Amazon announces new US-only tablets including Kindle Fire HD, pushes pricing to its limits

Daniel Bader

September 6, 2012 3:15 pm

While the new Kindle Fires are not coming to Canada — at least no time soon, from what we can tell — Amazon’s announcements today will force tablet manufacturers to push prices lower and performance higher if they want to stay competitive.

In the low-end, the new Kindle Fire offers a dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage and a 7-inch 1024×600 screen for $159USD. That puts a ton of pressure on Google, whose recently-released Nexus 7 was until now the king of the size/performance/price compromise, as well as various Android tablet manufacturers such as Acer, Toshiba and Samsung. Who wants to spend over $249 on a 7-inch tablet when the base price of a Kindle Fire is almost $100 less? At the very least, the new Kindle Fire is good enough, and if you’re immersed in the Amazon ecosystem, which a lot of users are (even in Canada, though we’re limited to books), its unique services more than its moderately powerful hardware may be reason enough to invest. In other words, Android may be good, but Amazon is building services that people actually use.

More impressive is the Kindle Fire HD, an 8.9-inch 1920×1200 resolution tablet, for a pixel density of 254ppi. It has a dual-core TI OMAP 4470 processor with a blazing fast PowerVR SGX544 GPU, as well as 16GB internal storage. It has an IPS display, Dolby Digital-compatible stereo speakers and MIMO-compatible WiFi antennas. The cost is $299. Then there’s the 4G LTE version which, for $499, adds an extra 16GB of internal storage and the ability to subscribe to 250MB of service per month for $50/year.

It doesn’t matter what country you’re in — this is compelling business. Amazon’s content ecosystem, combined with a curated list of over 50,000 Android apps, is an incredible value proposition. Sure, us Canadians sometimes get left behind in the content game, but much of what is available on Amazon can be bought through Kobo, Google Play, 7Digital, iTunes, etc. But no company offers the hardware, the content, the cloud sync capabilities and the price. Apple comes close, but its 16GB 4G LTE iPad is $629USD.

Amazon also added some intriguing new features to its Kindle software. FreePlay allows parents to set limits on how long their kids can play games or watch movies, and the per-child profile system means that it can be passed around the family without conflict. Whispersync for games backs up your progress in titles such as Temple Run and Jetpack Joyride to the cloud so that if, for whatever reason, you replace your device down the road all your data is right there.

Other features, such as the ability to sync books with their audiobook counterparts, are just simple ways to enjoy content. But they’re new, innovative and value added. This is what is important here: Amazon sells content, not hardware. At $159/$199/$299/$499 for the Kindle Fire, Fire HD 7-inch, Fire HD 8.9-inch and Hire HD 4G LTE respectively, the company is undoudtedly losing prodigious amounts of money per unit. But each tablet sold brings another loyal Amazon user into the content ecosystem fold, and the more invested he or she is in that content (which cannot easily be extracted or transferred to another branded tablet) the more likely to stay.

Even though the Kindle Fires are not available in Canada, or outside the U.S. for that matter, this aggressive pricing will have a trickle-down effect in other parts of the world. Even hobbled by an inability to download movies/TV shows/magazines/games/apps the Kindle Fire HD at $299 is a great price for a good piece of hardware. Add to that a front-facing camera with dedicated Skype and Facebook apps, not to mention integration with IMDB, and you have a veritable entertainment suite.

Microsoft and Apple are expected to release tablets in the coming weeks and months — the former with its already-announced Surface slates and the latter with a rumoured iPad mini in October — but price is now a huge factor for both companies. In the end this will be good for consumers, as the entry point for a relatively high-end tablet just dropped below $200. If and when the Kindle Fire comes to Canada (come on, Amazon!) we’ll be ready to embrace it the same way as have our southern neighbours.

(image credit)

  • Jason

    want this, pretty close to the Ipad’s retina PPI… should look very nice

    • PlayBook99

      POOR RIM:
      Looks like they now EVEN MISSED the $99 boat with the Playbook now!

      Playbook at $99 or Kindle fire at $160??
      Think lentgh of life, upgradeability, support (XDA forums?) and re-selling value.

      The playbook will set up a record and raise (or lower the bar?) passing to the annals of history as the little tablet that couldn’t sell…for $99!
      RIMM stock at $6.7 wait for release dates of iphone 5, motorola and Nokia ( all this momth) and the stock will drop to high $5, wait for the Q report on Sept 27, when they will say how much cash left they have out of the $2B they had last Q and the stock will drop to low $5s…and still holidays to come and 5 months to go to the store and buy a box with a BB10 phone in it.

    • kris

      you mean Samsungs “retina” lcd

  • Lexcyn

    Pretty disapointed none of these are coming to Canada. I think Amazon must really have it out for us, after them releasing the App store in the EU before us.

  • ns.dev

    And big labels are confused as to why people torrent stuff.

  • aiden

    i love competition :)

    • daveloft

      I’m betting your thumbs down is from an Apple fan.

  • CALGARY IS RICH!!!!

    “”Who wants to spend over $249 on a 7-inch tablet when the base price of a Kindle Fire is almost $100 less?””

    Really?!!!! What a ridiculous statement!! Firstly, you are comparing a PURE GOOGLE experience device to something else. For $100 more, you get instant Android updates, quad core processor, higher res. screen, DOUBLE the storage (16GB vs 8GB), full Google Play access and so much more.

    Add to the fact that the Nexus 7 8GB is available for $199 in US retail stores.

  • jaxxy

    Just waiting for thé Surface to come out, possibly for 199

  • Hinds2009

    Couldn’t care less cause I got my nexus 7 with the content I want and pure android!

  • Really?

    “Who wants to spend over $249 on a 7-inch tablet when the base price of a Kindle Fire is almost $100 less?”

    What a ridiculous statement!

    Nexus 7 8GB is available in US retail stores, and it costs $199, only $40 more.

    For $40 more, you get PURE GOOGLE experience, full Google Play access, Quad core processor, instant Android updates, a higher resolution screen and front facing camera, same RAM and storage.

    Nexus 7 is still the best value.

  • vn33

    Curious to what 250Mb/month of content a annual subscriber get ? Multimedia (movies/music ?) books ?

    • Acco

      Anything. Whispersync of music, movies, books… or just browsing and streaming video.

  • jack

    ya but can it play halo?!?!?!?!?

  • Cole

    *sigh* No instant streaming, no amazon mp3, no Amazon app store (and you can’t use Google Play) and no Prime for Canada. What’s the point without it? All you have is a web browser. You could get that with an HP Touchpad.

  • Kevin

    I think I will stick with my Playbook.

    At least the marketplace is wide open and I have my Kindle. For $150 now with 16GB, its a bargain.

  • Patrick

    Useless.
    I’ll spend the extra $50 and get a vastly superior Nexus 7 with guaranteed updates and access to ACTUAL CONTENT.

  • AndrogynousAndroid

    proving once again that Android tablets will only sell when heavily subsidized. Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire: Public housing marketing.

    • Pat

      not necessarily. it could also mean that apple products can also be sold with higher markups.

  • Mike

    It’s not coming to Canada because Amazon.ca has zero content. All we get are the ebooks, no music, movies or TV shows on amazon.ca. So until that situation changes, no Kindle Fire in Canada.

  • Peter

    “It doesn’t matter what country you’re in — this is compelling business.”

    Well, we can’t get them in Canada, so it’s much less compelling than it would be. The original Fire was never available here, so it seems Amazon doesn’t care about this market.

    Hardly compelling.

  • Vengefulspirit99

    We’ll see how well this compares to the surface…

  • WTF fantards

    Race to the bottom.

  • Pauladin

    These days it’s all about the ecosystem and ease of payment on how to obtain available media. Until Amazon.ca is on par with Amazon.com these products are just a sad reminder of that.

  • Me Ted

    “Who wants to spend over $249 on a 7-inch tablet when the base price of a Kindle Fire is almost $100 less?”

    Anybody who wants a fully functional Android device running stock Jelly Bean, which is plenty.

  • Mike

    Thanks Amazon, I’ll take my business elsewhere for the next 5 years.

  • Jeff Mitchell

    Apple has the only viable ecosystem in Canada. Therefore, all products except Apple products are irrelevant.

  • Dave

    “Nexus 7 8GB is available in US retail stores, and it costs $199, only $40 more.

    For $40 more, you get PURE GOOGLE experience, full Google Play access, Quad core processor, instant Android updates, a higher resolution screen and front facing camera, same RAM and storage.
    Nexus 7 is still the best value.”

    Kindle Fire – Total failure, shall I said more!

  • tj

    PB needs to be st 99.99 after this , and I will get one :) . Come on RIM do it , make all 3 versions 16 , 32 and 64 GB at 99.99 and blow them out !

    Also blow out all existing BB handsets , that’s your only chance.

    Then focus on the BB 10 for next year.

    But 2012 should be about you getting rid of your non BB10 play books and black berry handsets :)

  • S. Morris Rose

    The $200US 8GB version of the Nexus 7 has a (front-facing) camera and a GPS unit, both of which the $160US Kindle Fire lack. It also has a 1280x800px screen, compared to the 1280×600 screen on the Kindle Fire. Not mentioning these differences and making the price comparison with a 16GB Nexus 7 adds up to an article that… isn’t as helpful to readers as it could be.