Amazon rekindles 2 Fire tablets with a price cut and design improvements

Amazon this morning released a thinner and lighter Fire 7 tablet for the same $50 price and trimmed $10 from the price of the Fire HD 8, now selling for $80 with a slight change in dimensions. Both of the new tablets are available for pre-order today shipping June 7, along with Kids Edition packages that include them.

Today’s updated Fire tablets offer incremental improvements as opposed to Stop the Presses innovation, like the Echo Look and Show.

You might not notice the difference in weight, but the new Fire 7 is 18 grams lighter than the previous generation, called simply the Fire. That’s a 5.7 percent decrease in weight, folks, which is nothing to write home about–or sneeze at. The Fire 7 is also one millimeter thinner–9.6 mm compared with 10.6. That’s almost a 10-percent trimming, so we might actually notice it in the hands.

The big news about the next generation of the Fire HD 8 is its price–$80 instead of $90 for the previous model.

We will now be at Generation 7 for the HD 8, if I’ve kept track correctly.

Gen 7 will apparently fix one problem that I’ve complained about on the Generation 6 model but not the problem that bugs me the most. There will be support on the new Fire HD 8 for what’s being called Trace text entry. I’ve thought of it as Swype, but that might be the name of a similar app on the iPhone. The idea is that you can tap on individual letters to enter text on the Fire HD 8, or you can slide your finger or stylus over the keyboard in a continuous motion to enter a word. The Generation 5 HD 8 had that feature, but it weirdly was dropped in the update to Generation 6.

Alas, Gen 7 will “not at this time” support text entry by voice, according to an Amazon spokesman’s answer to my question. You will have to go back to Generation 5 for that feature.

While the Fire 7 sports a thinner, lighter body, the HD 8 moves a tiny bit in the other direction. Its width is 9.7 millimeters compared with 9.2 for the previous model. I guarantee we won’t be able to tell the difference by holding them side by side, but it will mean you won’t be able to use a Generation 6 cover for a Generation 7 Fire HD 8.

The new Fire HD 8 is also 28 grams heavier than the Generation 6 model–369 grams compared with 341, an increase of 8 percent. I’m not sure what operating benefits go with the increase in weight and thickness, if any. Perhaps that’s what was necessary in order to drop the price by $10.

There is a new color available for both new Fires–Canary Yellow. It looks sharp, and that’s what I will order for my new HD 8. I will also order a Fire 7, so I can give you my impressions of it. The Fire 7 has “an improved 7-inch IPS display,” according to Amazon’s press release, along with higher contrast and sharper text. It also has an hour more of battery life–8 hours compared with 7 for the previous model.

It’s fun when Amazon disrupts the world with an entirely new product like the Kindle or Echo. But I also love how steadily the Lab126 team toils on small, meaningful improvements for well-established products like the Fire tablet and E Ink Kindles. This falls under the “commitment to operational excellence” principle that Amazon champions, and also maybe “passion for innovation,” even in small things. It all matters.





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Comments 2

  1. Dan wrote:

    I love the idea of a $50 tablet. But stereo speakers and better display…..hmmm decisions like these are difficult! I had the original fire tablet in 2011 but returned it. I think I’d like to give one a try though.

    Posted 20 May 2017 at 2:05 pm
  2. Len Edgerly wrote:

    I hear you, Dan. I love how aggressive Amazon is on prices but I sometimes yearn for a fancier 8-inch tablet, a Fire version of the Oasis. It would still be cheaper than an iPad, I’m sure.

    Posted 20 May 2017 at 2:31 pm

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