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Amazon Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD set new lows for tablet prices

Amazon sent a shot across Apple’s bow Thursday with the introduction of a 4G tablet that’s hundreds of dollars cheaper than the iPad.

Actually, the company introduced four tablets and a new e-reader: the light-up Kindle Paperwhite e-ink reader, a new version of the Kindle Fire and three versions of an enhanced tablet called the Kindle Fire HD.

The announcement included a 4G LTE-enabled, 8.9-inch, 32GB tablet for $599, which Amazon compared directly with the equivalent iPad in a chart onstage, according to ABC News. A 32GB iPad with a 4G connection costs $729.

There are key differences between the two tablets, of course. The iPad is bigger with a 9.7-inch screen and comes with iCloud storage and a larger variety of applications than the Kindle Fire HD. And, while Amazon is offering a $50 per year data plan for its tablet, the plan comes with just 250 MB of data. Yes, it costs more to have the same amount of data on the iPad (AT&T’s plan is $14.99 per month for the same amount), but Amazon customers won’t be able to do much on the cellular network besides some light e-mail and Web surfing.

Even with those, limitations, however, Amazon has pulled off a pricing coup that chief executive Jeff Bezos touted in his remarks to the crowd.

He said that hardware should be simply one part of the services that companies offer to their consumers. “We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices,” Bezos told the crowd in California, according to a report from Ars Technica.

It will be hard to beat these prices. Amazon’s new e-reader is $69 and has a built-in, adjustable light, which means that you’ll be able to read e-ink in the dark.

The new Kindle Fire, which has twice the RAM and a better battery life, will cost $159 — $40 less than its predecessor.

But it’s the Kindle Fire HD line that made Amazon’s event. The seven-inch model will cost $199 and will have 16 GB or 32 GB of storage and 3G connectivity, as well as the dual-WiFi antennas and speakers, making it clear that Amazon is playing for the higher end of the market. An 8.9-inch version will have many of the same specifications but will come with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB.

With the addition of the 4G tablet, Amazon is clearly taking a stand in the tablet market against Apple and is ready to climb over the pile of Android tablets that have — so far — failed to produce a real challenger to the iPad.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.


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