Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos showed off a refreshed Kindle Fire HD as well as a duo of premium Kindle Fire HDX slates at a press event in Seattle last night. The online retailer’s chief also introduced some impressive new Kindle-only features, including a “MayDay Button” that gives users free access to 24-hour virtual product support from a real person.
In keeping with Bezo’s philosophy to “make money when people use our devices, not when people buy our devices,” even the higher-spec HDX models will be sold at cost.
“If you're making most of your money when you sell the device, you really care about upgrading, and what we really care about is building a device that people continue to use,” Bezos said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
The new devices, which are currently available for pre-order on Amazon’s site, each appeal to different consumers. Let’s take a look at the new hardware and features that the next generation of Kindle Fire tablets will offer.
Kindle Fire HD (7 inch)
The updated Kindle Fire HD will retail for a mere $139 – making it $20 less than its predecessor. It sports a 1280 x 800 display with 216 pixels per inch (PPI), a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, and Amazon’s new Fire 3.0 operating system. While its specs are almost identical to last year’s model, the case has also been redesigned to provide a better match with its new high-end HDX siblings.
Kindle Fire HDX (7 inch)
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX shares only its size with the entry-level Kindle Fire HD. The screen packs an impressive 1920 by 1200 pixels with 323 PPI. The processor has been bumped up to a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 with 2GB of RAM. An Adreno 330 GPU provides four times the performance of the standard Kindle Fire HD.
The Kindle Fire HDX’s case is both thinner and 20 percent lighter than the base model’s. It also has the power and volume buttons on the edges of the back panel, making it more ergonomic when watching videos. A 720p front-facing HD camera and built-in dual microphone allows easy video conferencing. Amazon pegs the battery life at 11 hours mixed use and 17 hours reading.
It starts at $229 for the 16GB model (32 and 64GB models are also available).
Kindle Fire HDX (8.9 inch)
The larger 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX ups the ante on screen resolution, offering 2560 x 1600 pixels with an incredible 339 PPI. It is powered by the same CPU, GPU, and RAM as the smaller version, but also includes an 8MP rear-facing camera with LED flash.
At 13.2 ounces, Amazon also claims that the Kindle Fire HDX is the lightest full-size tablet on the market. Techland described it as “so easy to pick up that it feels more like a hollow model than something stuffed with electronics.”
The 8.9-inch slate starts at $379 with 16GB of storage, with 32 and 64GB models offered at a higher price point.
MayDay and Amazon Prime Downloads
Reuters describes Amazon’s new MayDay Button as “a panic button that calls up a tech-support representative right on the screen, who can then tell a user how to operate the device or do it for them remotely.” The service will be free for Kindle Fire HDX users and can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Bezos said that he hopes for a 15-second maximum response time and added that customer support representatives have already been trained by the thousands – with thousands more being hired if necessary.
Another great feature that the new Kindle Fire HDX tablets will bring to the table is offline viewing. For anyone who has tried streaming videos on a subway or in the basement of a building, this feature is a game changer. Customers who subscribe to Amazon Prime will be able to download videos for free and store them for up to 30 days for viewing without an Internet connection. Once a user starts a video, they will have 48 hours to finish it. The feature isn’t yet perfect, however.
“Amazon says it would like to make the feature available for all of its Prime Instant shows and movies. But, for now, it’s only going to be available on a subset of its titles, because the company has to haggle with rights owners to get the extra feature,” reported All Things D.
Pre-orders for the Wi-Fi only models of the new Amazon slates have already begun. Shipping for the two 7-inch models will start in October and the 8.9-inch version will ship in November. 4G variants will be offered later this year for an additional $100.