Yesterday, Amazon announced four new Kindle devices, ranging from the $79 basic Kindle to the $199 tablet, Kindle Fire. Each of the four models is new and each has different features, making the decision about which to get deliciously difficult.
None of the new devices has a physical keyboard, but if you miss that feature, no worries. Amazon is still selling the current Kindles models, now called the Kindle Keyboard, at discounted prices:
- Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi $99
- Kindle Keyboard 3G $139
Here is a run-down of Kindle features:
All of the prices quoted are for Kindle devices with special offers except the Kindle Fire. Special offers means that ads appear as screen savers and at the bottom of the home screen. You can avoid these special offers if you are willing to spend $40 extra for your device.
With all the Kindle devices, you have access to Kindle ebooks, magazines, newspapers and Kindle Singles. You can also borrow books from your local library (see, Kindle Library Lending Has Arrived!).
Amazon has also introduced Xray to the Kindle ereaders, which provides additional information about the books you read by accessing Wikipedia through the Internet. This handy feature supplements the built-in dictionary as a handy reference tool.
Kindle ereaders have free connections to AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots.
This is the cheapest price for a Kindle ereader. The navigation is via a five-way control button at the bottom of the screen and four other buttons: Home, Keyboard, Library and Back buttons.
To enter text, you must use a virtual keyboard and toggle between the letters using the control button. If you take a lot of notes, do a lot of searches or otherwise use a Kindle keyboard frequently, this method of data entry will drive you nuts pretty quickly.
Kindle Touch/Kindle Touch 3G
The Kindle Touch has a multi-touch screen that allows you to navigate the device similar to using a smartphone or iPad. You just press the screen to make your selections and swipe to turn pages. With this model’s virtual keyboard, unlike the virtual keyboard on the $79 Kindle, you press the screen to type.
With the 3G option, you don’t need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to download books or access the limited web browser. The cost of the device is all that you pay. There is no monthly fee or contract and you can use the 3G service in over 100 countries at no charge. If being connected at all times is important to you, the extra $50 for 3G may be worthwhile.
The Kindle Fire is an Android tablet that many say is the best rival to the iPad. The Android operating system on the Fire is unique to Amazon and different from other Android tablets. The Fire knows which apps, books, music you access the most and puts them on your Main Shelf. You can put your favorite apps on the screen below the Main Shelf.
In addition to accessing your Kindle library, the Fire also has access to your Amazon MP3 music, Instant Videos, the Internet, apps, and email. You can download your Amazon music onto your Kindle to listen to it if you are going to be away from the Internet or you can keep your music, videos and apps in the Cloud to keep free space on your device. To use an app, you need to download it to your Fire.
To connect to the Internet, Kindle Fire uses a brand-spanking new browser called Amazon Silk. The browser is designed to run efficiently by using Amazon’s servers to store more information for you in the Cloud. Very little information resides on your Kindle Fire, making it very quick to load new websites onto your tablet.
Amazon has 10,000 Instant Videos available for free if you are a Prime Member ($79/year). You get one month free membership to Amazon Prime by purchasing a Kindle Fire.
Amazon’s Instant Video store, with tv shows and movies, now has Whispersync, so if you start watching a video on your Fire and pause it, you can start watching from where you left off.
What doesn’t the Fire have? A camera, 3G, a microphone, access to the Android market and a lot of space on the device (8 GB, but unlimited Amazon content can be stored in the Cloud for free). The screen is much smaller than other tablets, 7 inches versus 9.7 inches for the iPad. But for $199 (60% less than the cheapest iPad 2 price of $499), the Kindle Fire may have all the features you need.
To find out more about the Kindle Fire, check out this handy video from Amazon:
Which To Buy?
1. Kindle Ereader vs. Kindle Fire
Should you get a Kindle ereader or the Kindle Fire? That depends on your purpose for using the device. I read a great quote last week that compared the iPad to the Kindle ereader. The author said,
Comparing a Kindle and an iPad is like comparing a spoon to a Swiss Army knife. Yes, both enable someone to eat a bowl of soup, but the spoon is more or less limited to that role, while the Swiss Army knife might also include a corkscrew, can opener, wire strippers, scissors, tweezers, magnifying glass, and screwdriver. Trying to determine which one is “better” is entirely subjective, and ultimately futile. (See, Amazon Kindle Tablet: Android Tablet or eReader on Steroids? PC World)
If you need the device to perform a variety of tasks, consider the Fire. If you are going to use the device mainly to read, get the Kindle ereader with E Ink for less eye strain.
2. Which Kindle?
Your budget will probably play a major role in your decision to purchase a Kindle ereader device. I would stay away from the $79 Kindle. For $20 more you can get a touch screen or keyboard for much easier navigation.
Virtual or Physical Keyboard
You should consider whether you want a physical keyboard or a touch screen device. (See, Poll: Physical Or Virtual Keyboard?). If you want the convenience of a physical keyboard, choose the Kindle Keyboard model, even though it is an older model of the device.
The Kindle Keyboard devices have physical buttons to turn pages so if you like to hold and operate your device with one hand, you may not be a fan of the Kindle Touch ereaders.
The price is the same for the touch screen versus the keyboard, so the choice is purely preference of navigation method.
3G or Wi-Fi Only?
If you can afford the 3G, I highly recommend that you get a 3G Kindle so you can access the Internet from wherever you are, even in other countries.
3. Kindle Fire vs. iPad
Should you get a Kindle Fire or an iPad? The least expensive iPad 2 is 2 1/2 times as expensive as the Fire. But a gently used iPad 1 may not be much more expensive than a Kindle Fire. An iPad 1 has a much larger screen, much larger app catalog, twice the storage space, a camera and a microphone.
You can read your Kindle books on the iPad, but you can’t access Amazon Instant Videos. You can watch the videos from the iTunes store on an iPad, but not on the Kindle Fire.
The Fire is a quality tablet at a bargain price. If you are thinking of pre-ordering the Kindle Fire, I suggest you go to a store that carries the BlackBerry PlayBook, such as Staples or Best Buy. The PlayBook also has a 7 inch screen so you can see if you like that size for a tablet. Some of you might like the smaller screen size for convenience, others may like the look of a larger screen.
Compare the features listed above for the Kindle Fire. If you like the smaller screen, want to save on cost and won’t mind limited app availability and fewer features, the Fire would be a great choice for a tablet. If you have a bit more to spend and want a larger screen, a wider selection of apps, more storage space, a camera and a microphone, consider getting a gently used iPad 1.
Amazon introduced four impressive devices yesterday that may tempt anyone considering an ereader and/or a tablet. Compare the specifications, consider your needs and budget and then decide which, if any, of these devices is the best choice for your needs.
Are you tempted by any of the new Kindle devices? Are you leaning more towards a Kindle ereader or the Fire tablet? Which Kindle appeals to you the most? Do you think the Fire is an iPad killer? Let us know in the Comments section below!