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Amazon's biggest innovation is being cheap.


As Amazon's executives took the stage one after another yesterday to introduce the world to the company's "next big leaps forward," a sense of deja vu crept up on me. It only grew stronger as the event progressed, with many new Amazon products seeming incredibly familiar. The company has been criticized in the past for borrowing designs of popular goods and selling them for a lot cheaper. That's not an uncommon practice of course -- massive retailers all over America like Walmart and Costco have offered lower-cost store-brand lines forever. But none of them stage flashy keynotes to tout their products as "innovations."

The Morning After: Disney reveals a better kind of lightsaber


It's amazing that the Star Wars juggernaut (enabled by the Disney industrial complex) has managed to ringfence one entire day each year to peddle new shows, movies, toys and the rest. If you survived yesterday without seeing Gandalf doing the Spock salute with some white text saying May The Fourth Be With You, you're living a better life than me. Sneering aside, I got something out of May 4th -- the briefest glimpse of a'working' lightsaber that extends and retracts a blade of what looks like light. The device definitely looks far more expensive than my double-edged Dark Maul saber from 1999, and there doesn't appear to be a plastic tube in sight. Patents unearthed after Disney showed off the saber suggest the blade is composed of LED-illuminated plastic, bright enough to obscure the fact it isn't actually a laser that could cut a robot in half.

This week's best deals: 40 percent off Amazon's Echo Dot and more


As the month comes to a close, we saw a bunch of solid tech deals across the web. Amazon's latest Echo Dot is down to just $30 and you can still save up to $200 on Samsung's Galaxy S21 smartphones. Fitbit's Mother's Day sale is in full swing, bringing record-low prices to many of its wearables, and May the 4th sales began early this year with discounted Star Wars Instant Pots. Here are the best tech deals we found this week that you can still get today. The latest Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock remain on sale for $30 and $40, respectively, which is very close to their all-time lows.

This week's best deals: $100 off the Mac Mini M1 and more


Apple announced a bunch of new devices this week, but we also found a few of Apple older gear on sale this week, plus a few Earth Day-related deals. The Mac Mini M1 was discounted by $100 and the MacBook Air M1 returned to an all-time low of $800. AirPods Pro remain on sale for $197 and the updated Google WiFi system is still 20-percent off at Adorama. And if you're looking for a new wearable, many of Fitbit's smartwatches and fitness trackers are deeply discounted, too. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

These Fitbit trackers are on sale for up to 31% off amid rumors of a new model


Apple isn't the only brand rumored to be working on a new wearable this spring, apparently: The German tech site WinFuture (via 9to5Google) just published images of the so-called Fitbit Luxe, which looks to be a high-end fitness tracker with a stainless steel case and an upgraded OLED screen. Fitbit itself has yet to speak on this goss, much less announce a release date for the Luxe, but "the depth of the leak suggests it's coming soon," says Engadget. Fitbit came out with four new fitness trackers last year, so we have high hopes for its 2021 lineup. Speaking of: If you don't feel like waiting around for "soon," now's not a bad time to grab one of Fitbit's (still very good) 2019 or 2020 releases. Walmart had a few of them on sale at the time of writing, saving you as much as 31% off their retail prices.

Google's new Nest Hub is a smart display that tracks your sleep quality


On Tuesday, Google took the wraps off its second-generation Nest Hub. In addition to playing music, streaming TV shows and movies, and using Google Assistant, the new speaker can also now track your sleep metrics with its new Sleep Sensing feature. On the outside, the Nest Hub has the same signature design as its predecessor. It packs a 7-inch touchscreen display attached to fabric-covered speakers -- which Google says packs "50 percent more bass for bigger and richer sound." As far as color options go, the new smart display will be available in chalk, charcoal, mist, and sand.

Privacy faces risks in tech-infused post-pandemic workplace

The Japan Times

Washington – People returning to the office following the pandemic will find an array of tech-infused gadgetry to improve workplace safety but which could pose risks for long-term personal and medical privacy. Temperature checks, distance monitors, digital "passports," wellness surveys and robotic cleaning and disinfection systems are being deployed in many workplaces seeking to reopen. Tech giants and startups are offering solutions that include computer vision detection of vital signs to wearables that can offer early indications of the onset of COVID-19 and apps that keep track of health metrics. Salesforce and IBM have partnered on a "digital health pass" to let people share their vaccination and health status on their smartphone. Clear, a tech startup known for airport screening, has created its own health pass which is being used by organizations such as the National Hockey League and MGM Resorts.

Google now owns Fitbit


Google has completed its $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit, more than a year after the deal was first announced. The EU approved the acquisition in late December, clearing the way towards Google's ownership over what is perhaps the best-known brand out there for mainstream fitness-tracking devices. Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park reiterated in a letter today that Fitbit would continue to be device-agnostic, making products that work with both iPhones and Android devices. Both Park and Google's Rick Osterloh also reiterated that this deal was always about "devices, not data." That's shorthand for Google and Fitbit's pledge to keep user data private going forward; Park said that "Fitbit users' health and wellness data won't be used for Google ads and this data will be kept separate from other Google ad data."

10 gadgets that kept us from losing our minds in 2020


Apart from the virus that shall not be named, I'll forever remember 2020 as the year when new product releases never stopped coming. In these past 12 months, we've seen a flurry of new smartphones, tablets, smart speakers, headphones, laptops, earbuds, VR headsets, video game consoles, smartwatches, streaming sticks, TVs, and... the list goes on and on. While it's been super fun to watch and experience all the ways in which tech brands have been innovating this past year, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge one thing: Reviewing expensive gadgets during the pandemic felt really trivial at first. Reflecting back on all the devices that came out of 2020, however, I developed an even greater appreciation for all of it. Without getting too corny and deep, much of it has helped to keep many of us sane during a time of such uncertainty.

Burn Off That Turkey With These Cyber Monday Fitness Deals


A fitness tracker can tell you a lot about your body these days. The best of them help you plan and keep track of your workouts, whether you're trail running in the woods or circuit training in your apartment's basement gym. We have a few more smartwatch deals in our Cyber Monday phone and gadget deals guide. This watch can track workouts and help plan your hiking routes. It runs Google's Wear OS platform, which supports iOS but is particularly suited for those with Android phones.