Amazon Takes on Apple With New Larger, Cheaper Kindle Fires

Amazon’s larger Kindle Fire has finally been unveiled amid expectations of a smaller iPad from Apple.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Kindle Fire HD 7″ and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ (L) during Amazon’s Kindle Fire event in Santa Monica, California September 6, 2012. Photo: Amazon Inc.

Amazon.com Inc unveiled larger Kindle Fire tablets on Thursday, challenging Apple Inc’s dominant iPad with lower prices and a trove of digital content that Amazon hopes will win it a bigger share of the booming tablet market, reports Reuters.

The new Kindle Fire HD has an 8.9-inch 1920×1200, 254ppi display. It includes an HD front-facing camera and a laminated touch sensor for better visuals and 25-percent less glare.

The larger Fires HD will come with screens that measure 8.6 inches diagonally, compared with 9.7 inches for the iPad. The original Fire had 7-inch screens.

Theere are speculations that the mini iPad will have a 7.85-inch screen. Apple isn’t commenting, but it has an event scheduled next week, during which it is expected to at least announce a new iPhone.

According to The Verge, Amazon has dropped under the hood in a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 processor, which it says outperforms the Tegra 3. The Kindle Fire HD also includes stereo speakers, an upgrade over the Kindle Fire’s mono driver.

The basic, 7-inch Fire model will cost $159, down from $199 for the original model. It will start shipping next Friday. The cheapest iPad costs $399 and the most recent models start at $499, writes Fox News.

A 7-inch model will sell for $199 and ship next Friday. An 8.9-inch model will go for $299 and start shipping Nov. 20.

While Amazon is also offering a 4G LTE variation, the company has also improved Wi-Fi networking by adding a dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz receiver, two antennas, and its new MIMO radio technology. It’ll ship with 16GB of local storage, with additional storage available in the cloud.

“Their first Kindle Fire tablet was a device that said ‘See, we can tie all this together,” but it wasn’t a strong enough device,” Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey told Reuters.

“Now they’ve really come ready to show that their device line-up is going to be as good as their service line-up. They’re tying those two things together, and at a price that is very, very hard to compete with. It’s going to push everybody’s else’s price buttons — including Apple’s.”

Amazon also unveiled a premium Kindle Fire model, one with the ability to connect to the 4G cellular networks that phone companies are building. It will cost $499 and come with 32 gigabytes of memory and an 8.9-inch screen. A data plan will cost $50 a year.

Amazon’s expanding lineup intensifies a battle with Google Inc and Microsoft Corp, who this year entered their own competitors in the booming tablet arena.

“Amazon is able to sell these products at or close to cost, while Apple has 40 to 50 percent gross profit margins and has always been very cautious with their product margins,” said Scott Tilghman, an analyst at Caris & Company.

“As Amazon is able to upgrade their products and have competitive hardware it may become more worrisome for Apple,” he added.

Amazon has added a new and improved email client, which makes use of the larger, high-resolution display. Similarly, Facebook and Skype will be offering their own optimized apps for the new models.

Amazon also unveiled several new services to support the tablets, such as X-Ray for movies and Kindle FreeTime. X-Ray allows users to look up information on actors in scenes without leaving the flick.

FreeTime is a new parental control system that lets parents set limits on how their kids use the tablets. For instance, a 30-minute limit can be put on games, however, read time is unlimited.

In addition to new Kindles, Amazon refreshed its line of stand-alone e-readers. Called Paperwhite, the new e-reader model has a black-and-white screen. It promises 25 percent more contrast. CEO Jeff Bezos said, “the whites are whiter, and the blacks are blacker.”

The 3G wireless version that made digital readers mainstream will sell for $179 starting in October, in time for the crucial holiday season. A Wi-Fi-only version will go for $119, and the cheapest will carry a $69 price tag — undercutting the cheapest Barnes and Noble Nook.

The Paperwhite has a light source and is perfect in direct sunlight. Tablets such as the iPad and the Fire don’t work as well in bright light because they are lit from the back. Bezos added that the light on the Paperwhite is directed down at the display. The device promises eight weeks of battery life, even with the light on.

Amazon’s stock increased $4.93, or 2 percent, to $251.15 in afternoon trading Thursday.

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