Kindle for iPad App Updated To Use Retina Display

While customers have barely had time to wipe the first set of fingerprints off their brand new iPad 3 purchases, Amazon has prepared to take advantage of the improved screen quality that the device incorporates by updating their Kindle reading application.  Users will find their reading experience in this release, Version 3.0, noticeably crisper, cleaner, and with a couple useful new features.  Magazines and other publications that choose to use high resolution color imagery will be right at home on the platform now, thanks to these changes.

There is now a tab available at the bottom of the screen, clearly borrowed from the Kindle Fire’s native interface, which allows easy switching between locally stored and cloud based books currently available to the account.  This should make it easier to manage content on the most basic level.  Things are also displayed in the same grid view that the Kindle Fire interface relies on for eBook navigation.  In terms of the general reading experience the update is a step forward and does good things for new iPad 3 owners.

That is not to say that there are no complaints about the new release, of course.  While they made no real note of the alterations to the way the app works, a few useful features were quietly removed.  Customers have been complaining, for example, that the ability to search from the dictionary to Wikipedia and Google has been removed since Version 2.9 of the app.  This seems to be a very strange change given the potential usefulness of this feature and the seeming lack of effort that would have been required to maintain it once developed.  It certainly has nothing to do with bringing the Kindle for iPad experience in line with the Kindle Fire, as the Fire still has this ability.  There is also still no ability to organize one’s library via the app itself, as well as no folder or tag system.  While this is true of everybody using anything Kindle related besides the eReaders themselves, which at least have the Collections system, it remains a source of frustration.

Overall the consensus is that this brought the new iPad a superior aesthetic experience compared to what is available elsewhere, but that it failed to improve functionality in any major way.  Perhaps this is to be expected, given that with the need for a completely external iOS Kindle Store there must be little pressure to release innovations on that platform first, but it does lessen some of the enthusiasm for the first real app update to bring readers the advantages of the iPad’s improvements.

Realistically, especially with the second Kindle Fire release expected right around the corner, any major improvements along the lines of function will probably come through their Kindle for Android or Kindle Cloud Reader options first.  The stylistic changes that bring the Kindle for iOS app closer to the Kindle Fire’s appearance only serve to highlight how important it is for Amazon to unify their platform.  In the end we can probably expect to see any major changes radiating out from Kindle Fire updates except when, as in this case, those changes are to take advantage of hardware capabilities that the Kindle Fire simply lacks.

Kindle Fire 6.2.2 Details Released

While we knew that the 6.2.2 update to the Kindle Fire tablet was mainly going to be a matter of performance upgrades and behind the scenes stuff, a few things were noticed as the roll-out quietly began that were worth drawing attention to immediately.  As noted, the upgrade to this newest firmware did break root access for user who went that route.  This was addressed quite quickly, however, and initial doubts about whether or not BurritoRoot 2 would do the job seem to have been based on people failing to follow instructions correctly.  Aside from that, all we could see was the admittedly convenient full screen option for the Silk browser.

Things have settled in a little bit better now and Amazon was kind enough to let us in on what the entirety of the patch was meant to accomplish.  There are a couple perks:

Kindle Fire Silk Browser Customization

Users are now able to set their browser to disable Flash.  This was possible previously, but through the setting for “Enable Plugins”, which some users found confusing and overly broad.  By default, Flash will be disabled.  Check Silk’s Settings menu under the Behavior heading to turn it back on.

It is also now possible to disable the constant encrypted data shuffle through Amazon’s servers.  While you are still able to turn it on in settings by clicking on “Enable Optional Encryption”, users should find significantly improved performance now that it is non-mandatory.  This will not have any effect on encrypted connections to web pages.

Also, to access the previously mentioned full screen browsing, simply click on the square of four outward facing arrows in the lower-right corner of the Silk browser’s menu bar, next to the bookmark button.

Performance Improvements

There has been some small but noticable improvement made to the speed and smoothness of rendering on the Kindle Fire.  Scrolling, panning, and pinch to zoom all seem to work more fluidly and without the occasional stutter than previously occurred during fast movements.  Hard to say how impressive this is for most things at the moment, but there’s never anything wrong with optimization.

Email Control

It is now simpler, and in some cases possible where it was not before, to get email addresses set up manually.  Doesn’t fix all gmail complaints, but for the most part that has to do with the gmail end of things being updated so often (for the record, my own gmail account works fine with IMAP enabled, but other experiences may vary).

Many users have been somewhat disappointed to note that this update did not include the addition of finer control over the carousel or Kindle library collection management.  Presumably, however, a project this large has more than one feature being worked on at any given time and so we can probably assume that something is being done to address the vocal complaints of the user base even if it is not quite ready for release yet.  Personally I found it beyond tedious to manually delete my entire Kindle library from the carousel when the feature was introduced and would love a Mass-Remove type of option as soon as possible.

Kindle Fire January Re-Review

Over the past several weeks several people have informed me that the most up to date reviews they were able to find regarding the Kindle Fire were a bit outdated, to say the least.  Looking over the links I was provided, it definitely seems like there is still some misinformation floating around.  This is mostly a result of failure to update after the performance patch, which did a great job of addressing complaints and ensures that new users won’t have nearly as many annoyances as they might have on launch day.  In the interest of clarifying, here’s what I would say is worth knowing if trying to decide on a Kindle Fire purchase today:

Pros:

  • Highly portable (noticeably lighter than any hardcover book I own)
  • Durable (Check out Andrei’s scratch/drop test)
  • Powerful for the $200 price
  • ~8 Hour battery life (I average 7 hours with WiFi on and brightness at a comfortable level)
  • Amazing video quality through Amazon Instant Video
  • Seamless integration with Amazon Cloud Storage for Amazon Purchases
  • Large, well-moderated App Store
  • Access to Amazon’s Customer Service
  • Easy WiFi Setup

Cons

  • Only 8GB onboard storage (6GB or so available, with just over 1GB reserved for Apps)
  • 2 Finger Touch screen not perfect for extended typing (not a netbook replacement)
  • Back-lit screen not great for reading
  • Some Kindle eReader functionality missing (collections, real page numbers, X-Ray)
  • No Text to Speech (in Kindle Edition eBooks, though some apps may make up for this)
  • No access to Android Marketplace by default
  • Netflix video currently only allows SD streaming
  • Limited Codec selection

Common Kindle Fire Software Complaints (Including Those Addressed)

  • Choppy navigation
  • WiFi connectivity limited
  • Overly fast browsing/scrolling
  • Unresponsive page turning
  • No Parental Controls
  • No way to choose favoring of mobile sites
  • Unintuitive cloud integration for personal documents
  • Caroussel Logs Every Activity
  • Purchased Apps always present in Cloud view
  • Silk Browser doesn’t live up to the hype

At this point, if you are interested in getting a Kindle Fire, I strongly recommend it.  This isn’t exactly a surprise coming from me given earlier similar declarations even before the big patch that dealt with so many complaints, but it remains true.

This is not an iPad killer.  It might have an effect on Apple, and will almost certainly spur Amazon to more direct competition, but they’re devices intended for different purposes.  If you want to watch movies, play Android games, access a wide variety of streaming content, and just generally consume media of various sorts, the Kindle Fire is the way to go.  I certainly wouldn’t replace my Kindle eReader with one, nor would it work as even a basic netbook substitute in the way that an iPad could once you get used to it, but what it does do is well done.

This is just a short overview, of course, and I would be happy to elaborate on any and all of these points should you be interested.  Let me know here or by email and I will either comment here or throw up an in-depth explanation as the situation demands. 

Kindle Fire Update 6.2.2 Now Live

Amazon has just released the updated 6.2.2 firmware update for the Kindle Fire.  While the documentation for this update has not yet hit their support pages, customers will find it being downloaded to their device in the near future, should they not have made the effort to turn off automatic updating of the software.  Until patch notes are released or a more thorough exploration of the new features can be made we know very little, but there are a few clear things going on.

First and most obvious, users will find that the Kindle Fire’s Silk browser now has the ability to take up your entire screen.  This is a huge improvement in many situations and more than welcome, even if the patch did nothing else. The 7″ screen tends to tread the line between too large for mobile sites and too small for standard sites in a way that makes this new feature extremely appealing.  More options is almost always better.

Aside from that, the patch does break any rooting that has been done on the device so far.  There are conflicting reports at this time regarding the potential to immediately re-root with an updated BurritoRoot, but right now it seems likely that at least a few days will be needed to let the dust settle and new solutions arise.  Should you be interested in trying what some people say is a working root method for 6.2.2, look up Justin Case’s “BurritoRoot 2”.  It is already quite simple to find and appears to be equally simple to use, though I have not yet had a chance to attempt it myself and as such can’t advocate one way or the other.

This facet of the update seems especially strange given how disinterested Amazon has claimed to be regarding the potential for rooting their device around the time of launch, but it is hardly the first time.  Given how quickly reports have come in that indicate rooting is again possible, obviously they are not trying too hard.  I tend to see it as a nod to convention rather than a serious effort to lock off the Kindle Fire, but I also freely admit that I have no direct knowledge of the process that is being used to unlock it and as such can’t speak to the difficulty involved.

We’ll get back to you with more information as it becomes available.  There appears to be no visible negative impact on any of the normal every day uses for the Kindle Fire, so aside from those who have rooted the device there is no reason to try to avoid it.

Should you want to manually update your device rather than waiting to be picked up automatically, you can download from this link.  Just connect your device to a computer and copy the downloaded file to the “kindleupdates” folder.  On your Kindle‘s screen, open the Settings menu and choose Device > Update your Kindle.  That’s all there is to it.  Enjoy the new browsing capabilities!

Updating Kindle DX or Kindle 2 to Kindle 3.x Firmware

Having discovered an already functional jailbreak for the Kindle Touch recently thanks to independent developer Yifan Lu, I was also pleased to note that there is a way to get your older Kindle devices somewhat more up to date.  It turns out that the hardware improvements in the Kindle 3 as compared to the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX, particularly the processors, were not significant enough to make it impossible to run the newer version.

To get this update installed, you will need a few things.  The most important, and possibly the hardest to get in some cases, is a working Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) that has been jailbroken.  Assuming you have a spare Kindle 3 laying around, the same site linked in the instructions to follow contains detailed instructions on the jailbreaking process under the “Projects” tab.  You will also need a minimum of 900mb free on your Kindle 2/Kindle DX and 720mb free on your Kindle 3.  Naturally a USB transfer cable will be important as well.

Assuming you have all of these things, check out this page on Yifan Lu’s site.  The included instructions are simple to follow and while it will probably take you anywhere from one to three hours to complete the entire process, there is little room for error if you follow the order of operations correctly.

There are several things that you must be aware of before starting in on this:

  • Should you allow either of your Kindles to lose power while they are in use, it is likely to cause some major problems.  Charge them before you begin.
  • Once completed, you will have to repeat the process for any future firmware updates.  The Kindle 2 or Kindle DX will not be able to automatically access the files released for the Kindle 3.
  • While the hardware difference between these Kindles is not large enough to make the process inadvisable, as it would be if going from the Kindle 4 to the Kindle 3, there is a difference.  You will experience slight lag as the downside of your improved functionality.
  • Active content such as Kindle games will not work as a result of the update.  The developer of this update process doesn’t know exactly why, nor does there seem to be any major fix for this.  Be aware.
  • Sound/Music playback on the newly updated device will be flawed.  Since it will have been jailbroken it is possible to install an alternate music player to fix this, but it is an additional step for people who make much use of the eReader’s audio playback abilities.
  • There have been some unconfirmed reports that extremely large PDF files have issues on devices updated in this fashion.  This is likely the result of slightly inferior hardware and will probably not be an issue compared to the greatly improved PDF handling, but it is worth noting.

We can’t quite say why Amazon chose not to update these older Kindles, although it has been speculated that they were consciously abandoned to drum up business for the Kindle 3.  Also possible is the idea that faster processing simply opens more doors to new features that couldn’t be productively implemented otherwise.  Either way, at least now it is possible for owners of older Kindles to get the most out of their devices.

While the newer Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are great, eReaders are made to last and there is no reason for a satisfied owner to throw away their perfectly good Kindle 2.  With the Kindle DX it’s an even more obvious choice, since there is yet to be a hardware update to the larger form and it looks increasingly like there never will be.  This update makes it even more desirable for those who need the 9.7″ screen.

Amazon Addressing Kindle Fire Criticisms In Upcoming Update

While overall the response the the Kindle Fire has been overwhelmingly positive, there have been a number of ongoing complaints that hold some merit.  Some professional critics, as well as Amazon.com reviewers, have been incredibly negative.  In response to some of the more important issues, Amazon is planning to release a content update within the next two weeks.  That does not necessarily tell us what will be addressed, of course, but educated guesses are possible.

Much of this is speculation, of course, but there are a few things that need to be taken care of right now that Amazon would be foolish to delay on.  My predictions:

Likely To Be Addressed

Connectivity Issues

Some users have experienced ongoing problems with their WiFi connections.  Whether these take the form of a complete inability to connect or an intermittent and unreliable connection, they get in the way of enjoying what is meant to be a portable means of streaming internet content.

Privacy & Parental Controls

Let’s face it, no matter how this was marketed it would end up in the hands of kids.  It’s durable, gives easy access to books and movies, and lasts for hours.  It makes little sense, then, to have such vague and occasionally buggy parental controls.  Censorship might be bad, but few people think that everything a parent enjoys is suitable for their children.

Expect something that will allow either blocking of media content based on content ratings or a Whitelist system to designate child-approved titles.  The ability to remove items from the home screen’s shelf and the account’s app selection will be vital in this area as well.

Responsiveness

While usually fine, in my experience, the Kindle Fire occasionally has a spurt of input lag that gets in the way of a seamless user experience.  My understanding is that this some people far harder than it has me, possibly depending on what the tablet is being used for.  Look for some degree of performance optimization to address this.

Possible Update Features

Improved Browser Configuration

The Silk web browser is a decent enough application for a mobile device, but has yet to really impress people.  A great deal of that is that it will take time for the predictive features made possible by the two part browser setup to begin paying off in any major way, but we can’t count on that ever happening until proof shows up.  For now it would be enough to get the ability to prioritize mobile versions of sites, since the 7″ screen is less than ideal in some cases.

Categories

Missing up to this point has been the ability to organize your purchases, be they books or apps, in any way.  They are simply either on the Kindle Fire or in the Cloud.  This is something that I am certain will come up down the line, but it is unclear how much of a priority it will be.

Improved Netflix Streaming Option

Let’s face it, the Nook Tablet is currently doing precisely one thing that is clearly superior to the Kindle Fire.  It draws from the HD stream on Netflix content and downscales rather than the other way around.  No reason this should not be an option for Kindle owners, though this may be dependent more on a Netflix agreement than a device update.

We’ll know soon enough what is going to be addressed. and I think it is fair to assume that while the vital fixes will be quick they will also be followed by more substantial feature improvements as time goes on.  If nothing else, if the next generation of Kindle Fire is expected as early as six months from now then they’ll want to be optimizing in the meantime.

Nook Gets Updated To 1.1

nook-ebook-readerThe Banes and Noble Nook eBook reader got updated just before Christmas. So those lucky(?) souls who got theirs delivered before or around that time were able to update their Nook for a comparatively nicer time reading eBooks on their new eBook reader on Christmas. But has the update made the Nook into a killer product, the answer sadly is a no. It still has some time to go before it can threaten established players like the Kindle.

In fact, even according to some official words form B&N this wasn’t anything major. They were simply testing things out with their very first over-the-air update for the Nook. Other than allowing a “seamless” access to the   B&N store providing exclusive content for the Nook, it also improves on the core speed and performance. That basically means it fixes the things that were slowing the Nook down noticeably. This should also cut down on the number of complaints that we were getting to hear about the Nook.

The Nook was already overbooked and supply was low much before Christmas. So most people who wanted to buy and/or gift eBook readers went for the Kindle or the Sony Readers. So the holidays have not made Nook the overnight sensation that some thought it would become. However, do not get me wrong on this count. The Nook is actually a very promising device and if B&N can play it right they are in for really good business. The Nook’s secondary color touchscreen might make more of a difference than originally expected. Plus, the Android factor also works to make it a very powerful device that is also flexible enough to accept radical new features that weren’t thought of before. So hopefully we will see this morph into a really good eBook reader that is different from all the rest.

Kindle 2.0.4 (353720025) and Kindle DX 2.1.1 (351050064) updates

On the Kindle source code page two new packages recently appeared:

Some users have already reported receiving these updates on your devices. Manual Kindle software update URL still returns 2.0.3 for me and there is no known URL to check for Kindle DX updates at the moment. There doesn’t seem to be any update for the original 1st generation Kindle at the moment.

If you notice any differences after your Kindle updates, please let me know. This would also be a good time to temporarily revert Unicode Font Hack or any other firmware-altering hacks that you have installed so that automated update installation will not fail. You can safely reapply hacks after you get the updates.

Quick update, get the free Tor.com e-book directly from Amazon.com

tor free ebook

Just a quick update following on from the previous post.

Tor.com has made 24 e-book available to download, you can now download some of them directly from Amazon.com and get them delivered to your Kindle through Whispernet.

The book available from the list of 24 are;

1. Mistborn: The Final Empire
2. Old Man’s War
3. Spin
4. The Outstretched Shadow: The Obsidian Trilogy: Book One
5. Crystal Rain
6. Lord Of The Isles
7. Through Wolf’s Eyes
8. Reiffen’s Choice
9. Sun Of Suns

You can get them by following this link.

Source: Amazon Kindle official blog

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Tracey Rowley who informed me that Amazon had put up a new link for all the free Tor.com content, right now there are 15 e-books available–there were 20 before–which you can download to your Kindle via Whispernet:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=amb_link_7205842_1?ie=UTF8&docId=1000255371&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=right-3&pf_rd_r=1A34K6V7WQ8EJ7RKVZKC&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=418894601&pf_rd_i=133141011%3Cbr%20/%3E