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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Brought To the Kindle Fire

As many people expected, the Google Nexus 7 tablet is a product developed specifically to knock Amazon off of the top of the Android charts.  Hardware-wise, it is certainly more powerful.  Whether this is enough to actually sway users is still in question, however, since the popularity of the Kindle Fire has never been based on its performance alone.  The software is another story.

By releasing the Nexus 7 with the newest version of Android (4.1 Jelly Bean) Google packed in some major advantages that Amazon never even had the option of putting in the Kindle Fire in the first place.  It was a smart decision, given reviews, and things are looking up for Google at the moment.  Kindle Fire owners might still feel a bit left out, however.

That is where XDA comes in.  It is the good people over on the XDA Developers forums who we have to thank for any number of Android hacks, including the ability to gain root access on the Kindle Fire.  Their most recent Kindle-related development is a custom ROM for installing Jelly Bean on the Kindle Fire.

Now, Amazon has not exactly set any records for taking security on their device seriously.  The last time an update went so far as to disable the security hole by which people were rooting their tablets, another option was available immediately.  If I recall correctly, the new rooting method might have been released before the update was ever rolled out thanks to somebody getting their hands on it a couple days early.  As such, it seems unlikely that Amazon will be terribly worried about the impact of customer device customizations on their bottom line.

The existing Android 4.1 ROM for the Kindle Fire is still being worked on.  It is fairly simple to install using the instructions provided over at XDA, but not everything is enabled just yet.  There is a bit of a problem with the wifi connectivity, though that is more an inconvenience than anything and fixes can be found scattered around, and various minor complaints have come up with certain apps in cases where this ROM is installed on top of an existing custom ROM.

Should you decide that you want to try all the newest features from Google, look this option up.  Keep in mind, however, that doing so will void your warranty.  It is also possible that you can render your device unusable if you botch the installation.  These are standard cautions that anybody attempting this process should be aware of.

Amazon has done a great job with developing a fork of Android 2.3 specifically for the Kindle Fire.  Users seem to really like it and the integration with Amazon services is impressively smooth.  Chances are good that the new Kindle Fire 2 will ship with an even more advanced build that offers far more features.  None of that means that the desire to try the unlocked, open version of Android is unusual or problematic.  If you do it right, follow all the instructions, and exercise caution then a completely different experience is available to try.

Google Unveils Nexus 7 Anti-Kindle

Amazon made a pretty huge impression on the Android tablet market when they announced the Kindle Fire.  Competitors had to either drop their prices or drop out of the competition.  Barely functional budget tablets were rushed out to compete unsuccessfully against the biggest thing Android had seen.  Worst of all, Google was completely cut out of the fun by a carefully customized OS fork that locked Kindle Fire users into the Amazon ecosystem and out of Google’s Android Marketplace.

Rumors started to surface almost immediately that Google had a tablet of their own on the way that would blow the Kindle Fire away.  Unfortunately, the complications resulting from the need to keep the price at $199 or below meant that the project was delayed for a while.  Finally, after months of waiting and hearing leaked details about the worst kept secret in Google’s arsenal, we have the big reveal.

Here’s the break-down on the Nexus 7 as per Google’s I/O Conference reveal:

  • Android 4.1 – Jelly Bean
  • 7” 1280 x 800 HD Display
  • Backlit IPS Display
  • Scratch-resistant Corning Glass
  • 1.2MP front-facing Camera
  • Microphone
  • 8GB internal storage
  • 1GB RAM
  • Quad-core Tegra 3 processor
  • Up to 8 Hours of battery life
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • NFC (Android Beam)
  • GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • Magnetometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Weighs 340g
  • Measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm

Basically we’re looking at a tablet that is more than a match for the Kindle Fire in terms of hardware.  It is faster, has more memory, can do things like video chat, has an HD display, and so on.  For the same price as the Kindle Fire, you get a huge upgrade.  Not only that, it looks great too.  While the base model will have 8GB of storage and cost $199, there is even a 16GB edition available for $249. Amazon couldn’t have asked for a worse comparison, in other words.

Normally this would be where I once again talk about Amazon having the advantage thanks to their integration with their internal Appstore for Android and other assorted forms of digital media.  In this case, Google knows what they are doing and seems to have developed a similar level of access to their various media options through the Google Play store.  Not many companies could compete near Amazon’s level in this respect, but Google is definitely one of them.

The big hope that Amazon has to turn this around will obviously be the upcoming Kindle Fire 2.  This tablet, expected to be announced as early as the end of July, will bring additional power and improved resolution to the Fire.  We don’t know much more than that, but some people are even predicting similar camera and mic options.  The existing Kindle Fire will then supposedly drop to $149.  While it would remain less useful than the Nexus 7 in that case, reducing the price by another 25% would almost certainly be enough to keep things competitive.

For now, Google’s Nexus 7 is on top.  It will be shipping in 2-3 weeks, according to the preorder page, and at the moment comes with $25 in store credit on Google Play.  Whether it can gain enough of a following to offset the likely surge of interest in the new Kindle Fire 2 following only a month or so behind will be interesting to discover.

Google’s Kindle Fire Killer Now Looking More Expensive, Less Timely

Let’s face it, Amazon’s implementation of Android has to be a sore point for Google.  The most popular Android tablet ever, the Kindle Fire, is completely cut off from everything Google has developed to try to integrate and monetize the OS.  Is it any surprise that they would want to come out with something in the same size and price range that would blow the Kindle tablet option out of the water?  Unfortunately for them, this first attempt at entering the tablet market is going somewhat less smoothly than Amazon’s.

Sources originally reported that a 7” Google tablet costing as little as $150 would be available sometime this May.  Running Android 4.0 and powered by NVidea’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor, it was clearly an attempt to show off what a “pure” Android tablet was capable of in this price range.  Sadly, we now have news indicating that the design being collaborated on by Google and Asus is running $249 per unit.  The inability to keep costs down has brought along a delay until June and may force the elimination of some of the advantages the device was supposed to offer.

Prices on tablets are falling across the board.  The iPad remains prohibitively expensive for many, but with an option like the $199 Kindle Fire there is still hope.  Amazon did an impressive job of putting out dirt cheap hardware with the hope of making money on the resulting media sales and sales tracking indicates that they have been successful.  Anybody hoping to compete with Amazon in the 7” tablet market will have to at least match the price they are offering and even then bring something impressive to the table.

While the obvious way to bring down costs would be to step down from the expensive Tegra 3 processer, Google is apparently trying to avoid that.  This makes sense if they are trying to bring something out that really demonstrates the potential of the Android iteration (5.0 Jelly Bean) due out this June.  They have to be forward-thinking and prepare to compete against anticipated Windows 8 tablets as well as the Kindle Fire, so cutting corners on performance would not work well.

Does Google have a chance of beating out Amazon?  I would say no.  The strength of the Kindle Fire isn’t in its power or in its benchmark ratings.  Google Play is a step in the right direction, but aside from the App selection (which remains insufficiently moderated at the moment despite recent improvements and any other advantages it may offer) it can’t compare to what Amazon’s store integration brings to the table.

We can hope that this delay turns out to be more of a shift in focus than a fumbling attempt to get back on track with the original plan.  An Android 5.0 tablet meant to compete against Windows 8 tablets by offering a superior price and experience would make sense and do a lot to secure the future of the OS if implemented well.  An overpriced Kindle Fire competitor aimed at a noticeably different segment of the tablet customer pool than the Kindle would just be disappointing.