Walmart Takes on Amazon Prime; Facebook Shakes Up Its News Feed -- Tech Roundup

In a challenge to (AMZN) Prime, Walmart (WMT) said on Wednesday that it will offer a 30-day trial of ShippingPass, its two-day, unlimited shipping service.

"Starting today, we're offering a free 30-day trial of ShippingPass, which gives you unlimited two-day shipping," said Fernando Madeira, CEO of U.S., in a release.

"If you already have ShippingPass, there's also good news -- we're going to give you an extra month for free. ShippingPass is about half the price of similar programs out there at just $49 a year, and customers who are using it, love it. They shop on more often to take advantage of our low prices, fast shipping and added benefits of no minimum order requirements and free online or in-store returns."

Amazon Prime, which includes two-day shipping as well as other benefits, costs $99 a year.

Walmart's move comes as Amazon is expected to launch its second annual Prime Day, which took place last year on July 15.

Walmart reported last month that "global e-commerce sales rose 7% in the first quarter, weaker than the 8% in the previous quarter and far below the 20% increases seen less than two years ago," according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. "[Walmart's] U.S. business was a little better but still disappointing. That came as the company reported overall strong first-quarter results that were a bright spot in an otherwise somber season for many retailers." the newspaper said.

Walmart shares closed Wednesday at $72.46, up 1.3%. Amazon closed at $715.60, up 1.1%.

Facebook  (FB)  is altering its News Feed again, this time to favor more posts from family and friends over followed Pages.

"Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family," said Lars Backstrom, Facebook's engineering director, in a company post. "As we say in our News Feed values, that is still the driving principle of News Feed today.

"Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to -- starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook. That's why today, we're announcing an upcoming change to (the) News Feed ranking to help make sure you don't miss stories from your friends."

Backstrom conceded the change "may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page's distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience."

Read this report by TheStreet's Eric Jhonsa to learn how Facebook's latest move fits in with its overall financial health and corporate objectives.

Facebook shares closed Wednesday at $114.16, up 1.3%.

Now here's a possible technology breakthrough that could really change the concert-going experience.

As a native son of the state that has brought us the likes of Frank Sinatra, Cory Booker and Philip Roth, I'm proud to say I've shelled out more than a few dollars over the years to enjoy Bruce Springsteen from the vantage point of the pit, right in front of the stage.

It's always quite a rockin' night. But in recent years it's become more difficult to get an unobstructed view of the Boss and the E-Street Band. Blame that on all the iPhones being hoisted into the air.

But that could change one day -- hopefully soon. Apple (AAPL) has "received a patent for technology that would allow cell phones to be temporarily blocked from shooting photos or videos, after receiving infrared transmissions from a broadcasting device," according to a report by SiliconBeat.

"A transmitter can be located in areas where capturing pictures and videos is prohibited (e.g., a concert or a classified facility) and the transmitters can generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands temporarily disabling recording functions," said the patent application, according to SiliconBeat.

Now that's something to look forward to further on up the road.

Apple closed Wednesday at $94.40, up nearly 1%.

Apple and Facebook are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL or FB? Learn more now.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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