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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.