The online commerce giant Amazion has announced its long-awaited update to the first generation Kindle Fire by introducing four updated versions of the multimedia tablet with subtle differences. First, the previous 7-inch model is now the entry-level model with increased RAM and an improved processor, but is otherwise identical in terms of appearance, with pricing to match as the tablet will now sell for $159.99.
The next three models are 7-inch and larger 8.9 inch Kindle HD versions with a redesigned bodyshell and improved specifications such as 16GB/32GB of storage and the latest generation of TI OMAP processors which are claimed to be faster than equivalent Tegra 3 chipsets as well as improved Wi-Fi radio hardware that is claimed to be faster compared to other tablets such as the Nexus 7 and iPad due to customized antenna hardware and chipsets for maximum throughput. The 7-inch Kindle HD will ship on September 14th while the 8.9 inch Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi/4G version will ship on November 20th.
Pricing for the new Kindle HD lineup starts at $199 and $299 for each respective size at 7 and 8.9 inches, while a third 8.9 inch HD variant will ship with a built-in AT&T 4G LTE radio and will be the most expensive Kindle HD model in the expanded line, selling for $499.99 while still requiring an additional annual $49.99 fee for LTE access provided via new agreement with AT&T.
With the expanded Kindle Fire lineup Amazon is clearly reacting to the threat of the Nexus 7 and the still yet to be confirmed iPad Mini tablet from Apple that is supposed to make iuts debut next month following this month’s launch of the iPhone. While the Kindle HD series does improve on the first generation model with larger higher-resolution displays and improved hardware, Amazon still has to compete with consumers that have come to expect more from Android tablets, as raw power just doesn’t cut it anymore.
The new tablets will also have to demonstrate that Amazon’s gamble to continue using a custom Android fork is working, as many users are keen to also take advantage of advancements found in Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich, with Amazon confirming that the new Kindle Fire HD line is using a new custom build based on Ice Cream Sandwich specifically developed for its hardware.
Even so, Amazon releasing another model with an annual fee for 4G LTE access from AT&T as opposed to the typical monthly fees associated with cellular data access is one major way to differentiate its tablet from the Nexus 7, although the steep initial cost for data will be enough to drive away all but the most data hungry users that can justify the annual fee.
What now remains to be seen is if these new changes are enough to draw people away from the Nexus 7 and the rest of the Android tablets on the market while continuing to carve a growing niche for itself with its integration of Amazon Kindle, App Store, Prime, MP3 and Instant Video.
If there is one negative to take away from the announcement of the new Kindle Fire HD series, it’s that Amazon has decided to expand its “Special Offers” ad serving platform to the Fire HD series with no corresponding price reduction in exchange for viewing partner offers on the standby screen as of yet, nor has the company confirmed a way to opt out of the ad serving for an additional one-time fee.