September is the big month for new electronics. Geeks, stay tuned to TechNorms during the next few weeks. We’ll be covering all the big news from Amazon and Apple. It’s our job to sift through all the news and get to what’s important. Nobody wants to be deluged in news about Amazon’s latest pair of headphones or something.
Speaking of Amazon, September 6 was the big day for the internet retailer. They finally unveiled the next generation of Kindle devices aimed squarely at conquering more of the tablet market. The Kindle Fire is the most successful “Android” tablet to date, and Amazon is looking to stay competitive against new foes like the Nexus 7 and the new iPad. So is Jeff Bezos and company going to fight something as awesome as the Google-Asus lovechild? Easy. With a lineup of all-new Kindles. Here’s what we learned from Santa Monica.
The Big One
Remember those rumors about Amazon producing a 10-inch tablet? Well, they were about 1.1 inches from the truth. The Kindle Fire HD is 8.9 inches of pure Amazon. With a resolution of 1920×1200, it rocks a pixel density of 254 ppi (Pixels Per Inch). For those of you keeping score at home, that’s just barely below iPad 3 levels.
Addressing concerns that the original Kindle Fire was too underpowered (let’s be honest, it was), the Fire HD ships with a TI OMAP 4470 processor. Amazon claims that their chip is faster than the Tegra 3, which is coincidentally what Google uses in the Nexus 7. Real subtle, guys.
Connectivity-wise, the Kindle Fire HD should have no trouble surfing the internet. It has two antennas to ensure a solid wifi connection. Those of you who can’t go without an LTE connection, 4G models are available… but only for AT&T. Ouch.
Prices start at $300 for the 16 GB model and go up to $600 for the 64 GB version with LTE.
The Smaller Ones
The Kindle Fire HD also comes in a 7-inch flavor for customers who prefer a smaller tablet size. It’s improved with a dual-core OMAP 4460 processor. The hardware seems to be much improved as well.
We haven’t been able to confirm this yet, but The Verge reports that the new Kindle Fire HD 7 is much smoother and easier to use than the original Kindle Fire.
The other new 7-inch announcement was the refreshed Kindle Fire. It doubles the RAM of the original Kindle Fire and bumps up processing power and battery life.
The pricing for the Kindle Fire HD 7 and the 2012 Kindle Fire looks pretty good. The Fire HD 7 starts at $200 with 16 GB of storage (nice) and the Fire comes with the usual 8 GB at a lower price of $160.
Mastering the E-reader
As far as black-and-white e-readers go, Amazon has always been the best out there with the Kindle series. Those enchanting e-ink displays are perfect for reading books in direct sunlight. The only bad thing you could say about them was that they weren’t great for reading at night, being without a backlight and all.
Amazon aims to solve that with the new Kindle Paperwhite. Similar to the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, the Paperwhite is an e-ink reader with a backlight for reading in the dark. Amazon claims that its patented lighting technology somehow illuminates the screen without wearing down what they claim is an 8-week battery.
The Kindle Paperwhite is also entirely touch-controlled, as well. No more physical page turn buttons or home buttons. The hardware looks quite nice, especially considering that it’s exceptionally thin and light.
Fans of the original black-and-white ad-supported Kindle will probably be pleased with the updated version that now sells for $70 instead of $80. The Paperwhite starts at $120 for the wifi version and $180 for the 3G version.
New Changes to Amazon OS
There really isn’t a name for Amazon’s version of Android, but they’ve updated it. Apparently the attractive low prices for the new Kindle models come with a hidden cost- all of them will feature advertisements built into the OS. Some people won’t care, but others will undoubtedly find it annoying.
The ads probably will not be a problem. We give it the Fire HD approximately two weeks before someone figures out how to root it and remove the ads. Android developers are damn smart.
The other new features aren’t so annoying. Immersion reading is cool as hell. It syncs with audiobooks from Audible and lets you read along while listening to the audiobook version. Books are also improved with X-Ray, a service that lets you pick elements from the book (characters, locations) and look up more information online. The same service is implemented with movies (Amazon owns IMDb).
Kindle books looks even better with Time to Read, a feature that measures how quickly you read and estimates how long it will take you to finish a chapter.
Parents will be happy with Kindle FreeTime, a service that allows them to set multiple profiles which can only access certain parts of the tablet. Any content can be limited. You can also set a time limit on overall use.
Whispersync is the last major addition. It saves your place in games, books, and movies so that you can pick up right where you left off with no trouble.
Amazon came out with a fairly strong showing this year. With the Nexus 7 on one side and the new iPad on the other, they needed a compelling reason for people to stick with them. The Kindle Fire HD series should do exactly that. At least, that’s the theory. We’ll see how well it goes.