Amazon has just announced two new Kindle versions and the big new feature is WiFi.
The new entry level Kindle WiFi at $139 doesn't have a 3G phone built in and so can't use Whispernet to download books. The new "standard" 6 inch Kindle has WiFi and 3G phone for Whispernet downloads and at $189 costs the same as the model it replaces.
First let's take a look at what the WiFi means.
Until now there were only two ways to get reading material onto the Kindle - you could use the 3G based Whispernet wireless connection or you could connect to a PC via USB and transfer local files.
The 3G connection is ideal for downloading books and anything that you want to buy from Amazon because the cost of the 3G download is included in the price. In other words, you can buy a book or magazine from Amazon and it will be downloaded automatically and without fuss or extra cost as long as you are in range of a 3G mobile phone service.
If you want to download your own documents - PDF files say - without using the USB connection then you can use Whispernet but you have to pay for the data you transfer. Currently its not a huge sum but enough to put some users off. Also the process isn't exactly easy as you have to email the document to your Amazon account and then wait for the 3G download to occur.
The new Kindle models have WiFi which means that you can now download your own documents without the need for a messy cable. In addition you can use many WiFi hot spots for free to browse and download Kindle ebooks. It also supports Whispersync, which is Amazon speak for keeping your Kindle up-to-date with the books loaded into your online account and with other Kindles devices you might own.
Essentially the WiFi operates as an alternative to Whispernet.
If you are happy that WiFi is for you then the new WiFi Kindle is available for the new low entry level price of $139. It doesn't have the 3G phone hardware built in, which means you can download books unless you have a WiFi connection, but you do get a 3-week battery life even with the WiFi on all the time (compared to 10 days for the 3G model with the wireless on).
Of course, if you switch off the wireless the battery time on both new models shoots up to 1 month.
Both new models have improvements in overall performance. They are thinner at 1/3 of an inch and slightly lighter at 8.7 ounces. Both have screens which claim 50% better contrast and come with improved fonts. Standard storage has also been doubled to an estimated 3500 books, however, you still can't use add-on memory in any form.
The software has also been improved, but this is also available as a download for existing Kindle devices. You can now read PDF files with pan and zoom, take advantage of dictionary lookup, notes and highlights. An experimental WebKit based browser is also included.
Both new models are restyled in a Graphite case following the recently introduced the Graphite DX - see New Kindle DX. However, it is worth noting the the DX with a bigger 9.7 inch screen doesn't have WiFi - presumably this will follow in an updated version. The standard Kindle 3G is also available in white.
The new entry level WiFi Kindle opens up new territory for the Kindle. If you don't need easy access to new reading material while on the move, or if you feel up to the task of locating a WiFi hot spot, then it represents a new low cost entry to ebook reading. Its low price means that publishers can even contemplate free Kindle with subscription deals and enterprise applications involving WiFi delivery of company documents are also fairly obvious. WiFi is not only a cheaper alternative to 3G, it is a more open, and hence easier to customise, delivery medium and this provides new opportunities for developers.
The new models are expected to be released on August 27th but Amazon is accepting pre-release orders.
Kindle outsells hardbacks
New Kindle DX
Amazon makes ebooks more attractive
Kindle price crash!
Why Kindle is the answer
A Kindle diary
A book's worth...