Amazon had a big day. The online retail giant has refreshed and expanded its line of Kindle devices, introducing a new E Ink reader and some game-changing new tablets. Here's a summary of how Amazon shook up the tech world today.
[More from Mashable: Kindle Paperwhite Has a Screen You Won’t Want to Put Down [HANDS-ON]]
What did Amazon reveal?
First up was a new E Ink reader, the Kindle Paperlight. This is a new touchscreen e-reader that blows the old black-and-white Kindles out of the water with its high-res screen and 25% better contrast. The new Kindle costs $119 and includes a built-in light for easy reading in the dark.
The tablets came next. Right away Amazon raised eyebrows by simultaneously dropping the price of its Kindle Fire while improving the hardware. The Kindle Fire is now just $159 and boasts increased RAM and battery life.
[More from Mashable: Amazon Kindle Fire HD Packs a Punch [HANDS-ON]]
Then Amazon switched to the main event: the Kindle Fire HD, a high-resolution tablet that comes in two sizes: 8.9 and 7 inches ($199 and $299, respectively). The large-size tablet has an impressive 1,920 x 1,200-pixel resolution while the smaller is 1,280 x 800. Amazon says its new tablets have faster wireless connections than any others thanks to dual-antenna dual-band Wi-Fi that supports MIMO (multiple input/multiple output).
Finally, Amazon had its big surprise waiting: a Kindle Fire HD tablet that packs a 4G LTE connection. Saying it was the one feature that could justify a price point of $499, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos went on to reveal that customers could get a year of LTE service for the device for just $50 (although the data is capped at 250 megabytes per month).
Why were these such a big deal?
Unlike many big gadget unveilings recently (looking at you, Microsoft), Amazon was more than happy to put front and center the spec that's most important to consumers: Price. Amazon's new low-price tablets and e-readers seriously challenge competitors like the Google Nexus 7 and Apple iPad.
Whereas Google improved upon the original Kindle Fire at the same $200 price point with the Nexus 7, Amazon had two countermoves in the revamped standard-def Kindle Fire for $159 and the $199 Kindle Fire HD. On the iPad front, the total cost between a 4G LTE iPad and a 4G LTE Kindle Fire HD is in the hundreds of dollars.
As Bezos said, Amazon is looking to make money off its services, not its hardware, revealing its secret to being able to price all its new toys so low. But it also has the effect of putting its competitors between a rock and a hard place in pricing their tablets -- especially since not many have the breadth of services (e.g. Prime Video, Appstore and Cloud Player) that Amazon offers.
Anything special about the new Kindles besides price?
Lots. The Paperlight Kindle has the highest-resolution E Ink display currently available, at 212 pixels per inch. It can also measure your reading speed and tell you how much time it'll take you to finish a book or chapter.
The Kindle Fire HD extends Amazon's "X-Ray" feature -- where you can find more information about subjects in your book -- to things like movies and textbooks. You can now also switch from reading to and audiobook (say, while you're jogging), and the Kindle will keep track of your place. There are also new parental controls, letting you do things like set time limits for certain apps, like video games.
A small aside: Amazon also said it would be re-issuing the novels of Charles Dickens -- in their original serial format -- as digital copies on Kindle. Called Kindle Serials, each installment will cost $1.99.
Sound I buy one of the new Kindles?
As Android tablets go, you could do a lot worse, and if you're already an Amazon Prime member it's really a no-brainer. However, there's one more player left to show its hand. Apple is widely believed to be on course to release a smaller-screen iPad this fall, at a lower price point. That will change the tablet market yet again since, as impressive as Amazon's new toys are, the iPad is far and away the most popular tablet.
1. Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Landscape
This story originally published on Mashable here.