Amazon has unveiled a great new subscription service for kids and parents alike known as Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. The service, which builds on top of the existing Kindle FreeTime feature found on the company’s latest devices, is designed to provide children with an unlimited all-they-can-eat selection of age-appropriate movies, books, and games while giving parents peace of mind.
To facilitate this goal, the Seattle-based online retailer partnered with the biggest names in children’s media, including Andrews McMeel Publishing, Chronicle Books, DC Comics, Disney, HIT Entertainment, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Marvel, Nickelodeon, PBS, Reading Rainbow, Sesame Workshop and more. This means kids will have access to top brands like Sesame Street, Barney, Dora the Explorer, Scooby-Doo, Sponge Bob, and Cailou, as well as games like Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja Puss N’ Boots, and Where’s My Water? And that’s just a small slice of what’s available.
Amazon announced a bevy of new devices at its press conference this morning, including two new Kindle Fire tablets, an updated Kindle Fire, and a traditional Kindle with new Paperwhite technology.
The Kindle Fire HD is the successor to Amazon’s incredibly successful Kindle Fire tablet. The Fire HD features a much larger 8.9-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS display with 254ppi. The 8.8mm thick 20 ounce device is powered by a 1.8GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 processor, 1GB of RAM, an HD front-facing camera, dual stereo speakers, HDMI out, and Bluetooth. It’ll come in a variety of models, including WiFi only (in either the 16GB or 32GB variety) and WiFi plus 4G LTE (with either 32GB or 64GB). The former model will start at $299, while the latter starts at $499 and is obviously designed to take on more high-end tablets. The Fire HD’s 4G LTE won’t be free, but Amazon has managed to make it cheap enough that it is hardly an issue: $50 a year for 250MB per month.
Amazon has announced that the Kindle Fire, its bestselling Android tablet, has gone out of stock ahead of the expected unveiling of the company’s 2012 hardware lineup next week. The Kindle Touch model is unavailable as well. Amazon, of course, is keeping quiet on the subject of next-generation hardware, instead choosing to highlight the Kindle Fire’s massive success in the marketplace, where it has managed to grab 22% of all tablet sales in the US.
We don’t know exactly what Amazon has in store for next week, but it’s certain to include a new lineup of Kindles, including 7- and 10-inch models for the Kindle Fire. The new Kindle e-readers are rumored to feature a new Paperwhite display and a number of images of the new Kindle Fire have hit the internet, sporting a significantly updated interface, a front-facing camera and Nokia Maps technology.
What do you want to see Amazon unveil next week in Las Angeles?
With the recent launch of Google’s Nexus 7, everyone is wondering what Amazon has in store for the next iteration of its Kindle tablet. The Kindle Fire currently holds more than half of the Android tablet market, thanks to its low cost and deep integration with the online retailer’s web services. If the president of Staples is to be believed, Amazon might be going for more of a shotgun approach this fall, introducing a handful of new tablets.
Staples’ President of US Retail, Demos Parneros, claims that Amazon plans to sell “up to five or six” tablets in a wide range of sizes, including the oft-rumored 10-inch form factor. That’s a large number of devices for Amazon, which has historically only introduced a few new models every year. But with the success of the Kindle Fire, it might be interested in casting as wide of a net as possible to insure that it can meet the interests of all of its customers.
Amazon’s R&D department, Lab126, has nearly – but not quite – doubled over the last year, bringing on more than 365 new employees. The company is also rumored to be working on a smartphone.
Amazon may have its sights set on an Xbox LIVE-like gaming experience for apps on the Kindle Fire, according to a report in Bloomberg. The online retailing giant supposedly plans to announce new social gaming features for Kindle Fire apps sold through the Amazon Appstore for Android. The official announcement of this feature might be just around the corner, with development tools set for release by the end of July, enabling developers to track high scores (e.g. leaderboards) and monitor awards (e.g. achievements).
Apple’s iOS and OS X platforms already include similar features in the Games Center, but when you think of social gaming services, Xbox LIVE always comes to mind. Microsoft pioneered the technology with Xbox, inventing achievements and creating what is, to this day, still an unparalleled service. Xbox LIVE functionality currently exists on Windows Phone and Windows 8, with integration set to improve even further this fall.
The question is whether Amazon’s own gaming service will be enough of a “killer feature” to give it an edge in the tablet market. Google is now taking the Kindle Fire head-on with its Nexus 7 tablet, while Microsoft Surface aims to compete in the high-end market against the iPad. One has to wonder whether Amazon will make its service exclusive to the Kindle Fire, or available on all games purchased through the Amazon Appstore for Android.
Apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus have great content libraries, but they don’t have everything. Occasionally, you have to go to station-specific apps in order to get all of your content, and no app in this category is more popular than HBO GO. The app is already available on a wide range of devices from Xbox 360 to Roku, iOS, and Android phones. Android tablets, however, were conspicuously left out–until now.
Well, sort of. At this point, HBO GO is only available on Amazon’s Kindle Fire, a heavily-modified Android tablet. But with the Kindle Fire holding approximately 50% of the Android tablet market, the app is now available for a large number of people.
A premium service available only with an HBO subscription through your TV provider, HBO GO includes more than 1,400 episodes to choose from. Not everyone is into HBO’s shows, but if you enjoy them and you’ve got an HBO subscription, you’ll want to download the app from the Amazon Appstore for Android.
Amazon is preparing to release a front-lit Kindle e-reader in July, according to one of Reuters’ unnamed but supposedly well-informed sources. The black and white E Ink device is expected to include a front-lit screen–rather than a back-lit one–to help readers eliminate the need for a separate light source.
While there are concerns that the inclusion of a light in Kindle devices will shorten the battery life, many people consider it to be a much-needed feature. Competitor Barnes & Noble already offers the NOOK reader with a built-in light, and a color screen to boot. Don’t get too excited, though. Amazon is unlikely to offer a Kindle with a color E Ink screen this year, said Reuters’ source. Of course, the online retailer giant already offers the Kindle Fire tablet with a color screen (sans E Ink), and the Fire’s successor is expected to arrive this fall in an 8.9-inch form factor.
Expect the front-lit version of the Kindle, when it arrives in July, to cost more than current Kindles, but NPD Group’s Jennifer Colegrave believes it could retail for as little as a $10 premium. This correlates with what the source was able to provide.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire has received yet another update, adding support for a few new features and highlighting existing ones. Unfortunately, the update isn’t all that exciting, unless you enjoy locking down various aspects of the Fire’s heavily customized Android OS.
With the Kindle Fire Software Update v6.3.1, you’ll find a new parental controls option in the settings. Enabling said feature and entering a pass code allows you to disable the silk web browser, require a password before purchasing content or playing a video, or password protect access to the WiFi. Interestingly, it also allows you to completely disable content libraries like the newsstand, books, music, video, docs, and apps. Disabling a content library will gray out its name in the UI and, as you might expect, completely block access to it.
There’s a very good chance that Amazon has already updated your Kindle to v6.3.1. If not, the update can be initiated by hitting the sync button–which will apply the update the next time the device goes to sleep–or by manually downloading and installing it from Amazon’s website.
We’ve writtenabout the success of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet on multiple occasions. The device is relatively low-powered for an Android-based tablet, but the combination of its low price and the high-profile Amazon and Kindle brand names seems to have made it a rousing success. Last we heard, the heavily modified Android tablet held approximately 40% of the Android tablet market. Fast forward to today–two-and-a-half months later–and a comScore report estimating 54.4% Android tablet market share.
To be fair, comScore’s data is based on web browsing statistics, rather than hard sales figures. But it does give us a good idea of which tablets are being used the most. The second most popular tablet for web browsing, after the Kindle Fire at 54.4%, is Samsung’s Galaxy Tab family at just 15.4%. The rest of the competition fares even worse, with less than 7% usage. Ouch. Google can’t be too happy about these figures either. The search giant makes most of its revenue off of advertising, but Amazon has modified Google’s open-source OS so much that it’s almost completely cut off from Google’s services. As a result, much of the profit Google would have made goes straight into Amazon’s coffers.
Regardless, it’s good to see at least one tablet attempt to take on the iPad, even if its overall sales still pale in comparison. It will be interesting to see how Windows 8 fares when tablets begin running it this fall.
Amazon’s latest Gold Box Deal of the Day is none other than the Kindle Fire, the company’s first full-color tablet running a heavily modified version of Android. The device typically retails for $199, but today’s deal drops the price of refurbished models from $169 to $139, 40% off the cost of a normal Kindle Fire.
The 7-inch tablet’s biggest selling point is its deep integration with Amazon’s web services like the Amazon Appstore for Android, Amazon Prime, Amazon Cloud Drive, Audible, and, of course, Kindle. When it comes to Android tablets, it’s one of the best on the market.
The Amazon has certified the refurbished Kindle Fire, guaranteeing a good experience with the device. In addition to looking and working as if it were brand new, the Certified Refurbished Kindle Fire comes with a one-year warranty. It’s a fantastic deal, but those interested will have to act fast. There’s only 17 hours left as of this writing, but it could end sooner if Amazon runs out of stock.