Amazon challenges iPad with new Kindle Fires

Amazon has taken on Apple with a range of new Kindle Fire tablets in different screen sizes that claim better performance and significantly undercut the iPad on price.

At a media event in Santa Monica, California, Jeff Bezos, chief executive,  announced an 8.9in 32Gb Kindle Fire HD tablet (pictured left) that would cost $499 and feature 4G LTE connectivity when it ships on November 20.

An upgraded version of the original Kindle Fire sets a new low $159 price point for a 7in tablet from major manufacturers. The Fire undercuts Google and Asus’s $199 Nexus 7 and challenges Apple, which is rumoured to be launching a mini-iPad in October.  International availability for the Fire was announced for the first time.

Mr Bezos compared the cost of the new high-end Kindle Fire HD with a comparable iPad with 4G connectivity.  The Amazon device was $230 cheaper than the $729 iPad and its annual data plan was $50, compared to $230 for the third-generation iPad.

A 16Gb Fire HD without 4G will cost $299. Amazon’s premium tablet has an 8.9in high-definition screen and a front-facing camera that the original Fire lacked. Wi-Fi connectivity is claimed to be faster than on Apple’s latest iPad or the Nexus 7. A 7in-screen 16Gb version of the HD will sell for $199 from September 14.

The upgraded basic Kindle Fire offers 40 per cent faster performance and longer battery life. It will be shipping from September 14. The Fire will cost £129 when it launches in the UK on October 25 and the 7in HD version will cost £159 or £199 for 16Gb and 32Gb versions released at the same time.

The $119 Kindle Paperwhite (pictured left) is a back-lit version of the popular eReader with sharper text that will sell globally from October 1.  A 3G version will cost $179 in the US. A new version of the basic Kindle was also announced with new fonts, crisper text and 15 per cent faster page turns. At $69, it is $10 cheaper than the current price and will be available on September 14.

Mr Bezos also announced Kindle Serials – books published in installments,  in the same way that Dickens’ novels were published. In fact, Amazon said it would reissue The Pickwick Papers in this format.

Among early reactions to the announcements, Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, said of the Kindle Fire:

“Amazon is clearly spooked by Google’s Nexus 7 coming in at $200 for a much more capable device, and it’s upped its own hardware specs while reducing the price to $159, which is clearly an attempt to keep it somewhat attractive in the face of that new competition from Google and Asus.”

On the eReaders, the analyst said they reaffirmed Amazon as the clear leader in this space.

“The $69 price point for the basic Kindle is unbeatable, and the Paperwhite devices are now the best in class for back-lit e-readers. There’s no one else that does these things this well, this cheaply.”