Just like every other consumer electronic device, the Kindle Fire HD was expected to get a refresh at some point this year. It was just that nobody expected Amazon to suddenly unveil them without any word of warning.
Amazon suddenly announced three new Kindle Fire models yesterday evening - the new Kindle Fire HD, the Kindle Fire HDX and the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9". The first is just last year's Kindle Fire HD serving as a replacement for the entry level Kindle Fire, whereas the latter two is where the real magic is happening.
As the rumors suggested, the Kindle Fire HDX sports a much higher resolution than the previous generation. The Kindle Fire HDX sports a resolution of 1920x1200 whereas the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" sports a resolution of 2560x1600.
Besides the new resolutions, Amazon made sure that its tablets are packing best-in-class hardware. Both Kindle Fire HDX models sport a Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.2GHz and an Adreno 330 GPU. In other words, the Kindle Fire HDX will be one of most powerful tablets to be released this year.
Rounding up the hardware specs, both Kindle Fire HDX tablets sport dual stereo speakers, a front-facing HD camera, an 8MP rear-facing camera and 2GB of RAM.
The specs may be nice, but what about the software itself? Amazon say its latest tablets will be running Fire OS 3.0, or Mojito. It's based on Jelly Bean, but Amazon isn't saying which version. I'd put my money on Android 4.2, but a 4.3-based OS would be a nice surprise.
So, what does Fire OS 3.0 bring to the table? For starters, there's an improved interface that better integrates Amazon's digital storefront with the tablet. That means X-Ray is expanding to include music, alongside its previous support of movies and TV shows. Now you can use X-Ray to see the lyrics of any particular song.
X-Ray for movies and TV has been improved as well with X-Ray for music integration. Now you can see a list of songs that appear in any particular movie or episode of a TV show, and even jump to when that song is heard. Users can also be alerted to random trivia while watching a movie, or see detailed character backstories while watching a TV show.
Amazon is also jumping onto the second screen experience with a new feature that lets users move content from their tablet to the TV. It's very much like Google's own Chromecast in that the user just simply "flings" the content to the TV and it immediately starts playing there while the tablet becomes a remote control. The new feature will only support Samsung TVs and the PlayStation 3 at first, but it will launch on the PS4 later this year.
This is all well and good, but most of it is pretty much expected at this point. Does Amazon have any out of left field ideas to differentiate its tablets from the competition? It does, and it's called Mayday. Here's how Amazon describes it:
Having trouble or want to learn how to use a new feature? Simply tap the Mayday button in Quick Settings, and an Amazon expert will appear on your Fire HDX and can co-pilot you through any feature by drawing on your screen, walking you through how to do something yourself, or doing it for you—whatever works best. 15 seconds or less is the Mayday response time goal. Mayday is available 24x7, 365 days a year, and it’s free.
As you can probably guess, Mayday is a pretty big deal. Sure, other companies offer 24/7 tech support, but this is entirely new. Not only are you talking face-to-face with the tech support, but they can actually take control of your tablet to show you how something works. It's an incredibly helpful feature, and one that I see only Amazon being able to do.
If you find yourself suddenly interested in the new Kindle Fire HDX, you'll be able to pick up the 7-inch model on October 18 for $229 whereas the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" goes on sale November 7 for $379. There will also be 4G versions available at a later date for $100 more.[Image: Business Wire]