Retailers & Distributors

Google Opens First Google-Branded Shop

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Google opens a first branded store-in-a-store-- called the Google shop-- selling Android smartphones and tablets, Chromebook notebooks and Chromecasts inside the Currys PC World on Tottenham Court Road, London.

Google ShopThe outlet allows customers to test out the aforementioned devices, as well as play with a surround screen installation dubbed "Portal," scrawl own versions of the Google logo with virtual spray paint on a Doodle Wall and consume media in a self-explanatory Chromecast Pod. Google also plans to organise classes and events on topics such as device use, online security and basic coding.

"This will be a new and innovative way for customers to engage in store, interacting with the immersive technology as well as having fun while learning," Currys PC World says. "Google experts will be on hand to maximise the experience for users and provide help and support around the Google eco-system. This fantastic space compliments the interactive and informative environment we aim to create for customers visiting all of our stores.”

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Dixons Carphone Teams Up with EE

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In an effort to avoid the same fate as Phones4U-- specifically that of closing down due to losing support from the major UK mobile carriers-- Dixons Carphone forms a multi-year alliance with EE.

Carphone WarehouseThe retailer already has similar long-term agreements with Vodafone and O2, as confirmed earlier last year.

“This long term partnership with EE takes us in to the next decade with a joint focus on the amazing potential of connected technology, building on EE’s industry-leading 4G network and growing presence in the home," Carphone Warehouse CEO Graham Stapleton says. "Creating deeper relationships with our network partners reinforces the ongoing importance of providing customers with independent advice and deals that are personalised to their needs."

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How Much Does Phones 4U Owe?

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Phones 4U owes a number of creditors £168 million in various debts, The Telegraph reports-- debts the retailer will only pay very little of (if at all) following its controversial collapse last September.

Phones 4UFor the curious, the above mentioned includes £78m in taxes (as divided between £69.2m in VAT and £8.8m in corporation tax), £4.8m in customer refunds, £42m to suppliers, £25.9 to employees and £17.2m in unpaid bills.

And here's the fun (or not, if you're a Phones 4U creditor) part-- according to administrators PwC only 0.4%, or £6720000, of the debt will be repaid. The retailer is currently raising funds through the sale of shops, and made £15m from the sale of 198 outlets to EE and Vodafone, but 365 shops remain closed.

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Amazon Has a Voice Assistant… In a Tube

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In a surprise announcement Amazon reveals what is surely its oddest product yet-- the Echo, a black cylindrical speaker that is actually cloud-powered, voice-controlled, always-on virtual assistant.

Amazon Echo Essentially the Eco is a lot like Apple's Siri, but within a piece of hardware. It promises room-filling sound via 360-degree speaker, and carries 7 microphones paired with beam-forming technology and "enhanced" noise canceling to hear speakers from any direction, even while it is playing music.

As for actual functionality, an adorably awkward video shows the various uses the Echo can find, such as assistant duties (wake up alarms, shopping lists, reminders, news, weather information), the answering of queries via Wikipedia, unit conversion, music playback (from Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn and iHeartRadio). Powering all is the Amazon cloud, to which the Eco connects via mobile device and companion Echo app.

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European Store Expansion Heads North

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Apple opens its long-awaited Edinburgh store, the first in the Scottish capital and the fourth in the country, on 18 October with much of fanfare, kilt-clad staff and, of course, bagpipes. 

Apple Store EdinburghFor the interested the Store is also the 38th in the UK and 106th in Europe. 

Located at the historic Princess Street, the Edinburgh Store was officially announced last July but has been in planning since 2010. Customers started queuing before the outlet's 10am opening as early as 4am, and the first 1000 to enter got a commemorative tshirt for their trouble. 

The building housing the Edinburgh Apple Store dates from 1769, and was the first residential property on Princess Street. It later beca the Crown Hotel before housing a Burger King, Woolworths and the Pick 'n Mix. 

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