Hey! The new Kindles came out! So many options! And they’re all way cheaper than I thought they would be! And after seeing them and reading about them, I like them way more than I thought I would! WOW!
…So after that excited introduction, the back story is that since they both were first invented, I have been a hard core naysayer of both e-readers and tablets. I’ve been slowly coming around to the concept of e-readers; but I’ve maintained that they’re still not at a cost-effective price point. As for tablets, I saw the iPad as an expensive toy, nothing more; something to be played with and discarded. So with that as a background, why would I get excited about new e-reader and tablet offerings from Amazon? In short, I think that the new Amazon products finally hit the sweet spot of price, design, and features balance.
So, if you haven’t heard the news, Gizmodo has a great round-up of all of the new options here: “Which Kindle Should You Buy?”
To summarize, Amazon just announced a bevy of new e-reader options, the flagship of which is the Kindle Fire, a bona-fide 7″ Android 2.3 tablet — for a mere $200. That’s right, a dual-processor, 8gb, Amazon-backed, super-sleek custom-skinned, Android tablet – for nearly a third the cost of an iPad. In addition, there are three new base e-ink e-readers, each with their own combination of connectivity and special offer options – for a total of 10 e-ink combinations, starting at an astounding $79, brand-new-in-box (no refurb or scratch-and-dent deal here).
I actually like the look of both the base Kindle (new cheap version) and the Kindle Keyboard (old Kindle); both are well-designed, with sleek, modern edges and good proportions. However, of the e-readers, I concur with the Gizmodo author, and would go for the Kindle Touch – same (with offers) price as the Kindle Keyboard, but more features (notably X-Ray). My e-reader would go in a case anyway, so the minor differences in relative size of the e-ink devices don’t concern me. I do wonder about the difference in real-world battery life of the touch version vs the non-touch, given the different technologies; and I’m torn about the “Special Offers” versions. $40 doesn’t seem like much of a difference to me, amortized over the several years that one would own and use the device; and even with weeks of battery life, the extra activity of downloading ads must take at least some more power. Then of course, my initial reaction to ads is “ugh,” as I already get bombarded with ads on my phone and online and on my TV and Roku and when I’m driving on the freeway or shopping in a store or listening to the radio… But of course, the psychological impact of a $99 price-point for an e-reader is huge, definitely within impulse-buy territory. And then again, the reviews do say that the ads are basically no more intrusive than a screensaver.
But how about that $200 Kindle Fire? Wow! What a piece of hardware! What smooth software! What an excellent deal! I wouldn’t have been surprised if Amazon had released the exact same product at twice the price. It’s not quite full unlocked Android out of the box, but like the review says, I may not care; and if I did, I’m sure it’ll be hacked and instructions for rooting put online in the first few days. Although right out of the box, you are getting full integration with the combined Amazon and Google cloud, something both companies excel at while Apple is still dragging behind on.
There is still one lingering question, and that is the rumor that Amazon has a true, head-on iPad killer waiting in the van — that this iteration of the Kindle Fire is only the warm-up round, to get us ready for the real, 10″, camera-toting, memory-packing, sexiness that is Amazon’s take on an Android iPad-killer tablet. Well, for that, we’ll just have to wait and see. Luckily we have an incredible deal to live with until then!
Seriously! The really crazy thing is, you could easily buy *both* a Kindle Fire and an e-ink Kindle for about half the price of an Apple iPad. Two great, purpose-built techno-tools for half the price of one over-hyped toy – how about that! But whichever side you’re on, in the end, finally some good competition with the iPad, on whatever terms, can mean only one thing – and that’s more options and a win for the consumer.