The Kindle Touch has had its firmware updates in preparation for a multi-national release, it seems. Version 5.1 actually brings us a number of useful features that users have been vocal about desiring for their eReaders. While the removal of the physical keyboard may have opened the door for Kindle availability in languages besides English, this is probably the biggest step we have seen so far in terms of making that a reality.
Here’s what we’re looking at right now (Amazon Support Page):
- Landscape Mode
It is finally possible to switch back and forth between portrait and landscape orientations on the Kindle Touch. While this has long been an option for Kindles, for whatever reason it has taken until now for the Touch to get with the program. Good news since there are situations where you can’t reasonably do without it.
- Added Language Support
Kindle users can now choose from English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese according to personal preference.
- Instant Translation
While reading, you can now highlight a word or selection and have it translated for you on the spot. Translations go through Bing Translator and are obviously going to be imperfect, but this is both fun and useful. Unfortunately, it won’t work very well if you like to read with the WiFi turned off to improve battery life.
- Improved WiFi
Connectivity has been improved and users have more options. Connect with WPS and some WPA2 Enterprise setups.
- Read-to-Me With Text-to-Speech
This one is restricted to English for the moment, but the Kindle Touch can now read to you, including some magazine and newspaper articles. Perhaps more robust language support will come later?
- Expanded Sharing
This will basically just tell people what you’re reading, should you feel like sharing. It fills in a feature missing in comparison to Nook and Kobo options, but doesn’t excite.
- Onscreen Keyboard Suggestions
Let’s face it, onscreen keyboards are annoying. On the Kindle Touch it is even worse because of the refresh rate of E Ink. Now typing is far more manageable. Huge improvement!
- Kindle Format 8
This one was pretty much just housekeeping for Amazon. If you’re going to try and build a new standard, the least you can do is make sure that the latest generation of the device it is being designed for can handle it. Might make periodicals more readable, but overall reflowable text is still the biggest advantage of an E Ink Kindle.
The Kindle Touch just plain works better now, really. They added enough that there should be reason for users old and new to be excited here. Landscape mode might have just been crossing an essential fix off the list, but things like keyboard suggestions and translation on demand change the experience for the better. I’m definitely looking forward to the next generation of Kindle now that we have an idea what the innovation it brings to the table will be, but for now I may finally be recommending the Kindle Touch over the Kindle Keyboard for the first time.