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Amazon has taken a thrashing in the smartphone market with its Fire Phone flagship flopping to be one of the tech disasters of recent years. However, the retail giant does have a history of making moderately successful hardware with its Kindle tablets, while the company's Kindle e-readers have proven the market leaders in that niche.
Trying to put the Fire Phone mess behind it, Amazon has introduced a refreshed Kindle range that includes a new Fire HDX, a new kids slate, a new Kindle e-reader, and even a couple of brand new Fire tablets. You can meet those products below:
While the Fire HD retains the name of its predecessor, it is an entirely new product range that includes the same tablet over two form factors. We are used to smartphone manufacturers pushing screen size to blur the lines between phone and tablet, the so-called phablet. What about a slate company doing the opposite, shrinking a tablet to smartphone size... a tablone? No, I thought not.
My dodgy naming aside, that is exactly what Amazon has done with the baby of the new Fire HD range, making it a 6-inch slate. To put that in perspective, there are phablet smartphones that have a bigger screen, while even the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is only 0.3 of an inch smaller. Of course, the Fire HD 6 does not have calling capabilities, but this looks and feels like a smartphone, although we are not sure which device this competes against. It's certainly not 8-inchers like the iPad Mini and it is not smartphones, so is this tablet currently in a market of one?
Joining the 6-inch version is a Fire HD with a 7-inch screen, a more acceptable tablet form factor even if more companies are turning to 8-inch. Both versions get the same specs, a 1280×800 display, MediaTek 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 8/16GB storage, 2-megapixel rear camera, and a battery that is good for 8 hours. Both models will ship in October and are available for pre-order today, with the 6 incher costing just $99 and the 7-inch variant $139.
Fire HD Kids Edition
Fire HD Kids
This entirely new addition to Amazon's product range is the first slate the company has made specifically for children. In terms of specs, this is the same deal as the Fire HD 6 and 7-inch devices listed above, and this too will be available in those form factors. What differentiates this slate from those is its child oriented design, features, and software.
Quite noticeably, there is a rubber protected layer encasing the tablet that is obviously in place for when your child inevitably drops the Fire HD on your floor. Interestingly, Amazon has not made the tablet waterproof, but the company is placing a 2-year guarantee on the device in case it breaks. Although, I would advise checking the T&C's to see just how robust that guarantee is, but Amazon is saying consumers can send the broken device back and they will replace it with a new one, no questions asked.
In terms of software, the company has added its FreeTime Unlimited service that offers child oriented apps, games, and TV shows, complete with full parental controls. Amazon has said there will be no ads on this version of the service, while the company is cutting down on in-app ads and in-app purchases for this tablet. Like the Fire HD's, the kiddie version will land in October and is available now for pre-order, costing $149 for the 6-inch version and $189 for the 7-inch variant.
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
Amazon has also revealed a 2014 update of its flagship tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, a device that arrived last year with an amazing screen and blistering performance. In terms of design nothing has changed, which means the HDX still has that rather uninspired bezel heavy look, but under the hood there have been some current gen improvements. For example, the processer has been boosted to the latest and greatest 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 chip from Qualcomm, a chipset that will at least keep the HDX on the curve in terms of performance. Amazon has also enhanced the sound quality by adding Dolby's new Atmos sound engine to the set up.
The company has also raised the curtain on a new Origami Cover and Bluetooth keyboard for the HDX, with the cover a lighter and thinner version of the folding case we saw last year. The company is talking up the Bluetooth keyboard by saying it is the lightest and thinnest currently available, but we?ll reserve judgment until we get it in hand.
The new Kindle Fire HDX ships in October, but as you probably guessed by now is available for pre-order today. The 3G version of the slate costs $379, but if you want LTE you will have to pay a premium, with that variant costing a whopping $479. That is iPad money folks. As for the Fire Keyboard, that will retail for $59.99, while the Origami Cover will cost $54.99.
Fire OS 4
As well as delivering a bunch of new hardware products, Amazon has also showed off the latest iteration of the software that they will all run, Fire OS 4. This is Android, but not as you know it, and not how Google would want you to know it either. Mountain View does not see Amazon's take on its platform as something they want to associate with, it?s forked Android in full action.
The old problems with forked Android still persist, such as a lack of Google services, and in some cases apps if you don?t know the long way around. That does not mean Fire OS 4 should be dismissed though; Amazon says it is now faster and easier to use, making it easier to access apps directly from an icon instead of hunting through a list. Amazon has also included profiles for the first time, allowing multiple users to have different presences on the same device.
As this is based off Android 4.4 KitKat, there are some of its parent build?s improvements, such as increased battery performance. Other new additions include Smart Suspend, a feature that toggles wireless networks on and off when the tablet is not in use. Amazon has also brought Firefly to the Kindle Fire HDX, the software that lets users search for things using the camera or sound before finding the product on Amazon's store.