Weekend Roundup: Amazon toys with drone deliveries, dual-screen YotaPhone launches, RBS suffers more banking woe

Amazon drones take flight

It seems those knock-down Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals just weren’t shipping enough goods for Amazon last week, as the retail monster is now looking for new methods of shopping convenience to take its sales figures even higher.

According to company chief Jeff Bezos, Amazon is now testing a delivery system operated by drones, enabling products to be delivered in just 30 minutes. In a video demo (below), a customer is shown ordering an item online. That item is placed in a plastic container and locked into an awaiting drone, which buzzes away and drops the package on the customer's doorstep.

"I know this looks like science fiction but it's not," Bezos said of the service dubbed Amazon PrimeAir.

Responding to the news, Sebastian Anthony admits the technology behind the idea isn’t far-fetched, but instead argues that “practical concerns are by far the largest potential pitfall” with the service, with issues likely to arise over air traffic and the safety of products being dropped on doorsteps.

So are Bezos’ drone claims essentially a PR stunt? Or are we looking at the future of retail delivery? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Double-display YotaPhone launches

Talk of unmanned aircrafts delivering our goods certainly makes the concept of a double-sided smartphone seem a less wildly futuristic, but there was nevertheless a significant level of buzz around the launch of the innovative YotaPhone on Wednesday.

Sporting a fully usable display on each side – one touchscreen and one E-Ink – the YotaPhone claims to solve the problem of battery drain by allowing information and applications from the main touchscreen to be transferred to the E-Ink panel when it runs out of power. The dual-screen capability will open the device up to a whole host of other features and apps going forward, and the team behind the smartphone was in a bullish mood on launch day.

"We are a startup company that had a big idea and we've executed on that idea. We looked at the smartphone from another side, literally, and created YotaPhone," said Yota Devices CEO Vlad Martynov. "Once we determined that an electronic paper display would work as a second screen, an array of new and improved user experiences became obvious.

“YotaPhone combines a smartphone and e-reader into one device for those who enjoy reading on-the-go. You can save images and information on the second screen, and it stays there, even if you lose battery power. You can save anything on the always-on display from a map to a boarding pass."

ITProPortal was impressed by the device when we got our hands on a prototype during MWC Barcelona back in February, but there are growing reservations over the YotaPhone’s specs – not least the rather underwhelming 360x640-pixel resolution of the front screen. And with a steep starting price around the £400 mark, the jury is out on whether we’ll be seeing this gadget penetrate the mainstream.

Déjà vu for RBS customers

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group has suffered a string of well-documented technical glitches in recent times, so Natwest, RBS and Ulster Bank customers were enduring somewhat familiar woes this week when bank cards and online services began to fail on Monday evening.

Customers were left unable to pay for purchases at points of sale, while account holders who use Internet banking could not log on and make payments online. Although Natwest released a statement via social media claiming that the faults had been largely fixed by Monday evening, many users took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to report continuing issues.

A spokesperson for the RBS Group sought to reassure the aggrieved users later in the week, promising that "if customers have been left out of pocket as a result of these system problems, we will put this right."

The shenanigans had echoes of the more severe RBS outage saga of summer 2012, when ITProPortal alumnus Rawiya Kameir pondered what the firm had learned from its banking blunder. Seeing the scenario played out again may have you thinking, “very little,” but has it been enough to make you change banks? Let us know.