way to move small amounts of capital from (say) the U.S. to South Africa without fiddling about too much with exchanges and bank fees. You can do a traditional currency exchange in order to pay in rand or another local currency, but that means your returns will be in that currency as well, so you’ll have to convert back if you want to get paid. Using bitcoin can certainly make simple purchases more complicated than they need to be, but for good-size international money transfers, it’s a pretty nice instrument.

And then there’s SolarCoin: it’s another cryptocurrency, one that is awarded to you as a solar power operator for every megawatt-hour of juice your cells generate. They’re not particularly valuable (currently around 50 cents per coin) but hey, it adds up.

  1. theSunExchange-0227

  2. theSunExchange-0226

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  4. theSunExchange-0228

Cambridge has been refining things and smoothing out obstacles since the idea struck him, but said that more than anything the interest shown by users has vindicated the model.

“I spent the first year of the business mapping out obstacles and so the model we’ve been running with is pretty resilient,” he told me when I asked how he had improved things compared with the early stages. “What is stronger is people signing up and using the service, proving wrong the naysayers who said that no one would want to buy solar panels in this way and that bitcoin was a fad.”

The skyrocketing price of bitcoin has also led to larger-than-expected transaction fees, meaning he’s had to adjust the funding process a bit. But Cambridge is confident that will work itself out. In the meantime the site and service are live, as are the initial successful installations. If you’d like to bring a little light into someone’s life and maybe make a buck off it, you can buy some shares at The Sun Exchange now.

The best ebook readers you can buy, no matter your budget

Over the past decade or so, how we read and consume books has changed drastically. Books don’t always come on paper anymore, and are often read on ebook readers and tablets that allow you to churn through as many titles as you want, whenever you want. Ebook readers are better than tablets for reading in a number of ways. Most of them now utilize epaper technology, which is better for your eyes, your device’s battery, and for reading in direct sunlight. Most of the tablet-like devices only sport a black-and-white interface, but you don’t need color when you’re reading anyway.

Of course, there are plenty of ebook readers out there. So which one should you get? If you’re willing to spend the money, the Kobo Aura One is the best for those who use EPUB ebooks and the Kindle Oasis is best for those who’ve always used a Kindle. Here are the best ebook readers money can buy.

Our pick

Kobo Aura One

Kobo Aura One

Why you should buy this: You want a waterproof ebook reader with a big screen that supports more ebook formats

Who’s it for: Readers who buy books, use EPUB ebooks, borrow ebooks from the library, or like to read near water

How much will it cost: $230

Why we picked the Kobo Aura One

Kobo may not be a well, boasting a 7.8-inch E Ink HD touchscreen. It also has 300ppi resolution, so letters appear as crisp and clean as they do in print. Since even ebook readers cast blue light, which can keep you up at night, Kobo offers a night setting you can use to eliminate blue light from the screen. When it’s all the way up, the display takes on a warm, yellowy hue devoid of blue light.

The Aura One is also fully waterproof, with an IPX8 rating, so you can read in the bath or at the beach. The battery should last a month and is powered by a 1GHz chip. The Aura can even handle a large number of ebook formats, so you can download your books from Google Play, your public library, or elsewhere. Overdrive library borrowing is built right into the Kobo store, so getting library books on your ebook reader has never been easier. You can add thousands of books to the Aura One, too, thanks to a commendable 8GB of storage.

You’ll still prefer the Oasis (see the next entry) if you’re deeply embedded in Amazon’s Kindle ebook system, but if you don’t, the Aura One is objectively a better ebook reader. It stifles blue light, supports more ebook formats, has a larger screen, and has built-in borrowing from your public library. Oh, and it costs less.

Our full review

The best Amazon Kindle

Amazon’s All-New Kindle Oasis (2017)

amazin kindle oasis review (2017) page

Why you should buy this: You already have a library of Kindle ebooks and you want the best Kindle that exists, damn the money

Who’s it for: A Kindle user who doesn’t mind spending big on an ebook reader for a fresh design

How much will it cost: $250-plus

Why we picked Amazon’s All-New Kindle Oasis (2017)

Last year’s Kindle Oasis was tough to beat, but this year’s All-New Kindle Oasis builds upon its outstanding features. It’s currently the best Kindle available, though it’s also the most expensive. So what makes it such a great device? The All-New Kindle Oasis revels in an excellent design — featuring a beautiful 7-inch display, a pixel density of 300 pixels per inch, and well-placed page turn buttons. That’s more than many tablets.

While this year’s Oasis doesn’t come with a battery cover, the battery life has improved and can last up to six weeks on a single charge. That’s assuming you’re only reading half an hour a day and not extensively using the Bluetooth or backlight, but it only took about an hour to fully charge. This type of battery life is still impressive, especially given how thin the device is. There are also built-in ambient light sensors, which adapt to your surroundings so that you don’t have to constantly adjust the screen.

Ebooks are pretty lightweight, so internal storage isn’t generally as important for an ebook reader as it is for a tablet or smartphone. The All-New Kindle Oasis now offers 8GB of storage, which is enough for thousands of books. If you read more than one book a month, you can sign up for Kindle Unlimited and read as many books as you want for $10 a month. It’s possible to get library books on your Kindle, too. Overdrive has a simple interface that lets you send ebooks to your Kindle over the internet — no plugging in required. You can also highlight passages from your favorite books and share them on social media.

As far as new features go, this year’s All-New Kindle Oasis is a long-awaited waterproof version with an IPX8 rating, which means it’s protected against immersion in up to 6.5 feet of fresh water. It’s also the first to support audio books from Audible. If you own both the audiobook and ebook of a certain title, you can easily switch back and forth between formats.

Sadly, it still only accepts select ebook formats  and, as previously mentioned, is pricey. Regardless, it’s our favorite Kindle and the one you should buy if you don’t mind shelling out extra money for this innovative ebook reader. more affordable options follow.

Our full review

The best Kindle for less than $150

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle-Paperwhite_0037

Why you should buy this: You have a lot of Kindle ebooks, but you want a cheaper Kindle

Who’s it for: If you can’t splurge on the Oasis, the Paperwhite is the next best thing for a Kindle user

How much will it cost: $120-plus

Why we picked the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite was introduced last year and is still an excellent choice for the bookworm. Ebook readers generally have a longer life span than smartphones or tablets, largely because they’re built for one thing and one thing only — reading. The Kindle Paperwhite delivers on that front.

First off, the Kindle Paperwhite offers a beautiful high-resolution display, with a 300 pixel-per-inch pixel density — the same one that’s on the Oasis, in fact. It is inset, however, so there are rubbery bezels around it. Those can be good for gripping while reading, but they make the Paperwhite a tad bulkier. Even so, this 6-inch ebook reader is light and easy to hold with one hand while reading. There aren’t any page turn buttons, sadly, but if you prefer using the touchscreen instead, you won’t be bothered.

Like the Oasis, the Paperwhite also has 4GB of storage, which should hold thousands of ebooks. You have access to Kindle Unlimited, the ability to download library books, and the option to share your favorite passages on social media.

As far as battery life goes, the Paperwhite will last for up to six weeks on a single charge. The Paperwhite isn’t waterproof, though, and remains limited to select ebook formats, so no EPUB files unless you want to get into the file conversion process. Regardless, it’s the best midrange option for anyone who wants a Kindle.

Our full review

The best ebook reader for less than $150

Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight Plus

Nook GlowLight Plus

Why you should buy this: You don’t want a Kindle and you want a waterproof alternative that’s less pricey than the Kobo Aura One

Who’s it for: If you use Barnes & Noble ebooks or EPUB files and you like to read near water

How much will it cost: $130

Why we chose the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Plus

Sure, Amazon is the go-to for ebook readers, but it’s not the only company that makes them. In fact, Barnes & Noble has made quite a name for itself with its Nook series of ebook readers. The GlowLight Plus, the company’s flagship, offers many of the same specs as some of Amazon’s ebook readers, with a price to match the Kindle Paperwhite. So why go for a non-Kindle ebook reader? There are a few reasons, but perhaps the most important one is that you aren’t tied to Amazon’s ebook library. Instead, you can download ebooks from a host of other places, including Barnes & Noble’s store.

Barnes & Noble makes it easy for you to find good books, and with B&N Readout, you can preview them before you buy. Each day, the GlowLight Plus will show you a selection of different excerpts from books you may like in the hopes that you splurge on new titles. It’s an unobtrusive feature, so you don’t feel like you’re getting hit over the head with ads.

The GlowLight Plus also has a 300ppi display, 4GB of storage, and the ability to read most standard ebook formats. The aptly titled GlowLight Plus also has an adjustable ambient light, which will automatically cater to the amount of available light.

This ebook reader is the only one on this list that has an aluminum metal casing instead of a plastic one. The bezels on the front are made of plastic and have a nice grippy texture, but the back is made of smooth metal like an iPad. It’s a sleek-looking ebook reader, and it’s waterproof to boot, with an IP67 rating. So if you like to read near water or in the bath, this is the one for you.

The best cheap Kindle

All-new Amazon Kindle 

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2016

Why you should buy this: You want a cheap ebook reader with no frills, or maybe you just like the white color option

Who’s it for: Kindle users on a budget who want the best deal

How much will it cost: $80 to $100

Why we chose the All-new Kindle

Amazon offers a wide range of Kindles to accommodate different budgets, so you don’t have to pay $200-plus to own one. The basic Kindle has the same 6-inch screen as every other Kindle, but it doesn’t have a built-in light. As such, it’s good for daytime reading, but at night, you’ll still need your reading light to see the words on the page. It comes packed with 4GB of storage, which should hold a fair amount of books, though not as many as other Kindles.

Amazon recently updated the basic Kindle with an improved design that comes in both black and white color options. It weighs just 5.7 ounces — which means it’s 16 percent lighter, but also 11 percent thinner than the previous model. It doesn’t have page-turning buttons, but the screen is touch sensitive. There is not much else that has changed in design, but internally you’ll find double the RAM at 512MB. It features Bluetooth audio, which can boost accessibility with VoiceView — a tool that reads out everything on your screen.

You’ll pay $80 for this Kindle if you don’t mind ads, but there’s always the $100 ad-free model for those of you who can’t stand them.

How we test

Testing ebook readers is one of the best parts of the job. It’s every bookworm’s dream to get paid to read! Testing is about more than just reading, though. To put an ebook reader through its paces, we test the screen’s brightness in different lighting conditions, we test its toughness in a variety of environments, and if it is waterproof, we dunk it in the tub to see how it handles a spill into a bubble bath.

We go through the process of buying ebooks from the provided stores, borrowing ebooks from public libraries, and transferring existing ebook files onto the ebook reader itself. We’ve also gone through the pain of converting ebook files to different formats to fully understand just how annoying exclusionary ebook file types are for readers.

But most of all, we read, just like you would at home, so we can tell you what it’s like for a book lover to go digital.

Which ebook readers support which ebook formats?

One of the most annoying things about ebooks is that there are many file types, and certain ebook readers don’t support certain formats. Here’s a breakdown of which ebook readers support which formats.

Kindle

  • Kindle Format 8 (AZW3)
  • Kindle (AZW)
  • TXT
  • PDF
  • unprotected MOBI
  • PRC

HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP files are only supported through conversion. EPUB files are not supported, and conversion requires breaking Digital Rights Management, which is a real hassle. Apple iBooks are not supported either.

Kobo

  • EPUB
  • EPUB3
  • PDF
  • MOBI
  • JPEG
  • GIF
  • PNG
  • BMP
  • TIFF
  • TXT
  • HTML
  • RTF
  • CBZ
  • CBR

Kindle files and Apple iBooks are not supported, however, Kobo supports the most file formats natively of any ebook reader.

Nook

  • EPUB
  • PDF
  • Adobe DRM ePub and PDF
  • JPG
  • GIF
  • PNG
  • BMP

Kindle files and Apple iBooks are not supported.

Update: Added the All-New Kindle Oasis (2017).

Editors’ Recommendations

Apple developers in China have made $17 billion in revenue since App Store launch

There may not be a lot of foreign technology allowed behind China’s so-called Great Firewall, but that certainly hasn’t stopped the Apple developers who have managed to make it through government censorship from profiting massively. In his speech on Sunday at a Chinese public cyber policy forum, Apple executive Tim Cook shared that developers on the Apple platform have earned 112 billion yuan, or $16.93 billion in China. That figure is about 25 percent of the total earnings from the App Store (where the total revenue to date is about $70 billion).

There are around 1.8 million developers on the platform in China, and the nation serves as Apple’s third-largest market in terms of sales. That said, Apple is fighting to maintain its ground in the highly competitive tech landscape in the Asian nation, especially as high-end mobile devices from domestic companies prove increasingly comparable (and perhaps more affordable). That said, with the recent release of the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X, Apple may just find its way back to the front of the pack.

While local developers may be faring quite well on Apple’s platform, many foreign and American developers cannot say the same. Apple has come under fire for acquiescing to Chinese government officials’ demands to remove “hundreds of apps,” as Reuters noted. These apps include everything from messaging services to virtual private network (VPN) services, which can be used to get around China’s stringent internet controls.

Most recently, video conferencing and calling service Skype disappeared from the the App Store, as well as from local third-party app stores.

“We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China,” an Apple spokeswoman told the Times in an emailed statement regarding questions about Skype’s recent vanishing act. “These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.”

Regardless of whether or not apps are made available in China, it’s clear that Apple is doing what it can to court the country. As Reuters notes, Cook has made several visits to the nation, and as even met with President Xi Jinping. What that means for Apple’s future in China has yet to be determined.

Editors’ Recommendations

OnePlus celebrates ‘The Last Jedi’ with a limited edition Star Wars 5T


Star Wars has had a strange smartphone history. The franchise was a no brainer for the Motorola Droid — Verizon actually had to license the name from Lucasfilm, so it follows that a few R2D2 handsets followed over the years. More recently, Sharp, of all companies, scored the rights in time for Rogue One.

With The Last Jedi a mere weeks away, it’s OnePlus’s time to shine, with a Star Wars-branded edition of the 5T, first spotted by The Verge. The Shenzhen-based company is another odd choice — it’s hardly a household name, after all. And the OnePlus 5T Star Wars Limited Edition name isn’t just marketing — at the moment, at least, it appears the phone is only going to be available in India, starting a day before The Last Jedi hits theaters there on December 15.

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The 5T is a great budget phone, as we mentioned in our recent review, and it looks like the company hasn’t altered the design language too much to Star Wars it up. There’s a small logo on the rear of the device, and a matching red side button.

The accompanying video, which debuted at Bengaluru Comic Con, highlights the color theme, which obviously takes a cue from Kylo Ren’s lightsaber — part a likely overall Dark Side focus for the new film. There appears to be limited edition wallpaper on the device — and if past Star Wars phones are any indication, there will be other exclusive content on the phone to further the theme. But even if it doesn’t, again, the 5T is a solid phone, Star Wars or no.

TheOnePlus 5T Star Wars Limited Edition will be launched at a OnePlus event in Mumbai on December 14 at an event that features all sorts of other Star Wars swag. We’ve reached out to OnePlus to see if the company has plans to launch the phone elsewhere — though the nature of the license on this one might mean no availability for users far, far away.