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September 25, 2013 • News

Three New Kindle Fire Models Launched, Highlight Differences Between Amazon and Apple

Kindle Fire HDX

Kindle Fire HDX

Overnight, we got word from Amazon that they were releasing a new line-up of Kindle Fire models. The current 7″ HD becomes the low-end, and they fill out the high-end with new quad-core based 7″ and 8.9″ HDX models. This is huge news in terms of features and pricing, but also a clear distinction between Amazon and Apple.

The two Kindle Fire HDX models are packed with loads of updates including new productivity apps for email and calendar, new X-Ray for Music, and ‘Second Screen’ which let’s you send contents to a smart TV or Playstation 3/4. You will also be able to do off-line streaming of (some) Amazon Prime videos.

Let’s look at the new models:

Kindle Fire HD 7″

The base Kindle Fire HD 7″ tablet starts at $139 for the 8GB model (16GB is $169). For that price you get quite a bit – there is a new case that is slightly smaller and 2.5oz lighter than last year’s Fire HD, you get a new processor and graphics core that Amazon claims is 60% faster, and you get improved battery life of up to 10 hours of ‘mixed use’. You also get the latest ‘Mojito’ Kindle Fire OS with all new features. The 1280 x 800 HD screen remains the same, but the HD loses the front-facing camera.

You can pre-order the Kindle Fire HD here, and it is scheduled to ship October 2nd.

Kindle Fire HDX 7″

The Kindle Fire HDX 7″ replaces the HD as the ‘mainstream’ Fire. While size-wise it is smaller than the HD, technically it is worlds ahead. The new HDX is 1.5oz lighter than the HD (and 4oz lighter than last year’s HD), and they also shaved off 1.5mm of thickness. Yet there is a better front-facing camera, improved button placement and access, thinner bezel, and a better overall feel.

Inside the case is where things really shine. The screen is a 1900 x 1200 (323 ppi) super-HD screen with 100% accurate color. The system uses a 2.2GHz quad-core processor they claim is the fastest ever in a 7″ tablet. A new WiFi antenna speeds up downloads. Battery life claim is 11 hours ‘mixed use’ and up to 17 hours of reading.

Pricing is also pretty cool – $229 for the 16GB WiFi version, increasing to $269 for 32GB and $309 for 64GB. Add $100 for the 4G/LTE version and another $15 if you want to lose the ‘special offers’.

You can pre-order the 7″ Kindle Fire HDX here, and it is scheduled to ship October 18th. LTE versions ship November 14th.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″

The 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX is essentially an upscaled version of the 7″, with the same processor and internal hardware. It has a 2560 x 1600 (339 ppi) screen, 12 hours mixed use battery life, and adds an 8MP rear camera – a first for Amazon.

Pricing starts at $379 for the 16GB WiFi version, increasing to $429 for 32GB and $479 for 64GB. Add $100 for the 4G/LTE version and another $15 if you want to lose the ‘special offers’.

You can pre-order the 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX here, and it is scheduled to ship November 7th. LTE versions ship December 10th.

The Difference Between Amazon and Apple

As I read about all of the new features in these new models and the pricing structure, I couldn’t help but think back two weeks to Apple’s iPhone 5c/5s event – and the anticipated iPad event most expect will happen in October.

First, I would argue that Amazon announced more stuff last night than Apple did, but without needing a 1.5 hour press conference full of hype and fanfare. Also, while the new HDX units are pretty much what the leaks said they would be … no one really cares. The thought was ‘if they actually manage all that stuff into the new Fires at that price point … it will be amazing’. Well, they did … and it is.

But the biggest thing that gets me is the price. Not the base price – the $329 iPad Mini compared to $229 Fire HDX is not a huge difference, as both offer loads of features and I consider each a great value for the price. And we know Apple demands margin with their tablets whereas Amazon doesn’t.

But the ‘Apple Tax’ really adds up when you go from the base to the top end model. For comparison, Apple charges $659 for the 64GB LTE iPad Mini – $100 for each memory bump and $130 for the LTE antenna.

By contrast, the 64GB LTE Kindle Fire HDX costs $409. That is right – what started as a $100 difference ends up at $250! Amazon charges $40 for each memory bump and $100 for the LTE. At that point the difference is insulting to customers, and the breakdown of unit sales shows that customers are noticing and Apple leaves money on the table with the exorbitant upsell fee.

But the HDX makes one thing clear – the iPad Mini 2 Apple releases next month NEEDS to be ‘Retina’. It doesn’t matter what form that takes – it could be the 2048 x 1536 of the current 9.7″ iPad, or something else entirely. I have been a strong supporter of the iPad Mini as being the ‘small tablet done right’ … but it was 1.5 year old tech LAST year! Now the new Kindle Fire HDX is nearly as thin and light and offers much more ‘bang for the buck’.

What are your thoughts? Are you grabbing one of these beasts … and if so, which one?

6 Responses to " Three New Kindle Fire Models Launched, Highlight Differences Between Amazon and Apple "

  1. gorkon says:

    So the debate….

    Do you order one? :-)

    The HDX sounds great. An awful lot like my Nexus 7.

    • Of course :) The 32GB 7″ Fire HDX WiFi. Coming on October 18th.

      The difference between the Nexus and HDX is largely aspect ratio – the Nexus remains tall and narrow, the HDX is closer to the iPad. It will be interesting to see how the processor difference plays out.

  2. Eva Kiser says:

    Another difference between Amazon and Apple is that Apple does not leave the previous model owners out of the OS upgrade. I have a current Kindle Fire HD. Amazon is releasing a new Kindle Fire HD with the same hardware specs. According to Amazon customer service, the previous generation Kindle Fire HD will not be updated to the new Fire 3.0 OS. I have been very pleased with my Kindle. I bought the 2nd generation Kindle Fire first and upgraded because I wanted more of the functionality of the HD. I have had this for maybe 4 months. If I want the new OS, I will have to upgrade to one of the newest Kindles. Even though I like the form-factor,size, and reading centric OS of the 7 inch Kindle, it will be the last Kindle I purchase. This is acceptable to me.

    From Amazon Customer Service:

    I’ve reviewed your email and understand that you’d like to upgrade your kindle fire HD device to the Fire 3.0 OS (Mojito) operating system.

    Please be informed that at this time, Fire OS 3.0 is available exclusively on the new Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and 8.9-inch models. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to upgrade your kindle fire HD device to the Fire 3.0 OS (Mojito) operating system. I’m sorry for the disappointment caused in this regard.

    • The way I look at it, this is the price we pay for getting something ‘at cost’. I have a Fire HD as well, and as of now Amazon has no plans for the update as you note. But we paid $130 less than an iPad Mini for it, and perhaps losing perpetual free updates is part of that cost.

      There is also the part where many Android devices never see an update.

      Or … maybe Amazon wants to maximize new device sales and we’ll get the update after the new year.

      Not sure … Love the Fire HD and am sure I’ll love the HDX :)

      • Eva Kiser says:

        Good point! However, I don’t have an unlimited budget for tech. It will be awhile before I purchase a new tablet and more than likely it will be an ipad mini. My dream setup would be an ipad mini and a Kindle Paperwhite since e-ink is better for reading. I might not even want the Kindle Paperwhite if the eventual retina display on the ipad mini happens.

        I am overall pleased with my Kindle and the only upgrade I was really looking for was the ability to place my books in Collections (like I used to do on my Nook).

        It is also my understanding with the upgrade, you lose HDMI out. I like being able to hook my Kindle Fire up to any HDMI TV. This is really handy when traveling. I know they will have the wireless option but it looks like it will be limited to a small subset of devices.

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