Here are the five tablets with the best chance of keeping the rumored iPad Mini from taking the 7-inch tablet crown.
The iPad Mini has yet to be officially announced, but it’s kind of the worst-kept secret in tech right now. There’s a very good chance it’ll be revealed later this month (although what its final name will be remains to be seen) and even if you’ve no plans to purchase it, you’ll likely want to know what it has to offer anyway.
The Mini is rumored to sport a 7.85-inch screen at a price of at least $299. But when and if it debuts, it will not enter a vacuous 7-inch tablet market. Its opponents will compete on price, ecosystem, performance, and features. Each offers something unique and Apple’s new tablet will have to be an amazing piece of kit to answer the challenge.
Without further lollygagging, let’s get to the list.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0
The most expensive tablet on the list also includes the most physical features. Given its IR blaster, dual cameras, and microSD expansion, $249 doesn’t look so bad. In performance it’s probably the weakest of the five, however.
Kindle Fire (2012)
The 2012 update to 2011’s Kindle Fire sports an identical design, but gets a few internal upgrades: twice the RAM, a faster processor, and an update to the latest version of the Kindle Fire OS. It may not seem like much compared with others on the list, until its $159 price smacks you across the face, waking you from your apathetic stupor.
Barnes & Noble Nook HD
It won’t be available until later this month, but I got some hands-on time with the new 7-inch Nook HD a few weeks back and was impressed by its redesigned interface, extremely light weight, microSD storage expansion, 1,140×900-pixel-resolution screen, and the inclusion of the fastest processor yet in a 7-inch tablet, the 1.3GHz OMAP 4470. At $199, the Nook HD will clearly make its case. Too small? The 9-inch Nook HD+ debuts at the same time for only $269.
Kindle Fire HD
If you’re an Amazon Prime member with a penchant for watching books, movies, TV shows, and music, the Fire HD should definitely be in your crosshairs. At only $199, the Fire HD sports an amazing-looking screen, a 720p front camera, Bluetooth, and the best speakers you’ve ever heard on any tablet. If you like what you hear, but still feel 7 inches is too small, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (in Wi-Fi and 4G LTE versions) launches on November 20.
Google Nexus 7
The current king of 7-inch tablets wins its crown by offering Tegra 3-induced performance, NFC communication, and the latest version of the Android OS, Jelly Bean. Not to mention its extremely comfortable design and $199 price. The iPad Mini will need to offer a very good features-to-price ratio if it hopes to become the best 7-inch tablet yet.
In a Santa Monica Airport hangar on Thursday, Amazon announced its latest round of Kindles and related services. Overall, they look pretty impressive.
After a big corporate self-hug as CEO Jeff Bezos took the stage, Amazon focused on three key items: new Kindle Readers, new Kindle Fires, and enhancements to the Amazon ecosystem tying them all together. (For more analysis on the new products and services, see What The New Kindle Means To Amazon.)
The New Kindle Fires
Amazon’s Kindle Fire line is getting a much-needed hardware boost designed to help it compete with Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and, to some degree, the iPad (more on that later). The entry-level, 7-inch Fire tablet is now priced at $159 (down from $199), with double the RAM and a claimed 40% speed boost.
But the real story is the Kindle Fire HD units.
The 7″ Kindle Fire HD is a massive upgrade for $40, and is aimed squarely at the Nexus 7. It comes with 16GB of storage (with an optional upgrade to 32GB), a 1280×800 HD screen, dual-antenna dual-band Wi-Fi, Dolby Digital Plus audio, front-facing camera, stereo speakers and a zippy TI OMAP4 4470 Processor. Amazon estimates the 7″ unit’s battery life at 11 hours. Pre-orders are available now, and the Kindle Fire HD 7 is due to ship on September 14.
But wait, there’s more. Amazon also debuted a larger 8.9″ version aimed squarely at the Apple iPad, with prices starting at just $299. This 8.8mm thick, 20 oz. unit sports a 254 pixels-per-inch display with 1920×1200 resolution. It’s battery life should be somewhere below that of the 7-inch model when it ships November 20.,
Then there’s the Kindle Fire 8.9″ HD 4G, starting at $499. This model boosts the default storage to 32GB and adds a custom 4G LTE modem. Even more intersting, thought, Amazon’s base 4G data plan offers 250MB/month for just $50 per year – plus a $10 app credit. Power users will want to upgrade to more expensive 3GB/month or 5GB/month plans from AT&T, but the base package might be enough to let you download books and surf the Web when you’re not near a Wi-Fi connection.
Bezos opened the event by saying that “people don’t want gadgets anymore. They want services.” And he explictly described the Kindle itself as a service.
There were also plenty of actual services announced, too, as Bezos tried to showcase an integrated Amazon ecosystem:
He showed Whispersync for Games, which saves game progress in the cloud so you can pick up your game on another device.
He demoed Whispersync for Voice, which lets you listen to an audiobook and then pick up where you left off in a regular e-book.
He showed X-Ray for video, which pulls content from IMDB and suggestions from the Amazon store when you pause a video on a Kindle Fire HD.
He got a round of applause from parents for Kindle FreeTime, which allows parents to set user-based time limits on different types of media (for example, unlimited reading, but only x hours of gaming).
No single service will be reason for most users to buy a Kindle, of course, so Bezos also pressed what he saw as Amazon’s most potent weapon in the tablet wars: content.
No vendor other than Apple can offer a closed-loop ecosystem with as much content as Amazon has. If Bezos can bring that content to bear in a complete, high-quality system at an atttractive price point, Google will have a lot to worry about… and Barnes & Noble should be very, very scared.
The Kindle Reader
The big news for e-readers was the Kindle Paperwhite, a new device with a higher-resolution, front-lit screen. Amazon has upped the pixel density to 212 pixels per inch, and text really does look crisper than it does on previous generation readers. As a result, the Paperwhite offers greater font flexibility, and in a moderately well-lit room, even the smallest font size in a number of different fonts was perfectly readable at arm’s length.
Unlike backlit screens, which project a light from toward the user, the Paperwhite’s front-lit screen mimics ambient lighting and creates 25% greater contrast than previous Kindle screens while using less battery power, the company said. Amazon claims eight weeks of usage with the light on between charges.
In theory, this should reduce eyestrain. Without time to test the unit under a variety of conditions, it’s impossible to confirm, but ad hoc tests of the demo system looked promising. There’s also a new feature called Time To Read, which estimates a running total of the time left in a chapter or book based on your reading habits, and X-Ray, a hyperlinked meta-glossary that allows readers to track characters, concepts and other information. For example, a user could jump from a passage to a character’s biography, then skip to each of her appearances in the book. This feature could be especially useful on textbooks.
The Wi-Fi Paperwhite starts at $119, and the 3G version will retail for $179. Amazon also announced a refresh to the previous-generation, $79 Reader, with upgraded fonts, faster page turns, and a $10 drop in price to $69.
It looks like Amazon will be revealing more than just a refreshed version of its Kindle Fire tablet next week. An updated Kindle Touch – or possibly a completely new e-reader – with a new kind of ‘Paperwhite’ display may also be on the way.
The rumors surrounding forthcoming Apple products somehow feel a little flat this time around; there’s a strong air of inevitability about what the Cupertino company will be unveiling next month. We kind of know an iPhone is about to be unveiled; we’re kind of certain an iPad Mini will be revealed.
So it actually makes a welcome change to see another company, Amazon in this case, at the center of a few rumors regarding upcoming products.
Pushing in ahead of Apple’s expected September 12 event, Amazon recently announced a press conference for September 6 in Santa Monica.
Besides the likely launch of a new Kindle Fire tablet, a rumor (a rumor!) has emerged relating to the possibility of new line of e-readers from the online retail giant.
The Verge got hold of some promotional images – though it makes no mention of how it came by them – of what it says appear to show a refreshed Kindle Touch e-reader. The button at the bottom of the device has been taken away, and the bezel has been noticeably darkened when compared with the current Touch model.
According to text accompanying the images, the device will come with “higher contrast, high resolution, integrated lighting, and eight weeks of battery life.” The integrated lighting would put the device up against Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, which made its debut in May.
The photos also reveal a new ‘Paperwhite’ feature, which suggest a different kind of display is on the way, replacing or improving upon the Pearl E Ink display used with Amazon’s current e-readers. Whether Paperwhite refers merely to the display, or will be the name of a new e-reader, isn’t altogether clear at this stage.
In other Kindle-related news, Amazon issued a statement on Thursday announcing that its Kindle Fire tablet had sold out. The company thanked “the millions of customers who have made Kindle Fire the most successful product launch in the history of Amazon.” Hang on a minute, there’s another strong air of inevitably wafting around here – that’s right, alongside any new e-readers, we can also expect to see the launch of Amazon’s next-generation Kindle Fire on September 6.
Amazon‘s stock climbed after the company sent out press invitations for a big announcement, setting a record high of $246.87 per share on Friday. The company is now trading at a valuation of $111 billion.
Amazon hasn’t yet hinted at what it plans to announce at its event on Sept. 6. Many expect the retail giant will unveil its next-generation Kindle Fire and E-Ink e-readers, but the fact that the event is being held in L.A. suggests the company may have more of an entertainment-related announcement up its sleeve.
Amazon also announced Friday morning that it had expanded its licensing agreement with NBCUniversal, bringing shows like Parks and Recreation, Battlestar Galactica, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights and Heroes to its online streaming video service. The service is available at no additional charge to customers of Amazon Prime, a $79-per-year subscription service that offers free, two-day shipping and access to an online lending library.
The locker appears to have been spotted in the wild.
According to Amazon, there are now boxes at selected locations in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Washington DC, and London. Amazon’s explanation of how the lockers work is below the picture.
Here’s Amazon’s Description:
Amazon Locker Delivery
Amazon Locker is a new and easy way to receive your Amazon packages. Amazon Lockers are self-service pick-up stations located in your neighborhood. When you ship Amazon orders to an Amazon Locker, you can pick up your packages at a time and place that’s convenient for you.
How Amazon Locker Works
Once your package is delivered to the Amazon Locker, you’ll receive an e-mail informing you that your package is available for pick-up. The e-mail will contain your unique pick-up code. At the location/address you will find a set of lockers, one of which will contain your package. Enter your pick-up code into the touch screen display and the locker with your package will open.
Your package will be available for pick-up for three days from the date of delivery. If your package is not picked up within the reservation window, it will be returned to Amazon for a full refund.
Finding an Amazon Locker Location
Amazon Lockers are currently located in the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, New York, the Washington, DC area, and London. If you live in San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, New York, or DC, you can search and select a locker location during the checkout process or in Your Account by following these steps below. If you don’t live in one of these cities the options below won’t display, you will need to search and add a location here.
To search for an Amazon Locker location during checkout:
- Place an eligible item in your shopping cart and click the Proceed to checkout button
- Search by zip code, address, or landmark when prompted to select an address
- Click the Ship to this address button next to the locker location of your choice
Add an Amazon Locker location through Your Account:
- Go to Manage Address Book in Your Account
- Click the Search for a Locker location button
- Search by zip code, address, or landmark when prompted to select an address
- Click Select to add the location to your Address Book
Note: Amazon Locker locations can’t be selected as a 1-Click default shipping address. To select a locker location, you’ll need to place your order through the shopping cart.
Eligible Items for Amazon Locker Delivery
Many items sold or fulfilled by Amazon.com can be delivered to an Amazon Locker as long as they’re light enough and small enough to fit into a locker.
During checkout, you’ll be able to proceed with your order if all items are eligible for delivery to the Amazon Locker. If certain items in your order are not eligible for delivery to the locker, you’ll be asked to change the delivery address or remove specific items from your order.
Selecting a Shipping Speed
Eligible shipping speeds will display based on the capacity of the Amazon Locker location you have selected. If a shipping speed does not display, the locker is scheduled to be full during that delivery period. If you need to get your package sooner, you may want to search for another locker location or select a different address from your address book.
Returning an Item Delivered to an Amazon Locker
Giving Feedback About Amazon Locker
If you have a question about Amazon Locker or need help with an order, please contact Customer Service.
Otherwise, we hope you enjoy using this service and we’d love to hear about your experience. You can submit feedback via the Amazon Locker Customer Survey.
Amazon has expanded its cloud offerings once again — this time offering to store a company’s data for the low price of 1 penny per gigabyte per month.
The new service is called Amazon Glacier and it’s intended for backup and archival data. The kind of data a company needs to keep but doesn’t have to access very often. This is stuff like e-mails, videos and other records that a company must hang on to for years to comply with various laws and regulations.
Enterprises typically pay quite a bit of money for off site archiving from companies like SunGard because they have to store an awful lot of data. Amazon thinks its new Glacier service will be “disruptive” to this, because there’s no upfront contract or fees, the company said when announcing the service. You pay only for what you use.
Although it’s a nice price, man enterprises will probably not move their data out of whatever service they use now to use Glacier. Archiving and storage is complicated business. It can be a real challenge to find one tidbit of needed information in a mountain of it if, say, a company gets sued or audited. So it’s not always just about finding the lowest-cost service.
But it makes a lot of sense for Web companies using other Amazon Web Services especially Amazon’s online storage cloud, S3. That’s because its easy to move data from S3 into Glacier, Amazon says. And in the next stage — coming in a couple of months — companies will be able to automatically move data from S3 to Glacier based on policies, says Amazon CTO Werner Vogels on his blog.
That’s the point of this dirt cheap service. To get more people on AWS, which Amazon makes money on.
The filing shows what appears to be a 10-inch tablet, which falls in line with rumors that Amazon has plans to launch a larger version of the Kindle Fire.
Amazon is also expected to update the 7-inch Kindle Fire with a better screen. It’s also likely its line of black and white e-readers will get an update.
Likely launched to allow Amazon to compete more effectively with Apple, the Seattle-based company has added a new matching feature to help users import music.
Announced by Amazon earlier today, the online retailer has rolled out a new update for the Cloud Player storage service that allows Amazon customers to store up to 250 songs for free. The update includes a new feature that scans folders containing music on your computer and automatically matches up that music to songs within Amazon’s catalog. It doesn’t matter if the music was ripped from a compact disc or purchased through another competing service. After matching up the music, customers will be able to access the music within Cloud Player. Similar to Apple’s iTunes Match, the music will be upgraded to 256 Kbps quality despite the original bit rate of each song.
This is ideal for anyone that has an older collection of 128 Kbps MP3 files and would like a higher quality version of their music without having to repurchase the media. In order to provide matching, Amazon had to sign new deals with the major record labels in addition to “150 independent distributors, aggregators and music publishers.”
In addition to the matching feature, Amazon has updated Cloud Player to include all music purchases made in the past on a specific Amazon account. Assuming that an Amazon user is without their main audio device, they will be able to access music from any Web browser as well as mobile devices like an iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android device or Kindle Fire tablet. Amazon is also planning on adding support for the Roku media streaming set-top box as well as the Sonos wireless music system.
If an Amazon user needs more space for a larger collection of music, Amazon also offers the Cloud Player Premium package that includes storage of 250,000 songs for a price of $24.99 per year. In addition, all songs purchased on Amazon don’t count towards the 250 or 250,000 limit. Beyond the Cloud Player features, Amazon is also splitting up Cloud Player from the Cloud Drive product. Any Amazon user can get 5GB of file storage for free with Cloud Drive, but can pay for premium plans up to $500 a year for 1TB of online data storage.
While most of the Amazon hardware rumors since the Kindle Fire launched have centered around a 10-inch version of the tablet, Bloomberg’s “people with knowledge of the matter” say a smartphone is in the works. The rumors center around a purported chase for wireless patents (presumably so Amazon can fight off the kinds of challenges currently faced by companies like Samsung and HTC) and partnership with Foxconn for manufacturing. There’s no details yet on what the device could be like or when it will arrive, but we’re not getting too excited right away — we’ve been down this road before with that Vizio Phone that never appeared. Amazon certainly has the infrastructure to enter the cellphone market with its appstore and media delivery services, but is anyone ready to jump into a two-year contract on a (presumably) reskinned-Android device?
It ought not surprise anyone that Google has entered the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) business. GigaOm’s Derrick Harris broke news of the plans in mid-May, but among knowledgeable cloud circles, it was a foregone conclusion that the search giant would enter into rentable infrastructure.
It was a natural move for Google to join the fray. HP entered the cloud game in April. Microsoft hit CTRL+ALT+DEL on its Platform as a Service (PaaS) in early June and brought it back as an IaaS. Google couldn’t afford to sit idle and hand over the future of an eleventy billion dollar industry to an online book store.
And Google needs new things to talk about. New tablets, new glasses, new media players, etc. “New” is the gas that keeps Google going, what gives it that sheen of innovation that makes it seem like more than an advertising company. More product launches mean more bonuses too, so it’s critical to keep putting products out the door. That’s the incentive plan that brought us Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google Answers and GoogleFlooFlaFlippidittyFloop.
But beyond something new and shiny for the tech press to cover, the move has left many scratching their heads.
Some have optimistically opined that Google will offer an alternative to Amazon’s EC2 and that this competition will be good for cloud consumers. Yet each new market entrant muddies the water with its own set of terms, descriptions, units, service level agreements, locations, variables and options. Cloud computing is becoming the anti-commodity commodity. Consumers are left with confusion, not choice.
Expect to see plenty of comparisons in the coming months from journalists, developers and IT admins trying to make sense of the competition. And intercompany sniping and one-upmanship goes oft reported but seldom understood. Consider Google’s opening salvo is a promise of 50 percent more compute power per dollar than its closest competitor — whatever that means. Analysts are still trying to untangle the various comparative flavors on offer.
If you think things are complicated now, it’s about to get a lot worse. It’s a safe bet that Google won’t be the last entrant into the cloud space. VMware, for example, seems a natural next. It had a very close relationship with Terremark that included a $20 million equity investment. I wonder where the guys who built the Terremark cloud are now.
And there are other companies, with tons of servers sitting around the world that could jump into the rentable infrastructure game at any time. Akamai jumps to mind. But some folks are even fingering Facebook for a cloud provider in the future.
Of course NIST and the IEEE are working through some of the confusing cloud issues, and probably will be working on them for some time into the distant future. But there’s little incentive for those involved to straighten out the consumer aspects of the equation or help take the spin off the massive marketing engines at the big companies.
In the meantime, cloud adopters are going to either struggle to make their own comparisons or rely on the reputations of the companies involved. The big winners here are not the buyers, but the marketing departments that are only going to see their importance and budgets swell as they wage a war of words to secure long-term and lucrative cloud customer contracts.