Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kindle Fire HDX and HD Tips: [WAS] *$30 off ANY HDX: 2 days*. $10 off 16GB Kindle HD 7" Gen2. Avoid v4.3 update for Kindle for Android. X-ray for Music. Recent reviews and points to consider. Display-test results for smaller and larger tablets from Apple, Google, and Amazon. UPDATED 12/26.

*NEW ALERT* came in while I was about to publish this blog entry on Dec. 22. (Remember that Prime member PRE-Christmas delivery was to end at Midnight EST, 9pm PST tonight (Sunday, 12/22). (Apologies for such a garish page then.)

As it was, UPS had a big failure on pre-Christmas deliveries, and Amazon, which did ship on time, has been giving some refunds on shipping costs due to the UPS problems.
I've updated the December 22 blog entry to December 26.

NOTE: Special Christmas sales cited here are ENDED, as of 12/31

Amazon is now on its "Year-End Deals."

THIS new discount itself ended Monday night Dec. 23 at 9pm PST and midnight EST - it WAS good for two days ONLY.

So, the coupon code above SANTAHDX, WAS on ANY HDX (including the 8.9" HDX finally -- as many have asked why the 8.9" HDX had not gone on sale -- and the 7" HDX tablets.

(STILL available as of Dec 26, 2013):
ALSO, Add 8 GB to the new Kindle Fire HD 2nd Gen's basic storage for $20 instead of the usual $30 - "for a limited time"

X-Ray for Music
To my surprise, the feature I've enjoyed most (suddenly seen while working on my laptop) involved lyrics scrolling down the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" sitting next to the laptop when playing music (with Amazon's Cloud Player or with the Music player on the tablet).

  The lyrics feature was/is for music I'd either bought from Amazon through the years or even uploaded and "imported" to our 5-Gig free file-storage area (which all customers, globally, are given, although non-US residents can't stream media from the US servers).

  The non-digital-rights-protected mp3's we upload that we get from other sources will get lyrics attached to them for scrolling (if we want) when the mp3 is from an album that matches a recording that Amazon sells.  And when we re-download them, to Kindle tablets, they'll have those lyrics availble if the publisher allows.  The publisher can decide, though, to stop including them depending on Agreements not renewed, etc.

  Mainly, I hadn't been expecting this feature when I first saw it.  But there it was, and being weird I love to sing along and found I didn't know half the lyrics.  Amazon negotiated agreements with quite a few of the music publishers to provide these lyrics, with the current line being sung, highlighted, in bolder face.

  It's made working more fun to have the tablet going, mp3-wise and not visually distracting me, and is just one newer feature but it did surprise me, as I thought the music I'd bought probably wouldn't be included for lyrics.   They're playable on the computer as well, of course, with the Cloud Player for Web.

 For those of you with a tablet from the new line (Kindle Fire HD 2nd Gen, HDX 7" or HDX 8.9"), any mp3 you play that has "[+Lyrics]" alongside the title will have the scrolling words (if you uploaded it to the Cloud -- and downloading it afterwards attaches the lyrics as well).
  You can read more about how it works on the Amazon XRay help page.

At any rate that's one feature of many with the new line of Kindle Fire tablets on Amazon's "Mojito" OS 3.1 based on Android Jelly Bean -- be aware that media streaming from Amazon U.S. servers is done for U.S. residents only, for the most part, but you can import/upload to the cloudplayer to get the lyrics attached, then download the mp3 to play it on your device that way.

* Avoid updating Kindle app for Android - to v4.3 (released Dec 17), available at Google play for Android devices.  Too many Android device users have been experiencing problems with this upgrade, finding their books missing from the display or being unable to get the app to open books.  Can't know what percentage of users are affected.

  When I checked the Amazon's app store for the Kindle for Android app, Amazon itself is at least now offering only the older v4.2.0.151 version (which I have on my Android device and I've decided to not let it update).  Too many Android devices are set to automatically install updates, but I turn that off because I'd rather decide after others have tried the updates (from any app maker).

  Normally, I'd say at least you can 'remove' the updated app and install the older version from Amazon, but makers like Samsung have built-in versions that can't be removed.  In that case, I imagine Amazon developers are hard at work on a fix for this.

  So, if you have not installed it yet, although notified of the update, it is probably best not to install it.  There are rarer instances of people reporting no problem, depending on the phone or tablet they're using, I guess, and whatever compatibility situation is involved.

  Because it offers Collections and the option to turn publisher-choice of fonts Off, some had lept at the offer.
  This is an alert in case you'd rather not risk having to re-download your books if there is a problem and not be able to read them until the new update is out.

* Dec. 22 WAS the LAST day for delivery of gifts before Christmas Day (free for Prime members).
     The deadline for ordering was midnight EST that night (Sunday night) Dec. 22 and, as mentioned above, 9pm PST.

* Amazon's "THE BIG DEAL" returned - More than 500 Kindle books at "up to 85% Off"
     But that ends tonight also (Dec. 22).

     "The Big Deal" includes 500 Kindle books organized by category.  The books, many of which are quite popular, are priced between $1.99 and $3.99, with most of them $1.99 to $2.99.

     Expiration date once more:
     December 22, 2013.

     Amazon note:
"Individual titles may have additional territory restrictions, and not all deals are available in all territories. Amazon may modify the selection of books offered at any time."

Recent online reviews of and reports on the Yr 2013 HDX/HD2 tablets with descriptions of unique features
  These entries include Comments I made to somewhat misleading info in what are very good reports otherwise.

On the most recent blog entry, I cited the recent report from PCWorld and MacWorld's TechHive naming the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and the Kindle HDX 7" tablet for top spots in the Top 5 products for year 2013

  While additionally listing the Top 50 for 20213, they link to their full review of the HDX 7", a review which is unusual in actually noting and describing software features that are unique to the Kindle Fire tablets and which give unusual added value that I don't see mentioned in other reviews.  Excerpts:
" ...beautifully designed tablet that climbs to the top of the 7-inch heap" [citing 2nd screen technology and the video tech support within 15 seconds from someone who can show you what buttons to press where].
[While pointing out the Enterprise capabilities for company IT services they say that this] ..."misses the point of the Fire HDX, which is to provide the best tablet for consuming books, music, and video."

[The writer does point out that the edges of the screen show a bit of dimming when the background is all white which is "barely noticeable" but a major complaint of his.]
"I have to say that it no longer makes any sense that the iPad forces you to launch an app before letting you read a book. Why doesn’t it..." [do what the HDX does]

"Amazon has come up with an answer to the question “How can we improve the user’s enjoyment of books, music, and video?” and the answer is far more impressive than adding storage or throwing in a sharper screen. It’s a feature called X-Ray" [which he goes on to explain in detail for various media-uses involved].

"The iPad has a huge content library of its own, but it also suffers from lock-in problems. The digital movies and books you purchase from Amazon are DRM-protected just like the stuff from the iTunes Store, but Amazon doesn’t limit you to playing them only on Amazon-brand hardware."
[He notes the lack of access to Google Play store (which is a decision of Google) but doesn't mention that other appstores like 1mobile carry more than 500,000 Google Play apps which the Kindle can just download and install if you check a Settings box to allow your device to install non-Amazon apps.  Amazon didn't wall this device as some think.

  See How to install non-Amazon apps for how to do this without any 'rooting' of the device or any modifications to the unit -- just a check-mark in a Settings box and getting any other app-store market app that is usable the way we use the Amazon store app.]
"I don’t know what Apple could do to enhance the iPad mini to make me recommend it over the Fire HDX, provided that the person asking my advice had little interest in productivity or gaming.  A 7-inch Fire HDX will give you a superior content experience and leave $100 in your pocket—which you can spend on books, music, and movies."

  Forbes review of 8.9" HDX today
"... An Unmatched Hardware Experience"
  Ewen Spence spent a week with the tablet.  Some excerpts:
" If your only concern is screen technology, the HDX 8.9 is the clear winner.  On every quantifiable measure, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the device to beat."
  [He makes the usual point that it can't access GooglePlay store to get its Apps, but says that the Kindle tablets are not "Google-certified" and that the apps have to be "recompiled" to work with the Kindle tablets.  Well, not really.
  In 1.5 years I have not had any Google App fail to work and work well on my Kindle HD or HDX's.

  He knows that one can 'sideload' apps (better yet, directly load) to the Kindle devices but then says it's not a standalone tablet like the iPad Mini (which does NOT allow ANY app that is not Apple approved and in the Apple store).

  Again, to see how easy it is to use Google apps on the Kindle Fire HD or HDX, with a choice of over 500,000 of them, see How to install non-Amazon apps on a Kindle Fire HDX or HD tablet.  A store-app is no harder to install than any other app from your favorite app store and then you get other apps with it.  This is possibly the best-kept secret in the world of tablets.]
"Where Amazon has a huge win is of course in e-books, magazines, and periodicals. They have probably the largest accessible catalogue of current ‘digital words’, and they make good use of it in the Kindle Fire HDX."

I added to Forbes's Comments area:
  'By the way, you might like that personal docs and hand-rolled e-books not protected with digital-rights CAN be sync’d with your other Kindle-compatible devices and the annotations backed up on your personal password-protected web page at Amazon where you can copy or print them.'

  That's another unique feature most don't realize is there.

  I also added that we can use the BS Player app (available at 1mobile store), HD Video Player or Mobo Player apps (at Amazon's store) that tend to be able to play almost any video format there is.  Also:
" Issues around content and UI aside, watching on the Kindle Fire HDX is a wonderful experience, and is certainly the gold standard of the current crop of tablets.

  TechnoBuffalo reviews the Kindle HDX (Dec. 15]
Brandon Russell, also using it for 7 days, headlines this:
"Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Review: The Most Enjoyable Way To Consume."   Excerpts:
' Amazon has created an experience that’s right on the heels of its closest rival, the Nexus 7; in some respects, it’s even better.

... - it might even be the best small Android tablet this holiday season.  That’s because the Fire HDX is less of a device and more of a perfect ideal.

... It’s no fuss, little effort, with plenty of reward.  You might say it’s the People’s Tablet.

... [Re no access to GooglePlay apps store] Amazon does mitigate this slightly by adding some cool software flare, such as a cool app for parents, X-Ray features, and an incredible new tech support service called Mayday.

... a remarkable new tech support tool called Mayday. Basically,  Mayday is like Apple’s version of making a Genius Bar appointment, except you never have to wait in line or leave your house.  Everything is done right through your Fire HDX and FREE.

... Tech Advisors can change settings, download apps and do pretty much any tech support related issues you need done, step-by-step, like your own tech support personal assistant.

  I never ran into an issue Amazon’s Mayday couldn’t fix, and found that representatives were incredibly helpful and explained situations very thoroughly.

... The scale and ease of use of Amazon’s Mayday is absolutely incredible, and is a godsend for those aunts and uncles who have never used a tablet in their life.

... sports a ridiculous resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. Colors are deep, viewing angles are terrific and everything is extremely crisp.  Anything you can possibly hope to watch, read and view looks wonderful—better to my eyes than any other small tablet screen on the market, including the Nexus 7 and iPad mini with Retina.

  It creates a more immersive experience, helping to emphasize what’s actually on the display while the device itself (mostly) fades away.

... You won’t find the Kindle Fire HDX to be slow, even with Fire HD content beaming into your eyeballs. As far as battery life goes, the Fire HDX lasts forever. Like, forever. I was consistently shocked at how much battery life it had after a day’s use — I mostly read books and watch movies — and actually found it lasted more like two to three days without needing a charge. I had to try and run the battery down, rather than worry about if I needed a charge.'

Amazon suspends unneeded tablet activity while you're reading, which is one reason the battery lasts as long as it does if you spend a lot of time reading.

About that display, the Kindle HDX 8.9" vs Apple's iPad Air and Google's Nexus 10 (Nov. 2013)
  Here are some links with much shorter excerpts.  The first links are to very detailed tests of all these displays by Displaymate, a company that specializes in this, and they have very high standards to be met
Displaymate's Conclusions on an ultra-detailed page of testing results that were summarized by many techsites recently.
' Most impressive of all is the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, which has leapfrogged into the best performing Tablet display that we have ever tested, significantly out-performing the iPad Air in Brightness, Screen Reflectance, and high ambient light contrast, plus a first place finish in the very challenging category of Absolute Color Accuracy. '

CNet's Don Reisinger added, from a November testing of the smaller versions of these:
  "iPad Mini's Retina Display finishes last in small-screen review
   The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7 drew higher scores in the DisplayMate shoot-out."

  "Apple was once the leader in mobile displays, unfortunately it has fallen way behind in both Tablets and Smartphones," DisplayMate wrote in its findings. "This should be a wakeup call."

There are other factors of course - The Apple apps are likely the best available collection (and if you have an iPhone you'd want to use the same apps, so you're wiser to go with an iPad or iPad mini in that case), and they have tended to run very smoothly although recent reports indicate there are problems as there are with other tablets.  The kicker is that their lowest-storage tablets tend to be more expensive than highest-storage tablets of their two main competitors, the Kindle Fire HDX and the Google Nexus tablets.

On the other hand, when you're paying a lot of money, it's also wise to consider these results.
TechnoBuffalo's Todd Haselton summarizes the smaller tablet testing before sending us over to the extremely detailed test descriptions and results:
' Additionally, DisplayMate only found “good accuracy” when it came to absolute color accuracy on the iPad mini with Retina, while the other two received “very good ” ratings.

  The Nexus 7 (2013) was inferior when it came to image contrast accuracy, however.  Overall, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and Nexus 7 (2013) both received “very Good A-” scores while the iPad mini with Retina received a “Good B” score in the “overall” testing category.  Apple’s smaller iPad also suffered in relative maximum brightness, mirror reflections, relative contrast rating in high ambient light and other tests.

 DisplayMate found all three tablets were particularly weak in brightness decreasing at 30 degree viewing angles, but that the iPad mini with Retina had too small of a color gamut and a poor absolute color accuracy rating. '

WELL, that should gve an idea of how it goes.  The Kindle Fire HD/HDX line's main 'weakness' as reported is its lack of direct access to the Google Play apps store, but those who do just a bit of googling will know that those apps are easily available for and directly downloadable to the Kindle Fire HDXs and HD line and have been for awhile.  One can just google "how to install non-amazon apps on a kindle fire" ...

TIP - The excellent SMALL and portable AYL speaker(s) system is back but with an extension for more bass and gets good ratings by Amazon customers.

  I wrote about its earlier incarnation here and provided a little videoclip of that earlier version.

EARLIER articles here on the Kindle HDX and HD tablets -- they have thorough descriptions of what these tablets do:

  1. Overview of New Features
  2. Things to Know about the new features

  Those two articles have clarifications for some points that have puzzled some.

The image and table below are added so that you can compare the current Kindle Fire models specs and what each one has, to give you a head start on all the information at the product pages.

  Note that the Kindle Fire models in the table below are the WiFi-only models, and that they both have Dolby Audio Dual Stereo Speakers and Dual band WiFi, while the HDX model has dual antennas in addition.

Normal starting prices are w/ 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
Ram: 2GB
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
Ram: 2GB
Adds 8MB rear-facing camera
No HDMI-out: Use 'Fling' or Miracast
Quad-core 2.2 GHz processor

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.

  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button

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  1. very informative post. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Martin, thanks for taking the time to let me knopw it was useful!

  2. Kindle for Android 4.3: I have not any problems with it myself. It's nice having Cloud Collections (the best implementation to date IMO). It's rather ironic that the best implementations to date are on Android and iOS. Fire is missing a few things, and Paperwhite2 is a bit of a mess because you can't do collection management offline without getting nagged and because large collections are less manageable there.

    I noticed that it took awhile on the first launch after the update to get to 'ready' during which time it appeared not to have my books in there. This was a fairly major update, and I can imagine that it needed extra time to update local datastore and sync up with cloud. People aren't always patient enough, and conclude 'it isn't launching', 'it isn't registered', switch away, which of course shuts the app down before it can complete this initial setup, then the next time they launch it has to start that all over again, etc. Uninstall/Reinstall may seem to help but forbearance alone may be enough. And it's really hard to tell how prevalent problems are from the evidence of negative reviews (especially when these do not include details like device type, android version etc). Negative reviews are rarely retracted even when the author has resolved the issue, and people who are happy with an update aren't as likely to submit a review as someone frustrated and motivated to express that.

    This is one of the most popular apps on Android, so even if only a very small percentage of people encounter problems, their reviews can make it seem like it is a disaster. If that were the case, Amazon would have ample evidence for this and could pull the app, but they haven't done so.

    It's very easy to turn off Auto-updates (if I had a data plan that would be reason enough to turn them off). The more cautious can backup 'good' versions in case the new improved version is not to their liking.

    1. Tom, I mentioned that Amazon HAD pulled the update from its own store in that it is offering ONLY the previous version there (I gave the number for that and they're the ones who developed it), and it's on my Android former-phone (that phone was just replaced with the Win-based Nokia Lumia 1020). I could go to Google Play and get the later version on my Samsung S2 (still used as a 4.5" tablet for things like Cantonese lessons) but am not up for problem-solving currently.)
      -- Which Android device are you using? The unhappy reviews are one after another at the GooglePlay store and some are obviously experienced users. I think a lot depends on WHICH Android device you have, as far as any functioning probs, so it may not be that everyone who says they're affected is just being too impatient.
      It's the old "Works for me so you must be doing something wrong" ;-) ... and while there's a -chance- that is true I think it's less likely. So, the caution goes out, but I'm conservative and always wait until things settle down on a new app. That Amazon does not offer this version on its own Android appstore says enough for me.

      Add that the version they're offering is the latest otherwise but is from summer 2010. I do think that feedback on this one in the past, at GooglePlay has been spectacular, with lots of 5 stars, so people have a history of writing good feedback too on it.

      I also make sure no apps auto-update because in cases of larger updates they interfere with the speed of what I might be trying to do and I don't like background things going on anyway unless I've approved it. My battery life stays great as a result :-) Stuff like the weather or news, I just don't care about until it's time for me to take a look.
      -- What is it that you miss on the Fire on the HD 7 2nd Gen that the 4.3 on Android has ? Interesting that they always give iOS the best features first and now maybe even Android (where it works for people, that is).

    2. I see why Amazon is not offering the v4.3.0.44 on its own page now. I checked the Amazon Kindle forums for more discussions and the Android Update notice isn't there now, but there is an older thread that's being used. It's There the latest note says this:
      "Posted on Dec 22, 2013 7:38:05 PM PST
      Kittykatmilly says:
      I just had this same problem. I just spent over an hour on with a special department within tech support and here is what they said/did.

      If you have an Android device with the most recent Jellybean OS, some phones with it are just not compatible at the moment. You have to uninstall your Kindle App updates and turn off Auto Update and wait for a new OS update from Android, or wait for a new version of the app to come from Amazon. It is likely that a new version of the App will come first since they are aware of the problem and looking at how to fix it."
      In fact, I found my old Samsung 10" tablet which has an old ice cream sandwich v4.04 OS on it and updated the app for Android. I forgot how slow the older tablets are as everything takes forever, compared to the new HDX. But there is chatty feedback about what it's doing so I was never tempted to stop it.
      Each time I open the app it tries to sync again. Am spoiled by the new tablets.
      My only prob was getting newly bought books pushed to my old Samsung without my requesting it. But everything opened fine, Collections look good.

      I guess I'll add the problem-acknowledgment and identification (or at least one identification) to a post. There are app-places people are recommending for the older versions.

    3. I have a (3-1/2 year old) Xoom tablet running 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), which is not the latest version of Android by any means (that would be 4.4, Kit Kat). I don't think we have data to conclude anything about which Android versions or devices have problems and which do not, or even if it is worse than usual. Google Play reviews used to show which device the person had but not anymore. And the Kindle app description does not even list the current version ('depends on device').

      It is kind of odd that Amazon would pull it from their own app store. One of their selling points is that they do more curation than Google, so you would think they would have discovered problems before pushing it out in the first place. But I think this is just the way things are with Android. Not only are there all of these devices and OS versions, but it is all infinitely customizable. Developers cannot anticipate everything, users have to be more self-sufficient in solving problems.

      What is better about Android Cloud Collections:
      - when viewing a collection you can use List view (showing Author & Title). On the Fire you only have thumbnails, which may or may not have legible Author/Title
      - you can have Custom sort (like iOS and Fire), but you can also sort by Author Title or Recent (unlike them)
      - if you open a book from a collection, returning to Library takes you back to viewing the same Collection, maintaining 'context'. On Fire/iOS it returns you to the Collections list, you have no idea what collection you were just using and have to re-open the collection to resume reading the book.
      - when viewing a collection on the Fire, all you can do with an item is to remove it from the collection. You cannot remove it from the device, add/remove to other collections etc. You have to go back to Carousel or one of the book lists to do anything else. On Android you can change collection membership, go to options, view shelfari book extras, and remove from device, as you can wherever the item appears.
      - when using Add to add to a collection, Fire only lets you add Books OR Docs OR Audiobooks (you have to edit the collection from those respective 'silos' to add items of that silo's type). On Android you can add anything in your library, Books or Docs).

    4. Thanks for those comparisons, Tom. I'll check the next couple of days where there might be quiet time to see if anything is different on my KFire 8.9 and my Samsung tablet. Talk about the 'fragmented' Android situation, this is one of the results.

      Fun celebrations to you and thanks again for your really-appreciated feedback and analysis.


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