Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 06:24 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, kindle fire hd, kindle fire, kindle, amazon
Amazon announced four new Kindle Fire tablets at a live event yesterday. Now that I’ve had time to let it all sink in, it is time to run through and compare the new offerings! Included in the new lineup are two 7” models and two 8.9” models. Further, the tablets with the new internals are differentiated with Kindle Fire HD branding whereas the updated model keeps the traditional Kindle Fire name.
7” Kindle Fire Tablets:
1. Updated Kindle Fire 7"
During the event in Santa Monica, California Amazon announced an update to the existing Kindle Fire and introduced a new “HD” version. The original Kindle Fire (which we reviewed here) packed a dual core 1GHz ARM processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. It weighed in at 14.5 ounces and was .45” thick. That hardware cost $199.
The new (updated) 7” Kindle Fire
The updated model keeps the 7” display but has a 1.2GHz OMAP 4430 processor (that Amazon claims is 40% faster), 1GB of RAM, battery life improvements, and in a surprising twist will actually cost less than the original Fire at $159. Software has also been improved for the new Kindle Fire but it is not clear if the first-generation model will also be getting an update. Once reviews start coming out, it should be more apparent what exactly has been changed (Amazon mostly focused on hardware at the event). You can expect it to be a customized version of Android that looks nothing like the stock experience, however. The updated Kindle Fire will be available September 14th for $159.
2. Kindle Fire HD 7"
The Kindle Fire HD is where the hardware starts to get interesting as the specifications have been improvement greatly versus the original $199 Kindle Fire. The new tablet measures 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches and weighs 13.9 ounces. The front of the tablet features an HD webcam and a 7" display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. Interestingly, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself, which Amazon claims reduces glare by cutting down on air gaps. Powering the tablet is a OMAP 4460 SoC featuring a dual core processor running at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage, and stereo speakers. Connectivity options include dual band 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi with two hardware antennas, HDMI, and a Bluetooth radio.
The 7" Kindle Fire HD will be available September 14th. The 16 GB model will cost $199 while the 32 GB model is $249.
8.9” Kindle Fire HD Tablets:
The 8.9-inch tablet is a new form factor for Amazon, and an interesting one at that. The tablet is sits nicely between the 7" tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 and larger 10"+ tablets like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad. It remains to be seen whether it will be successful for Amazon, but at only 20 ounces it's still fairly portable. Specific measurements are as follows: 9.45 x 6.5 x 0.35 inches. There is just a single tablet model in the 8.9" form factor, but there are two options based on that. Specifically, you will need to choose between a Wi-Fi only tablet and a tablet that can connect to both Wi-Fi and 4G cellular networks.
The 8.9" Kindle Fire HD features an 8.9" display with resolution of 1920x1200. Further, like the 7" model, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself to reduce glare. Above the display is an HD webcam. Connectivity options on the base Wi-Fi only model include HDMI, Bluetooth, and dual band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with dual antennas. The 4G version further adds a cellular modem.
Internally, the Kindle Fire HD is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 SoC running at 1.5 GHz and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is either 16 GB or 32 GB for the Wi-Fi model and 32 GB or 64 GB in the 4G Kindle Fire HD. Any amazon purchased content can be stored on your Amazon Cloud Drive as well.
Both the Wi-Fi and 4G tablets will be available on November 20th, and are available for pre-order now.
The Wi-Fi model will cost $299 for 16 GB or $369 for 32 GB.
The 4G model gets a bit more complicated, thanks to the cellular modem. In basic terms, the 32 GB version will cost $499 and the 64 GB version will cost $599. With purchase, you get a $10 Amazon Appstore credit and 20 GB of Amazon Cloud Drive storage. On the data plan front, for $50 a year, Amazon will provide you with 250 MB per month of data usage over the cellular connection. It's not much, but it is still a pretty good deal if you are around Wi-Fi most of the time and/or plan to only use the Fire to read books and listen to music on. The bad news is that if you do happen to go over that 250 MB limit, you'll be subject to AT&T's going rate for the next tier of data. IE, expect to pay about $30 if you go over (ouch!).
On TWICH, Ryan brought up the Kindle Fire HD and mentioned the big price difference between the 4G and Wi-Fi only model. You are looking at about $250 extra from the 4G model, and the addition of the cellular radio definitely does not cost Amazon that much per tablet to integrate. One likely reason is that Amazon is subsidizing part (or all) of the data plan (the cost above the $50 it is charging customers) with the increased cost of the hardware. (Sort of the opposite of the traditional cell phone subsidizing arrangement where the contract subsidizes the hardware). You will just have to determine if the 4G modem is worth the cost increase or not.
Opt out of ads for $15, information on charging
Speaking of cutting costs, Amazon has done two things to reduce the price of its Kindle Fire tablets. For one, all Kindle Fire tablets will come with Kindle Special Offer ads turned on. These are deals and ads that display on the home screen and lock screen of your Kindle (and in my experience are not very intrusive). If you want an ad-free experience, you can opt out by paying a one-time $15 fee – which essentially amounts to you paying the full cost of the hardware versus the ad-subsidized cost.
The other cost cutting measure is that the company is not bundling a wall charger with any of the tablets. You can purchase the Kindle PowerFast for Accelerated Charging wall charger for $9.99 if you buy it at the same time as you purchase the tablet, but is $19.99 if purchased separately. Note that a wall charger is not required, as you can charge the Kindle over USB connected to a computer or cell phone charger – it does not necessarily have to be the expensive Amazon charger.
Lastly, all of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are running a customized version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately, I would not expect an update to Jelly Bean any time soon. The biggest question i have is whether or not the original Kindle Fire will get the same software update as the new tablets are coming out with. It is difficult to comment on any specific improvements as Amazon primarily focused on hardware at the event. Once reviewers get hands on with the tablets, more information should become available. I'm looking forward to trying out the tablets once they show up as demos at retail to see how well the UI runs on the updated hardware.
If you are interested in one of the new Kindle Fire tablets, I highly recommend checking out the handy comparison chart on the bottom of any Kindle Fire product pages as it puts all the specifications in a simple table.
What do you think about the new Amazon tablets, will you be picking one up or sticking with the Nexus 7?
Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2012 - 04:33 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: video, prime instant video, nbc, kindle fire, amazon
Amazon has inked a new deal with NBCUniversal to bring a number of new TV shows to its Prime Instant Video subscription service. The new shows include "Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, The Starter Wife, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, and more."
Internet shopping juggernaut Amazon recently announced a new deal with NBCUniversal to expand the catalog of free movies and television shows offered to Amazon Prime members. Specifically, the company is adding additional content to the Prime Instant Video library which customers subscribed to Amazon's $79 (per year) Prime shipping service get free access to.
Thanks to the new deal, Amazon Prime fans will soon see an influx of new content from NBCUniversal which should hold you over until Amazon can work more deals with studios to make it more competitive with market leader Netflix.
According to Amazon, the new content deal will include several TV series. Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, and The Starter Wife will soon all be available to stream to PCs and Kindle Fires (and other Amazon compatible devices, of course). The company claims that the Prime service now offers up to 22,000 videos, and the NBCUniversal deal should add a couple hundred more to the catalog. These relatively new titles will be a nice addition to the Prime lineup, and if all goes according to plan there should be even more new content for customers to look forward to.
NBCUniversal Cable and New Media Distribution President Frances Manfredi stated the following:
“We look forward to further expanding NBCU’s content offering available to Prime subscribers in the near future.”
It is not yet clear what other shows might be included in that "near future," but here's hoping it is additional recent TV shows as Prime could really benefit from more of those. I'll admit to being a bit disappointed in the Prime offerings compared to what is available to buy/rent (the full Amazon Instant catalog is really good, but the Prime subscription catalog is only a very small subset of that content library). However, with a rumored Kindle Fire successor on the way, I would not be surprised to see the company push Prime more–and hopefully use its online retailer muscle to bring more studios in on delivering content for Prime subscribers.
Amazon has made the full press release available on its website.
Do you use the Prime video streaming service? What shows would you most like to see available with your Prime subscriptions? (Personally, i wouldn't say no to some Stargate).
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 25, 2012 - 06:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: kindle fire, amazon
Taiwanese-based machining company, Catcher Technology, is rumored to start producing an order of chassis for the new Kindle Fire.
Amazon has thus far been very successful at gaining public awareness about their tablet devices. Apple still holds the dominant position in the tablet market although Amazon seems to be comfortably secure where they are. Sales of the original Kindle Fire were somewhere north of 5.5 million units.
Like Sandra Bullock -- start with a Fire on the Amazon, add Speed and get really big.
Despite hefty sales of their first product, the Fire was based on the Blackberry Playbook design to saturate the market for Christmas and was not what Amazon originally intended.
Rumors have suggested that the new Kindle would include a 10-inch screen and have higher performance. ZDNet recently questioned the value of a larger and higher performance model. ZDNet attributes the success of the Kindle Fire to its cheap price point and argues that $200 is the impulse buy point.
Unfortunately, although strong rumors claim that Catcher Technology will develop the chassis -- the rumors appear to say nothing about what size they will be.
But hey, at least Catcher will have new CNC machines to play around with.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 17, 2012 - 08:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: kindle fire, amazon, foxconn, Quanta
Amazon had quite the successful launch of their Kindle Fire tablet PC. The original Kindle Fire is based on the Blackberry Playbook design and manufactured by the same company, Quanta. Despite being out for just three months, we may be just three or four months away from its successor.
Foxconn is expected to do the work as OEM... a Quanta of solace.
The news was first reported by The Commercial Times, a Chinese-language Taiwan publication and put online by their sister publication, China Times (Microsoft Translation). According to the article, the original Kindle Fire may not be dying an early death. As is almost expected from Amazon, the original Kindle Fire will persist as Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire model. The new Kindle Fire is rumored to compliment that product, not replace it.
The new Kindle Fire is expected to be a 10-inch model and, unlike the Blackberry Playbook design which Quanta sold Amazon last year, be more heavily designed by Amazon themselves. It is expected that while Quanta will continue to manufacture the 7-inch Kindle Fire, the 10-inch will be assembled at Hon Hai (Foxconn). Commercial Times does not suggest what other changes Amazon will introduce with the new product.
Subject: Mobile | December 21, 2011 - 02:51 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: update, tablet, root, nook tablet, modding, kindle fire
Both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet have been given recent software updates. These updates were stated to improve performance and squash minor bugs. Unfortunately, in addition to these improvements, the automatic updates contained a “fix” that removed the ability to gain root access to the tablets. Specifically, the updates in question were 6.2.1 for the Amazon Kindle Fire and 1.4.1 for the Barnes and Noble Nook tablet. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that these updates are pushed to the devices automatically. The Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet will update as soon as they are connected to a WiFi hotspot, for example.
The Nook Tablet gets an even worse deal, however. In addition to the removal of root access, users will not be able to side-load other Android applications. The ability to side-load other Android apps was likely a deciding factor for many when comparing the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire, as well as Nook eReaders traditionally being more hackable and mod-friendly.
Currently, the only way to keep root access on both tablets is to stay off of WiFi connections or disable automatic updates in the case of the Nook Tablet. If your Nook has already been updated, XDA has somewhat of a solution. While you will not be able to use the 1.4.1 update, you will at least be able to have root access, mod, and side-load applications to your hearts content. Their fix involves rolling back the 1.4.1 update to the previous 1.4.0 update and is detailed here.
Kindle Fire users will need to either stay off of WiFi hotspots or in the case of an already updated tablet wait for a workaround from the modding community.
The restrictions placed on both tablets are not likely to please users, especially buyers of Nook tablets as Barnes and Noble's eReaders have traditionally been friendly to modders. On one hand, users want options and the ability to install third party applications. On the other hand are Amazon and Barnes and Noble selling their tablets at a loss and needing to make up money by convincing people to buy into their software and services (their applications, bookstore, et al). For aspiring modders, patience is key as workarounds are likely to emerge soon. Until then, getting a tablet for cheap will have to suffice ;).
Where do you stand on the issue, do you think removing root access was the right move for Amazon and B&N? Let us know in the comments!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 16, 2011 - 03:32 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: kindle, tablet, kindle fire, ereader, sales
Although Amazon’s recent Kindle Fire eReader and tablet arrived to mixed reviews due to performance issues and privacy concerns, a great number of consumers (mainly less demanding relatives of tech enthusiasts from my experience) are buying them and enjoying them. Of personal experience, my significant other has yet to let it out of her sight for me to have time to test it out for example.
Therefore, I assumed the Kindle Fire was selling well. The sales seem to be much better than I expected; however, if these numbers by CNet turn out to be true. According to Amazon, the Kindle Fire has been the “bestselling, most gifted, and most wished for product” on Amazon.com ever since the tablet’s November 15th release.
Cnet further talked with the CEO of eDataSource Carter Nicholas who stated the Amazon statement on the Fire’s popularity was likely true. The market research firm has compiled data that shows Amazon sold 45,000 Kindle Fire tablets in one day last month alone, and Nicholas predicts increased sales over the holiday seasons. Approximately 850,000 Kindle Fires have been sold through Amazon.com’s website. Further, Isupply estimates that Amazon will ship 3.9 million Kindle Fire eReaders between October (pre-orders) and the end of December. While 850,000 Fire’s have been sold from the website, by including all channel partners and brick and mortar stores, it is estimated that Amazon has sold upwards of 2 million Fire tablets already. More information can be had here.
Because of the price, the Kindle Fire is selling like it is some kind of fire powered hotcake sale. Have you had a chance to play around with the Amazon tablet yet, and if so what are your thoughts on the device? Do you think the company will sell enough devices to give Apple a run for it’s money?
Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2011 - 10:38 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, nook, kindle fire, ereader, ebook, barnes & noble
Hot on the heels of the Kindle Fire announcement, Barnes & Noble is readying it’s own touchscreen tablet and ebook reader. Set to officially launch November 17th, the new Nook tablet is very similar to the Kindle Fire in physical dimensions; however, the hardware and software are a bit different. The new Nook Tablet measures 8.1” x 5” x .48” thick and will retail for $249 USD. It is currently available for pre-order now.
Weighing in at 14.1 ounces, the new tablet runs a customized version of Google’s Android operating system using some decent hardware. On the outside the gray colored chassis sports a 7” VividView IPS touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (169 PPI). A 3.5 mm headphone jack, mono speaker, charging port, and microSD card slot are located along the edges of the tablet along with a microphone.
Powering the Nook Tablet is a Texas Instruments OMAP4 dual core processor running at 1 GHz and 1 GB of system RAM. Along with 16 GB of built in memory (expandable with up to a 32 GB microSD card.), the new Nook is trying to double up on the specifications of the Kindle Fire which has a single core TI OMAP 4 and 512 MB system RAM. In fact, the marketing documentation that was leaked last week clearly shows the company heavily pushing the increased hardware. The Nook Tablet also features Wi-Fi (no 3G connection), and a claimed battery life of up to 4 hours playing video with the Wi-Fi on or 11.5 hours of reading with Wi-Fi off. A slew of applications are included on the device for email, web browsing, Hulu plus, Netflix, and several other content providers.
The tablet supports the following formats:
E-Books and Documents: EPUB, PDF, XLS, DOC, PPT, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSX, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX
Video: MP4, SWF, 3GP, 3G2, MKV, WEBM, H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, VP8
Photo: JPG< GIF, PNG, BMP
Audio: MP3, MP4, AAC, AMR, WAV, OGG
The marketing materials heavily pit the Nook Tablet against the Kindle Fire, even going so far as to dig at the Amazon Silk browser for privacy concerns that B&N’s tablet doesn’t have. What’s interesting is that the Nook isn’t being compared to other Android tablets. On the other hand, the Kindle Fire is the first Android tablet to be a successful launch even before the device has launched so it is only natural for Barnes & Noble to try to emulate that success and to heavily compare their product to the Kindle Fire. The customized nature of both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet really help to differentiate themselves from all the other vanilla Android tablets and are likely a cornerstone to the success.
On a personal level, my friends had never heard of the Transformer, Xoom, or Dell Streak but they knew just as much as I did about the Kindle Fire and jumped at the chance to pre-order it. Both the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire are set to officially launch this month, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out as far as market share and whether or not the extra $50 for better hardware of the Nook will outweigh the Amazon juggernaut’s ecosystem (the app store, marketplace, kindle library, etc).
What do you think is more important in this customized 7” tablet/ereader market?
UPDATE: Amazon is now stating that the Kindle Fire is running a dual core processor, not the single core I mentioned above.
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