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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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Kindle Fire HD Software Improvements

The most obvious improvements coming in with the Kindle Fire HD are in the hardware.  It’s hard to get more attention-catching than the increased screen size provided by the 8.9” model.  Most of the really interesting stuff seems to be coming through the software side, though.  It’s somewhat harder to lay out in simple graph form, but it’s a lot more interesting.

Android 4.0

Where the original Kindle Fire ran a modified version of Android 2.3, the new Kindle Fire HD will be using version 4.0.  This is the first version of Android made specifically with tablets in mind as well as smartphones, so the inclusion on a larger device is probably an obvious move on Amazon’s part.  Between performance improvements and general compatibility issues, however, this is a big improvement.

Parental Controls

Maybe the parental controls weren’t the biggest issue that the Kindle Fire had in its software design, but the people who needed them were among the loudest of Amazon’s critics.  Over time there were various controls added in that more or less meet most needs, but this new version takes things a bit further.  FreeTime, as the new service is being called, will allow parents to set specific time restrictions on their devices.  This means finely grained control over all sorts of things.  Want your kids to be able to read on the tablet and watch the TV shows you’ve downloaded but not run games except from 6pm to 8pm?  You can do that now.

X-RAY

The X-Ray feature included with the Kindle Touch at its release was an interesting way to access details about your books at a glance.  It pulls up things like character names and bios, important locations in the plot, and an assortment of other information.  Useful for anybody who needs a refresher after putting down their reading for a bit, even if you don’t factor in the links to Shelfari and Wikipedia.

Now the Kindle Fire HD will have that feature for both books and movies.  Amazon is touting the ability of their X-Ray for Movies service to tell you who’s on the screen at any given time, link you to their other films, see anything related to the film or actor from IMDB, and more.  It’s a fun concept that might win you a Trivial Pursuit game some time.

Skype

One of the most anticipated hardware improvements in the Kindle Fire HD has been the camera.  To make use of this, every device will include a copy of Skype pre-installed.  This means instant access to that complete network.  Naturally this won’t be the only service you can take advantage of the hardware through, but it is almost certain to be the biggest.

Read-To-Me

Test to Speech software is back thanks to the Kindle Fire HD.  It was confusingly missing in the first Kindle Fire and there seems to be no way to get it out of any of the new Kindle eReaders either.  Fortunately now it will be present through the tablets, wherever agreements with publishers allow.

Audio & The Kindle Fire: Win Some, Lose Some

The Kindle Fire does a lot of things really well.  From the streaming video library to its many apps, there’s always something to do.  Despite all the effort at polish though, the majority of the sound playback abilities seem pretty much tacked on.  Admittedly this is not meant to be a portable MP3 player, as might be assumed based on the weight and slightly less than pocket compatible size.  There are a few things that could have been done to bring the level of functionality up a bit.  While it isn’t recommended that anybody pick up a Kindle Fire just for the auditory stimulation under most circumstances, it is definitely nice to know what the tablet is capable of to get the most out of your new toy.

Music

The obvious sound function is listening to music.  The integration for this is easily as clean as that offered for Instant Video titles, allowing users to browse by album, artist, or song as well as produce, edit, or start playlists.  Downloading albums to local storage is simple enough, but streaming from the Amazon Cloud Player is excellent and the extra 5GB of storage for user uploads that were not purchased through Amazon will allow for a lot of music even if you don’t have any urge to pay for extra space.  The store isn’t obtrusive, but it does let you look up albums based on the usual factors or look up other albums by artists already in your collection with the touch of a button.

Audiobooks

In most cases this will work exactly the same as Music playback, assuming you’re not using Audible.  If you are using Audible, things don’t get much different.  The Audible app comes pre-installed with every Kindle Fire.  Just pop over to the App page and you’ve got access to everything you own so far.  The internal store seems to be just a mobile skin over their website, but it does the job.  My only complaint is that if your audiobook is from Audible you can’t stream it.  The need to download can be a pain, given the size of some books and the Fire’s limited storage space.

Read to Me

Unlike every previous Kindle release with any form of audio output, this feature is missing.  Amazon hasn’t made any real comment on this so far, and it seems doubtful that they will.  Whether it’s an effort to push Audible to the front of things or a desire to break away from this feature, there is no indication whatsoever that this will change.  Annoying, but possibly predictable.

Playback

The most important concern in all these cases is probably how it will sound.  Sadly, this is where things come up short the most.  The Kindle Fire has stereo speakers built in, but they are about as mediocre as might be expected.  The headphone jack works just fine, and will probably be great for watching movies, but doesn’t seem as useful as it might be given the tablet’s lack of portability compared to an average MP3 player.  There also isn’t any way to output high quality audio to a stereo system, which would have been nice, or to hook up a bluetooth headset.  Overall, just good enough without impressing in any way.

Recommended Uses

The usefulness here will come from audiobooks and listening to music while reading.  Chances are good by now that you have a better, more portable MP3 player, so it would be silly to try to turn this into one unless you really need the streaming option.  The audio quality on the speakers is fine for listening to books while you do something out, and just about anything will do for listening to music while reading a book.  These are, at best, perks for Kindle Fire owners, but it’s the little things that add up.