Kindle line-up refreshed with three Fire models and Paperwhite

If you thought the Kindle Fire was a bore, Amazon’s got a whole new line-up devices that should be considerably more interesting. The Fire got three offspring this time around, with a updated 7″ model with a 1280×800 display and more RAM and two 8.9″ brothers. All of the devices pack a next-generation laminate display which should cut glare and weight considerably by closing the gap between the touch layer and glass. All models will start with 16GB of storage as well, kicking the 8GB low-end approach of the last generation. The high-end 8.9″ model will pack in a 4G modem and special pricing for service – $50 a year for 250MB monthly data cap.

The biggest boon of this Fire family is pricing – the 7″ model will come in at $199, competing directly with the Nexus 7 with a likely better display. The 8.9″ will start at $299 and go up to $499 for the LTE-enabled model, undercutting the iPad considerably while offering unique data pricing and a comparable display. Of course, Amazon is also touting better performance on a software-level from all the devices (complete with a reworked email app that blows away its predecessor) meaning that the devices will compete not only on specs but also experience.

Amazon also announced their answer to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, the Kindle Paperwhite. The new Kindle model will have a higher pixel density than the original Kindle Touch – 212 ppi. The display can be frontlit with 4 LEDs embedded into the display. Don’t worry about battery life, though, as Amazon is pushing an eight week battery life even with the screen lit at all times. The Paperwhite will start at $119 and go up to $179 for the 3G version. Finally, they also made a couple aesthetic changes to the base level Kindle and blessed it with a $10 price drop down to the nearly absurd impulse price of $69.

Now’s a better time than ever to check out Amazon’s Kindle lineup. Not only are they offering interesting choices at in the eInk space, but their tablets seem to be pushing the envelope in a couple key ways while still balancing budget-friendly pricing to the benefit of consumers.

Source: Amazon (Fire, Paperwhite) | Image: Salvador Ausina (Flickr)

Amazon Instant Video comes to iPad

If you’re an Prime subscriber and iPad owner, Amazon has just the thing for you – a new Instant Video client for the Apple tablet that puts Prime content front and center. The app allows you to watch any content available through Amazon’s Instant Video service, but browsing is limited to content bundled with a Prime subscription. Of course, you’re always welcome to buy or rent movies or television through the browser and add it to your “watchlist” for viewing on the device, but this effort seems to really pit Prime directly against Netflix and Hulu Plus.

In their detailed hands-on, Ars Technica noted a variety of issues including inconsistent playback and lack of AirPlay support, but they ultimately concluded that the app’s availability couldn’t be construed as anything but a positive thing as it allows yet another venue (in addition to PCs, Roku boxes, game consoles and the Kindle Fire) for Prime members to squeeze more value out of their subscription.

Source: Ars Technica, iTunes

Bloomberg: Amazon smartphone in the works

According to Bloomberg, Amazon is in the planning stages of producing a smartphone to compete with iOS and Android. Their two sources have said that Amazon is working with hardware manufacturer Foxconn to develop a device that’ll help them capture a bigger market of people to buy media like music, books, and movies. Despite the fact that Amazon’s currently available Kindle Fire is running a version of Android, the report suggests that this device would be running something different in direct competition with Google’s offerings.

Bloomberg points to the hiring of patent acquisition veteran Matt Gordon as some solid evidence that Amazon is getting into the wireless technology market, considering they’ve been subsequently vying for patent portfolios that would be a great help to the legal sustainability of getting into such a dangerous arena.

Source: Bloomberg

Rumor: Amazon selling home screen ads for Kindle Fire

According to marketing news site Ad Age, Amazon has been trying to sell advertisement for the Kindle Fire home screen at a $600 million price tag. The agency source said that the ad buy would last for two months and would have prime placement on the device alongside Amazon’s in-house “Special Offers” ads. Ad Age goes on to comment that such a high price suggests that Amazon would likely need to tap into a current lineup of devices to offer the number of screens worthy of the price, but some pundits have made other conclusions. For instance, paidContent has suggested an ad-supported version of the Fire to match Amazon’s other e-ink offerings that have multiple SKUs at different prices.

Needless to say, if the rumors are true we’ll soon be hearing about it as the Kindle Fire is primed for a refresh in the near future.

Source: Ad Age

Amazon Prime Instant Video service offers a fraction of advertised content offerings

If Amazon Instant Video’s recent debut on the PlayStation 3 has inspired you to check out their Prime Instant Video service, you may want to hesitate. Amazon has advertised that Prime includes a healthy 17,000 combined movies and television shows on-demand, but Fast Company has released a report that adds a disheartening amount of clarity to that figure.

In short, their report has led Amazon to admit that the 17,000 count of titles refers to individual movies and television episodes, effectively inflating the count to most observers. For example, Prime Instant Video hosts a huge library of Power Rangers television series, but instead of counting them as one title (or even a handful of titles based on each season or iteration) Amazon advertises that content as over 700 individual titles.

Counting each television series as one title drastically changes the apparent size of the service, which more truthfully floats somewhere around 10% or 1,700 titles. To be fair, Amazon’s primary competitor in the online on-demand video space Netflix uses the same tactic, advertising about 60,000 available titles when they essentially offer about 13,000 (about 9,000 of which are movies). When it comes down to it, Amazon relies far more on the inflated count of their television library than Netflix and is trying to close a very large gap using only half-true advertising.

Source: Fast Company

Rumor: Next-gen Kindles to pack in LED front-lit screen

One of the biggest disadvantages of e-readers in comparison to tablets is the inability to read in the dark without some external light source. According to TechCrunch, Amazon is hoping to combat this weakness in the next generation of their Kindle e-ink devices. TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey reports that the prototype Kindle he spotted in the wild sports a front-lit display, meaning that there’s a thin layer over the regular display that diffuses an LED light evenly. Essentially, it’ll appear as though a light is being shone directly on the entire surface.

This technology could be deployed with little to no disadvantage, adding only a sliver of thickness to the device and having very little impact on touch-responsiveness. Battery life might be a bigger question, although first-party booklights available for current-generation devices pull power directly from the Kindle to begin with. Either way, this addition could add plenty of value to an already popular and attractive series of e-readers.

Source: TechCrunch

Early Android 4.0 build available for Kindle Fire

It should come to nobody’s surprise that Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” would get ported to the Kindle Fire, as the device’s $200 price point proves to be minor hurdle for a potentially great tablet experience. One might be surprised at how fast these builds can make it out to the light, as such a build has already been revealed by JackpotClavin at the xda-developers forum. The dev admits that its not ready for public consumption, as it’s noticeably buggy in the above video with quirky touch response and oddly inaccessible memory sectors. What this does mean for the average consumer is that there is definitely an ICS build coming to the Fire and it’s already pretty far down the pipe. While CyanogenMod 9 will surely support the device at some point, it’s nice to know that there will soon be options for those willing to take a couple risks.

Source: Liliputing

Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet patched, remove root access

In seemingly lockstep fashion, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have both released updates for their new budget-priced tablets this week. Both claim performance updates in some fashion, which have been observed thus far most in the Kindle Fire with faster UI and browser loading. The most notable change common to both of these updates is one that hasn’t really been touted to the public – revoking root access.

While root access may not mean much to the mainstream user of these devices, it might stem the tech savvy audience’s interest because lack of root means that apps like the Android Market can’t be installed. Furthermore, in the Nook Tablet’s case sideloading has also been disabled, meaning you have to be satisfied with B&N’s limited suite of apps or go home. Obviously, both companies clearly don’t want their devices to be known for cheap entry points to Android hacking, so they’re doing all they can to force users to be invested in their ecosystems.

In other news, Archos has recently announced an Android 3.2 tablet with similar specs to both tablets priced at $200, which might be a better option for those hoping for a “full” Android experience.

Source: TechCrunch, The Verge

Amazon boasts 4X year-over-year Black Friday Kindle sales

Amazon has always been coy about publishing sales numbers – their press releases often read to the effect of, “We’re doing great, are you surprised?” This latest one isn’t very different, though it does give a brief glimpse into the online retailer’s growing success. On the whole, Amazon has sold four times the number of Kindles as compared last Black Friday -

“Even before the busy holiday shopping weekend, we’d already sold millions of the new Kindle family and Kindle Fire was the bestselling product across all of Amazon.com. Black Friday was the best ever for the Kindle family – customers purchased 4X as many Kindle devices as they did last Black Friday – and last year was a great year,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle.

The success doesn’t stop there, as the press release also notes that the Kindle Fire was the bestselling product on Amazon for the past eight weeks since its release and the bestselling tablet at Target retail locations over Black Friday. While there are no concrete numbers listed here, it’s exceedingly clear that the expansion of the Kindle line including the Kindle Fire tablet has firmly leapfrogged Amazon back into a leading position in e-readers and one of growing influence in the tablet market.

Source: Amazon

Amazon updates Appstore, reveals Kindle Fire Newsstand lineup

In preparation for the impending launch of the Kindle Fire, Amazon has updated their Appstore application for Android to fit better with the gray aesthetic of the Fire. In addition, the 2.0 update allows for in-app purchases and better details the permissions required to install an app before downloading. Amazon clearly wants to bring their app market up to speed, as it’ll serve as a centerpiece to additional content on the Fire.

As for the Kindle Fire itself, Amazon has announced some of the participating publications in the Newsstand. The application will offer over 400 digital newspapers and magazines at launch, with some including embedded interactive content (video, audio, etc) that takes advantage of the touchscreen. The full list of offerings can be found here, along with a promotion that provides access to a 3-month trial of Conde Nast magazines for new Kindle Fire owners.

Source: PocketNow, GeekWire