Amazon has introduced its newest line of Kindle eReaders and Kindle Fire tablets, and the story is still the same – Amazon is aiming to compete on price with the other tablet giants out there. They aren’t being shy about it, either – Bezos alluded to many price comparisons with Apple, showing that Amazon’s tablets are undercutting Apple’s prices by sometimes as much as $200.
But, that’s because Apple offers much more with their iPads, right? Maybe, but with the new generation of Kindle Fires, it’s going to be much harder to make that case.
The Kindle Fire will now be available in two sizes – the already established 7” version and a new 8.9” offering that aims to compete with the iPad. The entire new generation has been dubbed the Kindle Fire HD – a nod to the 1920 x 1200 HD display (with anti-glare) and the new front-facing HD camera that was left off of the original Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire HD will be powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core TI OMAP4470 processor (which Amazon says outperforms the Tegra 3 during web browsing) with an Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics processor. The Fire HD also provides Dolby audio and dual stereo speakers, something Amazon hopes will give users high-quality audio without the use of external speakers or headphones. A dual-band dual-antenna array using MIMO (multiple in/multiple out) technology provides Wi-Fi speeds that are, according to Amazon, as much as 40 percent faster than what is possible on the iPad. As always, free unlimited cloud storage is provided (for Amazon content only, of course).
4G LTE is also headed to the Kindle Fire. The 8.9” Kindle Fire HD 4G is the most expensive tablet coming from Amazon, but you can forget about having to head to AT&T or Verizon for a data plan. Amazon is offering its own data plan – $50 will buy one year of service, which provides 250 MB of data, 20 GB of cloud storage for non-Amazon content, and a $10 store credit to Amazon. Considering 4G speeds and the amount of data users actually consume with tablets, 250 MB is awfully small – users are still going to need Wi-Fi to do the heavy lifting, like app, music, or movie downloads. Even just using the tablet for web browsing, video calls (using VoIP apps), and email will probably top 250 MB monthly, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of overage charges there will be, or if users will just be cut off at that 250 MB mark. 4G is attractive, but in such a limited capacity, it’s hard to argue that it’s worth the extra $200 plus $50 yearly, compared to the 8.9” Kindle Fire HD sans 4G.
Bezos also introduced two new features – X-Ray for Movies and FreeTime. X-Ray for Movies allows movie-watchers to tap on actors or actresses during a film to access more information about them via IMDb. Considering that that will interrupt the movie being watched, I suspect for many people this will be one of those cool-for-the-first-few-times features. FreeTime is more interesting for parents – parents can put time restrictions on specific apps and media types. For example, parents can limit game and movie watching time to a couple hours each day, while allowing for unlimited reading or access to educational apps.
Regular Kindle eReaders did not go forgotten. The Kindle Paperwhite was also announced, and will be the first lighted Kindle eReader. It’s important not to equate that with backlit – you could say the new Kindle is actually frontlit. Light is projected down towards the screen, where it hits a layer called a light guide that distributes the light evenly across the screen. That means the light won’t be shining directly into your eyes, and that the Kindle will remain relatively glare-free. In addition, there will be 25 percent more contrast between screen and text, and 62 percent more pixels, both of which should improve the reading experience. Other than that, it’s roughly the same deal as the Kindle Touch – two-point 6” touchscreen. There will be 2 GB of on-board storage.
There are a couple of added bonuses thrown in. Whispersync can now sync progress between audiobooks and regular books, should that be a concern for you. More interesting are Kindle Serials, as Amazon tries to perhaps not reintroduce, but repopularize the idea of serially released novels. Bezos referenced Charles Dickens as an inspiration for the idea, commenting on the popularity of Dickens’ novels when they were released chapter by chapter. The first few Kindle Serials will sell for $1.99 each, with each new installment downloaded automatically when it is released.
Now, we can get to prices, which are much lower compared to Amazon’s tablet competition. The 32 GB 8.9” Kindle Fire HD 4G is $500, while the 16 GB 8.9” Kindle Fire HD and 16 GB 7” Kindle Fire HD are $300 and $200, respectively. The Kindle Paperwhite is $120, while the 3G version will sell for $180. Meanwhile, the non-touch Kindle will still be available, now with a price cut to $70. Again, those prices are very low. Bezos explains thusly:
We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.
Fair enough. For Amazon, content is king. The tablet? That’s just the service.