Amazon launches its two HDX Kindle Fires and the new basic HD 7" family tablet
I took a rare mid-week night out and Amazon announced its new Yr 2013 Kindle Fire lineup, which I saw after midnight.
Here are some introductory comments + links to the two press releases for added detail beyond what I highlighted, since the new features are so plentiful. They've been working on quite a bit.
(See UPDATES to this blog entry below. Original posting was 5:20 AM~ on 9/25/13. Update3b done 9/29, 1:42 pm (and adding a new article Oct. 1
ALSO see the follow-up article, Things to know about the HDX/HD line, with more details and enhancements not mentioned here.)
First, Pricing bases plus Amazon links for the new HDX models and the new basic HD 7"
ALL have Dolby Audio Dual Stereo Speakers and Dual band WiFi, while the HDX models have dual antennas also.
Starting prices are with special offers that they say will offer more savings than Lighting deals.
|Kindle Fire HD 7" - $139|
Basic "family" tablet, HD Gen2
8 and 16GB options
Display: 1280 x 800, 216 PPI
Ram: 1GB No Mayday
No camera or mic (no Skype)
No HDMI-out: Use 'Fling'- NO Miracast
Dual-core 1.5 GHz processor
|Kindle Fire HDX 7" - $229 |
'Personal' HDX tablet
16, 32 or 64GB options
Display: 1920 x 1200, 323 PPI
Front-facing, 720p camera
No HDMI-out: Use 'Fling' or Miracast
Quad-core 2.2 GHz processor
| Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" - $379 |
'Does it all' HDX tablet
16, 32, or 64GB options
Display: 2560 x 1600, 339 PPI
Adds 8MB rear-facing camera
No HDMI-out: Use 'Fling' or Miracast
Quad-core 2.2 GHz processor
(The 1st generation HD 8.9" remains available, starting at $229) **. See why you might want the Yr 2012 HD 8.9" 1st Gen model instead but you'd be missing many new features you might want.
The HDX models are a THIRD lighter, several times faster (with quad-core) Snapdragon 800 processing, and have higher display resolutions than the Apple iPad 4, and -- well above other tablet offerings -- they incorporate an almost overwhelming number of software features using their Fire OS 3.0 Mojito.
New and promising: We'll be able to PRINT from the tablet, scroll lyrics to songs highlighting current line and, in x-ray enabled tv shows and movies, identify Songs in movies and be able to jump to those songs.
ALSO, "If an app runs on Android, it can run on Fire OS"  (Think the 1Mobile apps site for apps not available at the well-vetted Amazon Android Appstore.)
Longer battery life for "mixed-use," said to be 10 hours for the basic HD model and 11-12 hours for the HDX ones and "reading"-only mode should get 17-18 hours on the HDX models.
Dynamic Image Contrast (automatically higher contrast in sunlight so you can see the content) is an enhancement, as is 100% sRGB color accuracy (Photoshop enthusiasts will like this compatibility feature).
Here's the DETAILED COMPARISON TABLE at Amazon for the new Basic Family HD and two HDX models + the just-HD 8.9" tablet.
Re 4G options available
These are available for the HDX models.
I was intrigued by Verizon's new cellular plan that includes your smartphone and your various tablets
The UNUSUAL DIRECT 24/7 SUPPORT CO-Pilot on your HDX tablet [* see bottom]
Amazing Mayday feature only Amazon would think of (!)
Allows free 24/7 access to a video-based support connection to a Kindle expert who can respond on your Kindle Fire with solutions, acting as your co-pilot until the problem is fixed (hopefully) or you understand it better. The support person can draw on it to show you where a needed control is, etc. The cost of this must be phenomenal, but Amazon's most prized customer feature is its customer support.
See, at the Mayday page link above, the three Mayday-support TV ads (all accessible via one click for the video-set) that'll show you exactly what the Mayday help is like, when you are able to get video access to your support person who can hear (but not see) you and can point to and circle the buttons you need to use to get what you want.
For gifts to those new to tablets or computer technology, this would probably be high on the list.
NEW, excellent features that users have requested that all the models share:
COLLECTIONS - Merging Cloud and Tablet books into Collections
DOWNLOADS of PRIME Instant Videos
Updated support for e-mail and calendar for GMail, Outlook and more
Choose between Carousel view (most recent) or GRID View ("Favorites"). The large, horizontally-scrolling Carousel images were annoying. And I'm hoping they'll give customers the option not to have the most recent webpage or book displayed, as many don't want that when living with others.
About COLLECTIONS - Judging from the new implementation of this feature which includes the Cloud, in the new Kindle for iOS v4.0 update that's received rave reviews from users, this will be a big plus for many. I had a draft of an updated blog entry on the Kindle for iOS update before I left last night and will post that in the next day or two.
All-New X-Ray for Music
Amazon has expanded X-Ray to music by adding lyrics that let you follow along with songs.
Lyrics display and scroll automatically line-by-line as the song plays.
Screenshot here. (How cool is this??)
Goodreads is integrated.
SECOND Screen feature
" 'Fling' content from their Fire to their TV, turning the TV into the primary screen and freeing up [the] Fire as a second screen to email, browse the web, play a game, or follow along scene-by-scene with X-Ray." ... The Kindle Fire HD [maybe] and HDX can then sync the video and the X-Ray data in the cloud and stream the video directly to the TV, "so the quality of the video is not dependent [on] the tablet’s processor or networking. The customer can even take their tablet to another room and leave the video playing on the TV." See one caveat on this feature.
Quick Switch "uses a global swipe gesture from anywhere in the system to go between multiple apps, and unlike standard Android, works with individual content items like different textbooks without navigating home."
The new Kindle Fires promise enterprise controls by IT administrators in larger companies, organizations, and schools
Mobile Device Management - reliable management of Kindle tablet deployments, with support for encryption, Kerberos Intranet, secure Wi-Fi connections and VPN integration
New accessibility features for blind and visually impaired customers
Screen Reader, Explore by Touch, and Screen Magnifier. Screen Reader features IVONA's award-winning natural language text-to-speech voice
HTML5 Apps support
Developers can submit and distribute mobile web content without using third-party software or any mobile development.
For more background and details:
Brad Stone's Businessweek interview with Jeff Bezos on the new changes and what he's up to next.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Amazon press releases: the new Kindle Fire HDX family, the new 3rd Gen Kindle HD 7", and the new 'Mojito' operating system and its new and enhanced features (and I'll expand on these in a subsequent blog entry.
UPDATES - I've been updating this blog entry with what I find.
* UPDATE1 - re Mayday. Geekwire's Todd Bishop reports on a show & tell with CEO Jeff Bezos for selected press groups and has a good description of how Mayday works:
' [Bezos] picks up one of the company’s new Kindle Fire HDX tablets, swipes to access the Quick Settings menu, and presses a new button called “Mayday.” After a few seconds, a small video box appears on screen, showing a live tech support rep on the other end.
“I see you’ve found the Mayday button,” says the person on the screen. “I’ll be your tech adviser, Dylan.”
During the demo that follows, the tech support rep shows Bezos and a small audience of reporters how to navigate the tablet to download a game and change basic settings.
The rep can draw circles and arrows on the screen to point out features. He actually takes control of the tablet at one point.
The support rep can hear the user’s questions and see the tablet screen but, to preserve privacy, can’t actually see the user. '
Small favors re not seeing the user! But that's amazing use of technology and a definite wow factor, although we are not all likely to get a 'Dylan' every time we cry for help.
Bezos emphasizes the importance of their integration of hardware, operating systems, key apps, the cloud and services for a feature like this one.
UPDATE3 and 3a - I'm adding a couple of items - first, a paragraph found in the USA Today article by Edward C. Baig, who asked a question that was on my mind and received an acknowledgement though no answer to what would be done to curb the use of Mayday as a form of entertainment. Unlike other intense customer support services, this one is free 24/7 and with no time limit on a support session.
' I asked Bezos if anything would prevent people from tapping the Mayday button to merely mess with the representative or to socialize because they're lonely. "My prediction is that's going to happen," he said.
... For now, the Mayday feature only works over Wi-Fi, and only with 7-inch and 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX models. It won't work with the cheaper new Kindle Fire HD model. '
The 2nd item for Update3 is about the Second Screen feature (described above). Baig reports: that this viewing via TV and Cloud of a tablet video while controlling it from the tablet:
' will be available starting next month, Amazon says, and it will work with Sony's PlayStation 3 (and later this year, PlayStation 4), as well as on Samsung TVs. You will also be able to wirelessly "mirror" movies, TV shows and photos from your tablets to the big-screen TV if you have Miracast-capable accessories or TVs. '
[However, Miracast is available only on the Kindle HDXs.]
** I checked the new product pages and there is NO HDMI feature on the new, 2nd generation HD and two HDX tablets mentioned.
I've verified that the new tablets do not have the wonderful earlier micro-HDMI port for direct connection to an HDTV set (whether in a hotel while traveling or on TV's in the homes of others where videoclips and photos can be shared that way).
I've been able to use the HDMI-out with any tablet material, including web browsing and tablet movies, and I don't have Playstations or Samsung TVs, so that's a loss for 1-cable, shared use of viewing with others in the area or in relaxed state in a lounger when viewing material on the larger screen. I wouldn't be buying a Samsung TV for the Second Screen feature. However, we can use a Miracast-adapter on the HDX tablets for wireless HDMI-out that will mirror the tablet screen rather than act as a second screen as the Amazon 'Fling' technology allows. Amazon is said to be working with other makers on all these features.
It's one reason for some to keep or even get the lower-cost Kindle Fire HD - 1st Generation tablet starting at $
But a small adapter and wireless HDMI out could be worth the added $80 or so. A $45 one mentioned on the Kindle forums is already unavailable and was said to have some latency problems. It'll be a while before reviews come in, in good volume, for the Miracast adapters that come up in a search of Amazon.
UPDATE - Amazon has since certified a Miracast adapter that works with the Kindle HDX's.
If choosing the older HD model, you wouldn't, though, have the "Mojito" operating system and Mayday, and would miss out on features like scrolling song lyrics, an 8MB rear-facing camera, direct-video support on the tablet for any problems, the new Collections feature (which will work for apps as well as for e-books, Downloads of streaming Prime Instant Video, as well as a choice between Carousel (most recently used actions) and Grid views ("Favorites") for opening screen.
As CNET's David Carnoy points out about the Second Screen feature that uses Amazon's 'Fling' technology: [bracketed comments are mine]
' But, instead of simply mirroring your tablet [as with a micro-HDMI output or with Miracast], the Kindle Fire will be freed up to browse the Web, play a game, or whatever else you desire to do with it -- you can even leave the room with it -- while your video content plays on your TV with X-Ray info.
According to Amazon [with the Fling technology which is available only on recent Samsung TVs and Playstations for now], the quality of the video will not be dependent on the tablet's processor load or connection. '
I won't be trading in my Kindle Fire HD 8.9 1st Gen, as I like the ease, speed and cost of the 1-cable HDMI-out port but will still get the new 8.9" for blog-info purposes and because I love highest resolution and definitely faster processing when I can get it -- and the Mojito OS's other features are attractive to me.
UPDATE2 - Availability and ship-dates, trade-ins, credits, and NBC News's article on the HDX tablets
Not surprising early assessment
NBCNews's Wilson Rothman posted a tweet to his article headlined, "Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX tablets pose real threat to iPad dominance"
He reminds us that these "have the highest-resolution screens currently on the market and the fastest chips ever put in tablets." But he's just as impressed by the features, including Second Screen and Mayday.
Rothman considers the HDX tablets (barring large negatives that might appear) "a threat to Apple's message of premium content and superior convenience" - finding that the "HDX screens are much easier on the eyes than last year's iPad" and likely not to be beat by Apple's new coming devices at these prices.
I didn't mention above that the 8MB HDX 8.9" tablet's camera has specs that make it a decent lower-light camera too, with some image stabilization, and is more capable than most existing tablet cameras.
Fun-to-read account of one of the several small press-groups that were summoned to get briefings on the new Kindle Fire HDX's, and it's clear that this approach works well for Amazon, because when the person holding the briefing is Jeff Bezos, the press tends to purr its resulting articles (and in this case, why not). Participating with CNet's David Carnoy (or assigned together) were Mashable's Lance Ulanoff and Consumer Reports' Donna Tapellini.
Although the Carnoy articles are really well-written and interesting, I can't imagine asking Bezos if he feels he's 'the next Steve Jobs.' But that was the headline.
No, he's the current and next Jeff Bezos, and while he may not focus on maximizing profits (something Apple does very well, with a narrower range of projects included), Bezos has a humongous variety of projects that his people find themselves slaving over (now that his crew provides sophisticated web services for entities like Netflix and thousands of large companies and they have their hands in almost every aspect of their consuming-customers' lives, with services like one-day food delivery services being ramped up.
A couple of years ago, some considered Amazon 'just a bookstore' with no knowledge of nor expertise with hardware or software and wrote that they should leave that arena to those who understand it.
The hardware/software integration of complicated service offerings, especially as seen in the new Kindle Fire OS (but which started with Kindle Whispernet -- the very reason the Kindle took off when the other e-readers had failed), is impressive. Early reports acknowledge the obvious amount of energy involved in the coordination and balancing of several teams creating unique features that are very complex but which need to appear simple.
The acquisition of IMDB was one example of long-range planning, which we now see with the sync'd X-Ray features for movies, tv shows, and even details of the music involved.
Many speak reverently of best hardware specs (and now we even have these with the new Kindle Fire HDX line, at more reasonable pricing that other companies are trying to meet), and many consider pure Android 'The True Way' but it isn't, not for non-technically-focused consumers who just want their devices to work and deliver the entertainment they choose.
Inventiveness and creativity are huge with Bezos and it shows up in the new features that other tablet makers or 'stores' wouldn't even consider offering.
So, I think he's no "the next Steve Jobs" and am glad for it, except that I hope he's looking into some of the warehouse problems reported and is as interested in warehouse employees' health as he is in customer happiness.
Availability, Shipping Estimates - Pre-Orders for "a place in line" started Sept 25.
Kindle Fire HDX 7": Oct 18, but with 4G: Nov 14.
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9": Nov 7, but with 4G Dec 10
Kindle Fire 7" HD 2nd Gen: Oct. 2.
You can do a TRADE-IN on your older Kindles
To learn how to submit a trade-in order for your Kindle, visit this Help page
CREDIT available if you very recently bought a Kindle Fire
Amazon usually gives 30 days to ponder whether or not you want the new Kindle after all or prefer to return it for a refund. It's something they've quietly honored, for obvious reasons, since a dominant focus is customer service.
If you bought one within the last 4 weeks or so and want one of the newly announced models instead, call 866-321-8851 or access, online, Amazon's Contact Us desk to ask about returning it if you prefer to order a newer model, and they will accept the return and credit you the amount you paid for it but you'll need to pay the ship-back cost unless it's defective. If the 1st level customer rep says "No" then call back later to get another customer rep.
HOWEVER, note that if you bought a Yr 2012 Kindle Fire HD for $159 recently, you were not buying the equivalent of Yr 2013's basic Kindle Fire HD, which replaces last year's BASIC Kindle Fire (with no HD).
With the recent sales price of $159, you were buying the 7" Kindle Fire HD with front-facing CAMERA with mic (good for Skype) and with a micro-HDMI output port to an HDTV. You would have received a $199 model for $159, and it is a much more fully-featured model than the $139 *basic* Kindle Fire HD that is coming out in October. [End of Update2]
Things to know about the HDX/HD line, with more details and enhancements not mentioned here
Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources. Top 100 free bestsellers. Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.
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