The New Stuff

Amazon upgrades its Fire tablet line, a rare bright spot in the struggling category

Amazon’s continuing its month-long spree of hardware announcements by refreshing its line of low cost slates. The Fire 7 is retaining its $50 price point, while getting an improved screen resolution and increased battery life. The 8 HD, meanwhile is more or less the same as its predecessor (it just got refreshed late last year), but is getting a $10 price drop, down to $80.

Amazon is also taking the time to update the Kids Editions of both tablets, bundling in a year subscription of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, its parental dashboard that usually runs $3 a month for access to a variety of kid-friendly content. The systems also feature rugged cases and a two-year warranty for clumsy hands, along with a storage bump. Though all of that comes at a relative premium, running $100 and $130, respectively.

The line isn’t much in the way of hardware process, but then, that’s not really the point. The tablets are cheap, and as such mark a rare bright spot in a category that’s been performing pretty dismally in recent years. As premium companies have suffered from much slower upgrade cycles, Amazon has managed to climb the ladder. Many users are perfectly satisfied with their older devices, while the Fire’s $50 starting price could well convince many folks to buy a second device, or something for the kids.

According to numbers released by IDC earlier this year, the company has worked up to third place in the global tablet market, behind Apple and Samsung, with just under 10-percent of the total over market. It’s pretty widely understood that the company’s position isn’t a reflection of solid hardware – instead it’s a direct result of the company’s consistent ability to price out the rest of its name brand competition.

And, to Amazon’s credit, the company also has solid media offerings through its own channels, even while it’s lacking in the hardware department. That, after all, is precisely why the company is able to price these devices at $50. Content is the real money maker for the company, a marked advantage over the likes of Samsung and Lenovo, which, at least in part, utilize Google’s content channels.

And, of course, the device serves as yet another channel for the Amazon’s Alexa push, having added the functionality late last year, making them, in essence, the original Echo Show (and $180 cheaper, to boot). Amazon’s devices have had an impact on the space outside of its own success. It’s hard to imagine that the Fire and other low cost tablets didn’t play a role in Apple’s recent decision to issue a substantial price drop on the iPad in hopes of helping reinvigorate sales.

The new devices start shipping in June.

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