The already thriving tablet market got another boost yesterday when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled four new versions of its popular Kindle Fire.
First up was an improved – and cheaper – version of the existing Kindle Fire, which comes with a faster processor, twice the memory and a longer battery life. Since its introduction just under a year ago, the Kindle Fire has captured 22 percent of US tablet market, becoming the #1 best-selling item on Amazon in the process. Amazon clearly hopes that this entry-level device will continue to attract newcomers to the tablet market. The Kindle Fire will sell for $159, a $40 decrease from the original.
But the real star of yesterday’s press briefing was the all-new Kindle Fire HD, which comes in two sizes: a 7-inch version, featuring a 1280×800 resolution display, or an 8.9-inch version, which features an iPad-like 1920×1200 display, or 254 pixels per square inch. Amazon has also teamed up with AT&T to offer a cellular version of the larger Kindle Fire HD, which comes with a ground-breaking $50 per year 4G LTE data package.
Even though the Kindle Fire HD comes with a host of new features, Amazon is continuing to pressure all other tablet manufacturers on price. The 7-inch HD will sell for just $199, while the larger tablet will cost $299 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $499 for the Wi-Fi + cellular option. Clearly, Amazon’s philosophy is to continue to use the Kindle Fire as a gateway to its vast treasure-trove of content. Amazon executives went out of their way to stress the improved in-device storage for movies, music and books, as well as the free access to Amazon Cloud for additional storage and backup.
Those new features on the Kindle Fire HD include an improved graphics package, dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio, a front-facing camera with a custom Skype video calling app, an all-new e-mail app, and expanded use of Amazon-exclusive software features like Whispersync and X-Ray.
Consuming HD content can be a frustrating experience if your HD device can’t keep pace with data transfer speeds. To combat this, Amazon has packed the new Kindle Fire with “laptop-quality” Wi-Fi technology, which it claims results in 40 percent faster data throughput than the iPad.
While the Kindle Fire is clearly designed to be used with Wi-Fi, that 4G data package is an eye-opener. Although $50 per year will only get you a 250MB per month data allowance, that’s clearly enough for on-the-go e-mail and web surfing.
Kindle Fire HD also connects with a wide range of Bluetooth devices, including headphones, speakers, keyboards and more, and an HDMI outlet makes it easy to connect with an HDTV. There is also an easy-to-use package of parental controls that Amazon is calling Kindle FreeTime. In FreeTime mode, parents select the content that they want their kids to see and the kids can’t exit FreeTime without a password. FreeTime also lets parents limit their kids’ screen time by content type – videos, games, etc. – while making reading time unlimited.
All four versions of the new Kindle Fire are now available for preorder at www.amazon.com/kindlefire. The Kindle Fire and 7-inch Kindle Fire HD will begin shipping on September 14, while the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 4G will begin shipping on November 20.
Monica Vila is “Chief Technology Mom,” born and raised in Mexico and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a social community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family’s life.