Amazon revamps Kindle Fire, introduces new “Paperwhite”

Barnes and Noble’s new GlowLight Nook was setting the internet abuzz a few months ago, and Amazon has finally risen to the challenge and updated its selection of Kindle e-readers.

The new Kindle Fire HD. Photo from Amazon.com

Not only has Amazon introduced an illuminated reader – dubbed the “Paperwhite” – but the Internet behemoth has also thrown down the gauntlet in the tablet market, expanding its Kindle Fire family with several new options.

According to The Huffington Post, there are now four kinds of Kindle Fire available, including an updated version of the original with longer battery life, twice the original RAM, and a price of $159 – down from the original $199. Other options include a 7-inch Kindle Fire HD and an 8.9-inch Fire HD – both with 16 GB of storage space – and an 8.9-inch Fire HD with a whopping 32 GB storage and 4G LTE.  These devices are priced at $199, $299 and $499 respectively.

Perhaps a little forgotten during the Fire hype, the Paperwhite seems to be an integration of glowlight and touchscreen technology. It may be replacing the Kindle Touch, as Amazon lists the Touch as being out of stock for an indefinite period of time. The Paperwhite is supposed to offer 25% more contrast than Kindle’s current e-ink screens, and is available with WiFi for $119 or with both WiFi and 3G connectivity for $179.

New features in the Fire family include a parental control option called Kindle FreeTime – which allows parents to limit hours per day the device can be used, or limit the device to specific activities such as movie watching. There is also a front-facing camera and Bluetooth connectivity on the HD models.

Another selling point for the Kindle Fires is a flexible, affordable data plan. The 32GB model comes with a plan of 250MB a month, 20GB of cloud storage and a $10 credit in Amazon’s App store, all for $49.99 a year. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos emphasized the affordable pricing of this plan, saying that Amazon hopes to make money from Fire users purchasing content, and that, “If someone purchases hardware and never uses it, we don’t deserve to make money.” 

The Kindle Paperwhite. Photo from Amazon.com.

Much is being made of the Kindle Fire as an attempt to move in on the iPad’s turf. The tentative comparisons show that the Fire clearly excels in affordability, the iPad is still ahead in screen size and the content varies depending on the user’s needs. Apple offers a wide variety of Apps, while the Kindle shows a strong selection of books and movies.

One downside to the Kindle Fire is that, although the devices run a modified version of Google’s Android operating system, it will only run Apps from the Amazon App store. This reduces the number of available Apps, though there are still several thousand available. Regardless, it’s undeniable that with this latest move, Amazon has reaffirmed its reputation as an innovator, and has provided consumers with a myriad of options that were previously unavailable.