Amazon has launched two new Kindle e-readers and four new Fire HD tablets, and increased its offerings to consumers with a wide range of new features just before the lucrative and critical end-of-year holiday shopping season.
The new devices were unveiled by Amazon through a flurry of announcements on Sept. 17, including the Fire HD Kids Edition, which is their first-ever device aimed specifically at children and is built to take the physical punishment that kids can dish out. That tablet even includes a two-year, no-questions-asked breakage guarantee.
The two latest Kindle e-readers include the new seventh generation of the devices, the Kindle Voyage, which sells for $199, and the standard Kindle, which sells for $79, both of which gain new features and improved performance.
Meanwhile, also unveiled by Amazon is the company’s new Fire OS 4 (Sangria) operating system that powers the devices.
The all-new Kindle Voyage is Amazon’s most advanced e-reader so far, according to the company, and features a 7.6 mm profile and a weight of less than 6.4 ounces and an all-new design, making it the thinnest Kindle released since the debut of the product line.
The Voyage also includes a new Paperwhite display that has the highest resolution, highest contrast and highest brightness of any Kindle, according to Amazon. The display has 300 pixels per inch and uses specially strengthened glass that’s designed to resist scratches, as well as being micro-etched to diffuse light so it can be read in bright light without being affected by glare.
The Voyage has a display designed to adjust the brightness automatically, based on the surrounding light, and features a new page-turning system called PagePress, which lets users turn pages by lightly pressing the screen’s bezel with their thumbs.
The new Kindle Voyage also comes with free 3G wireless capabilities, which lets users download and read their ebooks anywhere, anytime and in more than 100 countries, even when they can’t find a WiFi hotspot. “Amazon pays for the 3G connection, so you pay no monthly fees and sign no annual contracts,” the company announced.
“Our mission with Kindle is to make the device disappear, so you can lose yourself in the author’s world,” Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, said in a statement. “Kindle Voyage is the next big step in this mission.”
The standard $79 Kindle also receives many improvements, including a 20 percent faster processor, twice the storage and a new touch interface.
The Fire HD
The new Fire HD tablets feature 6-inch or 7-inch screen sizes, quad-core processors running at up to 1.5GHz, front and rear-facing cameras, 8-hour battery life, Dolby audio and HD displays that are covered by Gorilla Glass for strength. The 6-inch Fire HD retails for $99 for the 8GB model or $119 for the 16GB model. The 7-inch Fire HD retails for $139 for the 8GB model or $159 for the 16GB model. They each come in five color choices: black, white, cobalt, magenta, and citron.
The new Fire HD models are now available for preorder with shipping to begin Oct. 2, according to Amazon.
Amazon Unveils New Kindles, Fire HD Devices, Fire OS 4
Fire HDX 8.9
For users desiring higher performance from their e-readers, Amazon has unveiled the new Fire HDX 8.9 line, which starts at $379 and includes a 2.5GHz quad core Snapdragon 805 processor with a 70 percent faster graphics engine than earlier Fire models, a lighter weight (13.2 ounces) than previous models, an HDX display with 339 pixels per inch and a new Dynamic Light Control feature, which makes the pages of a book more closely resemble a real piece of paper in different lighting conditions, according to Amazon.
The HDX 8.9 also includes an improved audio system that features Dolby Atmos sound processing, front and rear cameras, 12-hour battery life and support for 802.11ac WiFi. Also available is an optional $59.99 detachable Fire keyboard that includes a trackpad. The Fire HDX devices can also be purchased with built-in 4G capabilities.
The Fire HDX 8.9 WiFi models can be preordered now from Amazon for shipment on Oct. 21, according to the company. Prices are $379 for the 16GB model, $429 for the 32GB model or $479 for the 64GB model.
The 4G-capable versions of the HDX 8.9 can be preordered for $529 for the 32GB model or $579 for the 64GB model.
Fire HD Kids Edition
Amazon didn’t leave younger users out when it announced its latest Fire HD tablets. That’s where the Fire HD Kids Edition comes in, featuring a quad-core processor, a vivid HD display, front- and rear-facing cameras, Dolby Digital audio and a soft, protective shell casing that can handle bumps and bangs caused by younger users.
The Kids Edition includes a two-year, no-questions-asked warranty replacement policy that covers breakage, according to Amazon. The Kids Edition also includes a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited service, giving young users free, unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games.
The Fire HD Kids Edition devices are available for preorder now for $149 for the 6-inch tablet or $189 for the 7-inch model.
Fire OS 4 Sangria
Also unveiled by Amazon is the company’s new Fire OS 4 operating system software, which will be included on all of the new Fire devices that will be released in the coming weeks.
Based on Android KitKat, Fire OS 4 updates the visual design of the user interface and adds Profiles, according to Amazon, so that each user can have his or her own individual email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and device settings.
Fire OS 4 also includes ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction), which predicts the movies and TV episodes a user will want to watch and starts them instantly, while Smart Suspend develops a device-specific profile for when the tablet is typically not in use. Using that information, the device automatically turns wireless off and on to deliver up to 25 percent more standby battery life, according to Amazon.
“When we think about Fire OS, we start with what matters to customers—ease of use and performance,” Dave Limp, senior vice president for Amazon Devices, said in a statement. “Fire OS 4 improves in both of these areas, and deeply integrates software, content and the cloud to deliver services that are only available from Amazon, including Family Library, Firefly and free cloud storage for photos.”
Fire OS 4 will be available on all fourth-generation Fire tablets and will be available for all third-generation Fire tablets via a free, over-the-air software update, according to the company. Firefly will be available on Fire HDX 8.9. Fire OS 4 will be available on Fire phone early next year.