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The AppAdvice Week In Review: Amazon Drones, Apple iBeacons And Losing An Icon

We still can't time travel, but the future is definitely here on a number of technology fronts. Here are just a few of the stories we covered during the week that was:

Apple’s iBeacon Technology Is Here

In the futuristic “Minority Report” Tom Cruise’s John Anderton is recognized by virtual ads as he enters a Gap store. While that may have sounded farfetched in 2002 when the film was released, it is likely to become commonplace in the years ahead. Take a look: Beginning this week, all 254 U.S. Apple retail stores have become equipped with the company’s new iBeacon technology. The indoor positioning system enables an iOS device or other hardware to send push notifications to iOS devices within close proximity. At Apple retail stores, iBeacon could soon ask shoppers whether they would like to upgrade their handset. The company could also use the technology to suggest new products based on previous purchases. Apple isn't the only one that hopes to bring iBeacon technology to the masses. Beginning this spring, some Major League Baseball stadiums will be equipped with iBeacon. The new technology will allow MLB to customize the At the Ballpark app for each user as they approach and enter a stadium. Features will include a unique ballpark guide and map, the ability to display a users’ ticket barcode as they enter the turnstile, and more. Another possible use of iBeacon is currently being tested at a London bar. Patrons at Bar Kick in Shoreditch, London, can now read magazines for free on their iPads. This access is given to them automatically when they walk through the doors. When the customer walks out, the content is locked, and they are given an opportunity to buy a subscription to the magazine they just read.

Facial recognition to replace Touch ID?

In the coming years, facial recognition and detection technology could be used to unlock, and perform tasks on, Apple devices. This could result in a more secure and productive user experience. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has awarded Apple with U.S. Patent No. 8,600,120 for “Personal computing device control using face detection and recognition.” The technology describes a three-point system: a face detection decision application; a face recognition application; and an input/output control application. Working together, these components can detect whether a user is authorized to use a device. If so, certain functions are activated within the computing environment.

Amazon deliveries in 30 minutes or less

This week, CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a new use for drones. Amazon PrimeAir is a new delivery system, which could drop packages within a 10-minute radius of an Amazon shipment center in 30 minutes. Bezos said that Amazon PrimeAir still needs FAA approval. Amazon still needs to perfect the system. “This thing can’t land on someone’s head,” he said. Amazon PrimeAir could launch in early 2015, assuming that Washington gives it the green light.

AT&T says it is lowering the monthly bill for some users, while T-Mobile cries foul

AT&T says its new “Mobile Share Value” plans will save some customers up to $15 per month. T-Mobile says this isn’t true. To qualify for the savings, AT&T users must transfer their current device to AT&T, buy a handset without a subsidy, or have their current contract expire. The savings also apply to customers who finance their new smartphone purchases through AT&T’s Next plan. Customers will also have to subscribe to one of AT&T’s Mobile Share plans, which offer shared data among a group of subscribers. Currently, these plans are limited to 10 devices for consumers, and 25 for businesses. T-Mobile says the new plans amount to a price hike — not a discount. Marketing executive Andrew Sherrard said: “After you do the complicated math, in multiple cases, these new plans are actually a price hike for customers.” He added that a family of four could save some $600 per year if signed-up to T-Mobile's own Simple Choice plan, instead. Our advice: Avoid the marketing spin and take your monthly bill to AT&T and see if you could benefit from the new plans. While you’re at it, see what T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless can offer for similar service. When doing so, take into account service availability in your area. AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plans are available beginning today, Dec. 8.

Special Report: Gift Ideas

Looking for the perfect gift this holiday season? We have you covered. Here’s a summary of just a few of the gift guides we published in the past few days:

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