Rich Warren | Amazon Prime numbers on the rise

Rich Warren | Amazon Prime numbers on the rise

Credit Jeff Bezos with pure genius. Amazon Prime Day, now safely past, marks one of the most spectacular marketing successes of recent time. P.T. Barnum could not claim better. Somehow, without spending on advertising, Bezos managed to snooker the media into advertising his Amazon event. The week prior to July 16, every news source, whether print, broadcast or online, featured stories about Prime Day.

Because I craved the instant gratification of no extra charge two-day shipping, I already succumbed to Prime. There are various other perks such as free exclusive videos and occasional free audio and Kindle downloads. There's really no such thing as "free shipping" since the cost is built into the price of the product.

When Prime Day arrived I visited the Amazon website to check out the bargains. The most prominent deals were Amazon branded products (they have quite a few "house" brands). The rest of the deals reminded me of the bargain table at the brick-and-mortar discount store. Products that failed to move marked down 20 percent. For example, Prime Day featured the Essential Phone, a failed effort from a company on the verge of bankruptcy. It was supposed to sell for $600. Its regular Amazon price is $460, but on Prime Day you could grab it for $250. The phone received largely negative reviews and there's probably a warehouse full waiting to be liquidated. The new, well-reviewed unlocked LG V35 Thinq was selling for $600, down $100 from its normal Amazon price. Unfortunately, Amazon loads it full of its own apps which are not removable, although you can hide them.

While it's about 11 months until the next Prime Day, don't be taken in. Most likely you can find comparable prices with careful shopping. At least you can participate in Prime Day from the comfort of your home or office and not stand out in the cold during pre-dawn hours on Black Friday.

Incidentally, joining Prime costs $120 a year. Amazon assumes you'll buy more from them since you've already invested in Prime. Meanwhile, Bezos' net wealth just topped $150 billion.

Speeding up. In good news, we received this from Comcast: "Beginning in July, download speeds for the company's Xfinity Blast! tier are jumping from 100 Mbps to 150Mbps, while Extreme 150 speeds will nearly double from 150 Mbps to 250 Mbps. Today, about 75 percent of Comcast's Internet customers in central Illinois subscribe to one of these two tiers and will see their download speeds upgraded for no extra charge. Current and new customers can subscribe to these and all Xfinity speed tiers on a stand-alone basis or as part of a package. To get the new speeds, most customers, including all xFi users, will simply need to restart their modems, which either can be done via the xFi app, through the Xfinity My Account app or manually. Customers who lease modems from Comcast and need a new one can upgrade to an xFi Gateway for no additional cost."

Ramping up. Out in the hinterlands, those wanting true broadband high speed rely on Mediacom where it's available. A local company, Volo, offers superior broadband in widely scattered locations. It recently announced service to one tiny corner of far southeast Mahomet in a new subdivision. Volo offers equal or higher speeds than Mediacom for less money. Plus your money goes to a local company rather than one 600 miles away. If only Volo could expand more rapidly and give Mediacom a run for its gigabits.

Powering up. Finally, a reminder about lithium ion batteries: Never charge your smartphone, tablet, lawnmower or power tool batteries in temperatures above 80 degrees. At best you'll shorten battery life and at worst they could fail or even combust. Most garages in summer exceed 80 degrees, especially when you park your car after a drive.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at