The New Kindle LIneup for 2012

Amazon announced new Kindles as well as updates to existing Kindles.  The current $79 Kindle will get a price reduction to $69 while the Touch and Touch 3G are being replaced by the Paperwhite line. Kindle Fire gets a reduction in price, a bump in performance and memory and several siblings. 

The 9 inch DX is history.

The Paperwhites

kindlePaperwhiteThe Paperwhites have a white background and are of higher resolution. They also are backlit, presumably to better compete with the Nook Glow from Barnes and Noble. The Paperwhites will come in two flavors: WiFi only and WiFi + 3G.  They are $119 and $179 each.

Features include:

  • built in light that is evenly distributed across the whole screen
  • 62% more pixels
  • eight week battery life, even with the backlight on
  • six fonts in 8 sizes
  • feature that will estimate your time to completion, based on your reading speed
  • 25% better contrast

As with the previous generation, the lower end versions have Amazon’s ‘special offers’ which are ads that display on the devices lock screen. For $20 more, you get the ad free version.

Kindle Fire Lineup

The original Fire gets a boost in speed from a faster processor, twice the memory and longer battery life. The processor is now a 1.2GHz processor and the device features 1GB of RAM, making it 40% faster than the original Fire.  Battery life is up to 9 hours as well.

The Kindle Fire HD comes in a 7 inch version and a 9.7 inch version. The HD features a 1280 by 800 hi-def display with a polarizing filter and anti glare technology. Audio has been beefed up and now includes built in stereo speakers, Dolby audio that gives an immersive, virtual surround sound feature. The processor is 1.2GHz with the Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core.  This thing was, clearly, designed with gaming in mind.

A forward facing HD camera will allow for free Skype (included) video calls. You also get free unlimited cloud storage for your Amazon stuff. Like the Paperwhites, it also features the ‘special offers’ and sponsored screensavers. Unlike the cheaper devices, you cannot turn this off or pay more for ad-free.

kindlefireHDThe software that drives the Fire has been revamped as well. The bookshelf appears to be gone and a more XBOX like feature (From a few years ago) now makes the interface. Items are presented as a scrolling row icons.

Kindle Free Time, another new software feature, is a personalized experience just for the kids.  Essentially parental controls and customized interface, parents can set time limits and restrict the content they have available.

WiFi has been enhanced as well. Amazon offers up two antennae and MIMO, resulting in a 40% increase in performance.

Memory sizes are 16 and 32 gigabytes.There are no expansion slots, though they do include HDMI ports and BlueTooth.

A 4gLTE version is available for $499.

These new devices, coupled with the Surface and the Galaxy Nexus 7 are all sure to give Apple a run for the money. If I were not waiting for the Surface, I’d have to get me a Kindle Fire HD. These are some serious devices.

New Kindle Fire?

During the NFL broadcast on NBC, there was an Amazon commercial. While watching the commercial, I notice the Kindle Fire looked a little different.  The one in the commercial appears to have a microphone and a forward facing camera.  Could this be the new Fire? They are slated to release something new on Sept. 6, so we will see.


Amazon’s Fire: does anyone really use it?

I’m a podcast junky. I love listening to them, it makes my work day go by much easier.  Since I am a geek at heart, I tend to listen to technology oriented podcasts (No Agenda is, for now, the lone exception.) As such, I listen to the ‘biggies’ like TWiT, Windows Weekly, The Vergecast, Macbreak Weekly and the Engadget podcast to name a few. The past few weeks, these podcasts have focused on tablets, Windows 8 and Android.  Of course, the announcement of the new Android tablet from Google has most of these people speculating that it will shut down other competitors like the Kindle Fire.

For some reason, the press (and these podcasters) have turned on Amazon and the Fire. I’ve heard things like ‘sales fell like a brick after the Christmas frenzy’ and ‘no one uses them.’  That last one I have heard repeatedly since that Google announcement. It makes me wonder…just how do they arrive at this conclusion?

Well, they usually use internet web access analytics.  And, surprise, the Kindle is barely a speck on that chart. iPad, by far, takes the lions share of the mobile numbers. Android is right there at number two.  Kindle Fire? way down in the bowels of the chart. Windows Mobile 6 seems to have higher numbers.  Why is this? Amazon sold a few million Fires. Surely, these people use the fire online, right? Well, maybe yes, maybe no.  I know myself, I use it for Facebook and…not much else. Sometimes, depending on where I am, I may use it to hit up, the Verge or CNN. Mainly, though, I use apps to get my internet related content. Things like Flipboard and USA Today. I read PC Magazine on the Fire. I also use it for reading the books I’ve purchased and, yes, I listen to podcasts on the device when I neglect my Zune (which, unfortunately, seems to happen a lot these days…I must be getting old or something.)

Now, mind you, I may not be a typical user, but my instinct says that I use my Fire quite a lot like most would and, since it is sold by Amazon and marketed primarily as eReader, I suspect most will use if for that purpose and not for browsing. So, for these ‘reporters’ and podcasters to make such a statement, based solely on numbers for web pages, is just ludicrous. Of course, many of these same people also claimed that the Wii was used once or twice and put in a closet. Right. For nearly five years, the Wii sold like hotcakes and so did software for the device. The top ten in software sales would be dominated by Nintendo for four of those five years. Yet, according to the ‘experts’, no one played it. Funny, we have two and they still get quite a lot of play. Nothing tops Mario and as for the Fire, it’s a dandy tablet. Good size, decent performance and does not cost a bloody arm and a leg, only a Wii and Mario Kart.

Flipboard for Android now available

FlipBoard2One of the best applications for the iPad has, finally, come out on Android:  FlipBoard.  FlipBoard is an RSS aggregator that looks like a magazine, newspaper and web page all rolled into one. It is, visually, one of the nicest looking iPad applications and its Android version looks even better. It isn’t often I say an Android app looks good, but this one does (so does Google+ for Android.)

FlipBoard, for those who have not seen, takes a number of RSS newsfeeds (RSS, Really Simple Syndication, is a means by which web sites can allow users to ‘subscribe’ to their feed for viewing in a browser, email client or RSS reader) and organizes them in categories. It presents any images that may be embedded in a magazine like layout. The use of typography, layout and images gives it a clean, polished look and one that, dare I say, resembles Microsoft’s Metro style.

I downloaded it for both my HTC Shift and Kindle Fire and it works well on both, though it is a tad slow on the Kindle Fire.  On the phone, I found my self having to scroll a lot, but the screen is tiny, so it is to be expected. Even the app looks and works great on my phone, the phone is ALMOST too small for this app to be really useful. On the Fire, however, it works well for the form factor.

FlipBoard is free and available from the Amazon App Store and Google’s Play Store.

Mini-review: Kindle Fire

Having already owned two tablet computers, the original iPad and the Pandigital White, 7 inch tablet/reader, I already had formed an opinion on how a tablet should be.  I wanted a second, usable tablet, but not another iPad.  While I don’t have a real issue with the iPad, I wanted something a little smaller, a lot cheaper and just as capable. A tough item to find, no doubt. Price and performance were my main concern, then ecosystem, operating system and ease of use.

Unfortunately, Android is the predominate mobile operating system. Android is one of the biggest turkeys unleashed in the last century.  This operating system is not only fragmented beyond belief, it is slow, unreliable and built upon Linux-a major drawback. Linux is a desktop operating system and that is where it should stay.  Even my favorite mobile OS, webOS, is built on the turd that is Linux.

So, what to get.  My choices were limited. Yes, I could spend a hundred bucks and get another Pandigital or something even worse, like the Maylong. I didn’t want to do that. I took a look at the Nook Color and the Kindle Fire and a couple of other tablets like the Acer Iconia (which is really nice, but more than I wanted to pay) and the Motorola Xoom.  Ultimately, I selected the Kindle Fire.

The Kindle Fire is a 7 inch tablet running some flavor of Android that has been wrapped up in Amazon’s nice user interface.  Amazon has done a nice job covering up the goop that is Android’s native look and feel.  And, good thing too. The native look and feel is disjointed and very inconsistent. It is worse than the old Macintosh OS or Windows 2.1. And that’s saying something.

The Fire contains 8gigs of storage, of which about 6 is free for your use.  But, there’s a gotcha: only about 2 gigs are available for apps.  The rest is devoted to content. This was a mistake that Palm made with the early releases of webOS. However, apps are pretty small, so this should not be an issue for most people

The device looks a lot like the RIM Playbook.  Indeed, they were both built by the same company and probably share the same innards as well.  The Fire lacks an SD card slot and an HDMI connector.  The only connectors it has are for the earphone jack and a USB connector for power and to transfer files.

The Fire is rather speedy and the animations are smooth.  Wi-Fi performance is good, with 802.11n connectivity (it will also do b and g.)  Battery life is great, just shy of the iPad at about 8 and a half hours, depending on your use.

Whispersync is there, though the device is Wi-Fi only.  After I registered the device, all of the material I had purchased for my first gen Kindle appeared on my bookshelf. Tapping a book initiated a quick download and off I went.  Even the magazine I subscribed to showed up. One also gets 10gb of Amazon storage, so anything you buy through Amazon is available in the cloud as well.

Navigation is very intuitive and easy to use.  In fact, no printed manual was included. An e-version is included, but you don’t need it. Amazon’s UI is super easy to navigate.

My big complaints come from the use of Android and not so much the hardware, which is pretty nice. No, the operating system is where the Kindle Fire falls flat. Android still needs to mature, but the version on the Fire is adequate for what it is used for.  The included Facebook ‘app’ is not really an app, it is more like the mobile Facebook site wrapped up the browser.

All in all, the Kindle Fire is well worth the $200 it cost and even more so if you already had a Kindle and lots of content.

It certainly LOOKS much nicer than the first gen Kindle that I own, which looks more like a wedge of cheese than a high tech e-Reader.  Still, at least that original Kindle had a secondary use: a door jam.

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