Talking tech since 2003

Amazon isn’t a company that follows the typical road to success, an attitude not only revealed in its cavalier attitude toward profiting on the Kindle Fire, but even in something as small as the decision to unveil its new Kindle Fire line on a Tuesday evening. And the stars of the next Kindle Fire generation — 7-inch and 8.9-inch tablets that share the Kindle Fire HDX name — retain that attitude with a new “Mayday” feature that hopes to make tablet users forget all about Apple’s Genius Bar.

But first, let’s talk a bit about the new hardware.

kindle-fire-maydayThe new 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX comes in to replace last year’s Kindle Fire HD. the 16 GB, Wi-Fi-only model sells for $229 and that includes Amazon’s “Special Offers,” which are advertisements that display on the tablet’s lock screen. Screen resolution on the 7-inch slate gets a significant bump up to 1920 x 1200. That’s 323 pixels per inch (PPI), besting the iPad 4 (264) and equaling the count on the newest Nexus 7 tablet. The processor also enters quad-core territory with the 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 and RAM doubles from 1 GB to 2 GB.

Amazon’s 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX comes in at $379 for the 16 GB, Wi-Fi-only model with Special Offers. It’s one of the highest-resolution tablets out there right now — if not the highest, period — with its 2560 x 1600 display that touts a pixels-per-inch count of 339. The larger Kindle Fire HDX uses the same quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor as the 7-inch model and the same 2 GB of RAM but also adds an Adreno 330 GPU to the mix for what Amazon calls “console-quality graphics.”

Interestingly enough, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX is the only model Amazon is providing a battery life estimate for at this time, with the company claiming that the larger tablet will last 12 hours with normal use and 18 hours while reading. Also noteworthy is the fact that the 8.9-inch model also includes a 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, a first for the Kindle Fire line of tablets.

Those looking to jump into the tablet world on the cheap will be pleased to know that the last-generation Kindle Fire HD tablets aren’t going anywhere, at least for now. Last year’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD will drop to $139 for an 8 GB Wi-Fi model with Special Offers, and the 8.9-inch model with 16 GB, Wi-Fi and Special Offers will sell for $269.

With the new Kindle Fire tablets come some new software features, none as important to Jeff Bezos as Mayday. The Mayday feature adds a button to the Kindle Fire’s OS that, when pressed, connects you to an Amazon tech support specialist that you can see on video. The support specialist can talk you through an issue you’re having with your device, answer any questions you may have or even remotely take control of your tablet and show you how to accomplish a certain task. It’s the kind of tech support that iPad users would have to travel to the Genius Bar for, except on the Kindle Fire HDX, it’s available anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Amazon’s goal with Mayday is to connect users to a tech support specialist in 15 seconds or less and the company plans to offer the Mayday service 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year for free.

Some other interesting developments with the Kindle Fire HDX’s software include a new email app and, for the first time, Amazon Prime Instant Video Downloads, which lets users download movies and TV shows from Amazon’s free library of video titles. Those who aren’t always connected to the Web or those who do a lot of traveling should find this feature very useful. Personally, I’m hoping it extends to other devices outside of the Kindle Fire universe but I’m not holding my breath.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX will go on sale October 18, though you can secure one for yourself now by pre-ordering on the Amazon website. You can also pre-order the 8.9-inch model, which becomes available on November 7. We’ll have news on both as their release dates draw closer.

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