Tag Archives: Amazon

Amazon launches Xbox LIVE Store

Amazon announced today that it has added a dedicated Xbox LIVE store to its myriad of electronic storefronts. This latest partnership allows customers to purchase Xbox LIVE Arcade games, subscription cards and Microsoft points directly from Amazon. Customers who purchase Xbox LIVE content from Amazon will be provided with a digitally-delivered code that they can redeem via their own console or give as a gift to an Xbox 360 owner. The ability to give a select Xbox LIVE Arcade game as a gift is a feature unique to Amazon’s store — previously, all Xbox LIVE Arcade games had to be purchased through an Xbox 360 console which made it difficult for a non-gamer to give such a gift. The Xbox LIVE store also features Amazon’s typical recommendation system and online customer reviews. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Read

Amazon to offer $2.99 HD TV shows soon?

Hot on the heels of Apple’s recent announcement of HD movie rentals and purchases, Amazon is rumored to be readying HD content for its Amazon Video on Demand service. Apparently Google search bots have indexed some Amazon pages, like the Law & Order page above, that show HD content for $2.99 per episode. The same cached pages also suggest the availability of season passes for this HD content — a potentially great feature if the price is right. Clicking on any link within the cached pages bring you to the main page of Amazon’s Video on Demand page suggesting that this HD content is not ready to go live… At least not yet. It’s probably safe to assume however, that a formal announcement will be coming soon.

Read

Amazon Kindle app comes to the iPhone

If you’ve been feeling left out because it seems everyone and their moms are grabbing a Kindle and you spent your tax refund on an iPhone, Amazon has come to the rescue! On March 3, Kindle for the iPhone has been released and is free in the iTunes App Store. All you bookworms can now get the same content as Kindle owners can, which includes books, magazines and newspapers. Tons of great Kindle features are there, too, so you can adjust font size on screen, make notes and highlight content. The only catch is that the app can’t access the Kindle store and purchases have to be made through the browser. It’s a minor annoyance, sure, but a very small price to pay for such a great application. Other e-book readers for the iPhone are probably feeling a little heat now as the reputation and the hype over the Kindle is enough to get these apps flying out of the iTunes store. If you’ve been mulling the purchase of a Kindle and can manage reading on a much smaller screen, you might want to consider giving the Kindle for iPhone app a shot.

Read

Roku officially adds support for Amazon Video On Demand

Roku announced this morning that it would be adding Amazon Video On Demand to its portfolio of available online video content, bringing the grand total up to two. Roku owners will be able to rent or purchase movies and televisions shows from Amazon’s 40,000-title-strong Video On Demand service after an update that will be rolled out over the course of the next week to enable this service on all Roku boxes. With Netflix as the cornerstone, Amazon content as a supplement and YouTube supposedly on the way, the $99 Roku box keeps looking better and better.

Read

Amazon Kindle 2 hands-on review

It’s been nearly five months since we scooped Amazon’s Kindle 2 and earlier this week, after what seemed like an eternity for anxious e-book fans, Amazon finally began shipping its new reader. We unboxed it for you this past Tuesday but you know we couldn’t leave it at that — it’s full-on review time! Leading up to the Kindle 2 we’ve been through a Sony PRS-505, an Amazon Kindle 1 and an Irex Iliad so we had high hopes for Amazon’s new Jesus-reader. Is it up to snuff? Did it fall flat on its slim, sexy, 3G-connected face? Grab a cup of coffee and a snack pack, then hit the jump to find out.

Hardware and Aesthetics

To kick things off, let’s start with the guts. The Kindle 2 packs a 532 MHz ARM-11 processor, a 3.7 V 1530 mAh non-removable lithium polymer battery, a Sprint compatible EV-DO antenna and 2 GB of internal storage. The choice to abandon the external SD card slot and the removable battery of the Kindle 1 are a source of contention amongst current Kindle owners and rightfully so. Yes, the internal memory of the Kindle 2 can hold close to 1,500 books and the battery does promise longer life but people paying $360 for a reader don’t want to be limited — especially when the first generation Kindle didn’t have such limitations. You can’t carry around your whole library if your collection exceeds 2GB and the device is only useful for the life of the battery (unless you want to fork over $60 to Amazon to replace it).

For the average user who upgrades devices regularly, these limitations are nothing to be concerned about of course, but to the power user or pack rat, the lack of an SD card slot and replaceable battery may be a deal breaker. Just a warning to all of you “I am not going to buy the Kindle 2 because it does not have an SD card slot or replaceable battery” folks, the allure of this sexy new device may soften your stance on this issue so don’t handle a Kindle 2 as you may not be able to resist. And so we come to the design…

Fresh out the box, the Kindle 2 is a gorgeous looking device — rounded edges with a brushed aluminum back, and ohhhh so thin. Sorry original Kindle fans, we don’t mean to be offensive but the Kindle 2 brings some style to what had previously been a very clumsy-looking device. Despite its thin profile, the Kindle 2 feels very solid and not at all flimsy. At the top of the device, you’ll find a sliding power switch and a 3.5mm audio jack. The left side of the device has two small slots for a cover (optional purchase and not included in the box) while the right side has a volume rocker toward the top of the device. The bottom has a mini-USB port and small reset button. The back is brushed aluminum with a non-removable cover — no cracking this Kindle open unless you’ve got some tools on deck. The only items of interest on the backside are the two speakers at the bottom and the device information like the serial number, FCC ID, etc.

The front of the device is where all the action takes place of course. In the center you have a 6-inch, 800×600 e-ink display touting 16 shades of gray. On the left hand side you’ll find the previous page button and a next page button. What an improvement these buttons are, by the way! Gone are the paddle-like Kindle 1 buttons that would navigate pages with the slightest accidental touch. With the new style buttons, you have to push firmly on the edge of the button closest to the screen; there will be no accidental page turns from simply picking up or putting down the device. It is a bit awkward at first to push the inner portion of the button but you quickly get used to it and appreciate the feeling of control with regards to page navigation. Finally, at the bottom you’ll find the bubbly QWERTY keyboard which is an improvement over the Kindle 1 “chicklet” keyboard for sure. It’s most definitely not the greatest keyboard we’ve come across but it’s fine for searching and typing brief notes.

The right hand side of the device has the menu button and back button, both of which flank the 5-way directional control which may be the Achilles heel of the Kindle 2. It is an improvement over the scroll button and the funky vertical navigation display on the Kindle 1 but the 5-way controller itself leaves much to be desired. It is sturdy and has a nice satisfactory click but it’s small. Too small. It is fairly easy to move up and down but moving left and right can be tricky at times. We’re not talking “throw this thing out the window because it’s impossible to use,” but people with any dexterity problems will likely be less than happy with the performance of the controller. A slightly larger d-pad with a center button/click may have been a better choice.

Above the 5-way controller, you have another next page button and finally the home button. The button layout is quite comfortable over all, and you can perform just about any common function without having to shift your grip. The exception is probably the previous page button on the left which is placed a bit too high on the device for our taste. Despite the two main flaws we mentioned however, the Kindle 2 is definitely a winner in terms of look, feel and overall design. It is not perfect but it is pretty close.

Display

Amazon made a huge deal out of the Kindle 2’s snazzy new 16-shade display so our expectations were sky-high. Unfortunately without having another reader to do a side-by-side comparison (we’ve long-since ditched the Kindle 1 and other readers), it is difficult to rate the overall quality of screen as it relates to its predecessor or competition. As a stand alone device however, the text on the screen is crisp and the images have a nice appearance. The display response is definitely spry it supports the dynamic rendering needed for the on-screen cursor. Page to page refreshes are also quite snappy, though you do get the typical e-ink inverting and flashing when you switch pages (albeit very briefly). You really only notice it during the first 10-15 minutes of usage when you first get the device. After that initial adjustment period, the flickering anymore as the pages turn smoothly and quickly.

As for the flip side of the coin, light source is a necessity for the Kindle 2 as it lacks backlighting. This is a limitation of e-ink technology and affects all e-ink based readers. The latest Sony Reader, the PRS-700, includes external side mounted LEDs to alleviate the problem but the Kindle provides no such solution. If reading in a dimly lit area, you will definitely need a stronger light source. In a fully lit room or in the sunlight however, the Kindle display is perfectly crisp and the glare is minimal making the Kindle 2 a real pleasure to read.

Reading with the Kindle 2

The home screen is where all the fun begins of course. When on the home screen, the menu key provides access to core features including settings, search, a link to the Kindle Store, the experimental applications and the ability to sync your Kindle data and the command to check for new items. Outside the menu, the home screen itself contains a list of all the books on the Kindle. Sorry folks, as most of you Kindle 1 owners already know, the Kindle 2 does not support folders leaving all of your books to sit in one giant list. This might not be a problem for the new Kindle user who may have 5-6 books but watch out experienced veterans; you still have to scroll through your 100+ titles. This is a feature that has been requested a million times and may be added in a future update but don’t count on it. Purchase the Kindle 2 with the knowledge that you cannot use folders to organize your book collection.

When you select a book, you are brought to the beginning of the book if it is your first time opening it and the most recently finished page will appear if you have already begun reading. At the bottom of the page is a progress bar that indicates your location (locations are the digital equivalent of pages) within the book and highlights your progress. A percentage indicator is also present on the left side. Beyond the next and previous page buttons which allow page-by-page navigation, the 5-way controller allows you to jump from chapter to chapter which is a nice feature. Navigation through the book is further simplified by the menu button which provides access to the clickable/linkable Table of Contents, the beginning of the book, a page jump that allows you to go to any page or straight to the furthest page read. The “in-book” menu also lets you create a new note, highlight or bookmark, access your saved notes and bookmarks within a book and search an individual book. Last but not least, you can toggle the wireless off and on, hop to the Kindle store, or start Text to Speech from this menu. All that from one click of the menu button!

The 5-way controller is used to navigate the contents of the page you are on. When scrolling though the text with the 5-way controller, a definition of the selected word appears dynamically at the bottom of your screen – a great convenience when you hit unfamiliar words. The controller can also be used to navigate to and select any links that may be present within the text. The onscreen cursor will switch to a finger when a link is selected and a click of the 5-way controller will bring you to the linked location. Lastly, the controller can also be used to zoom in on images within a page. A zoom icon will appear over the image and a quick click zoom while a second click will zoom back out to the full page.

The Kindle 2 provides several different methods for annotating the text within a book, allowing you to add a note to a portion of the text, highlight a portion of the text or bookmark a page. If you are reading a periodical or a blog, you can also take a clipping of the any section you choose. When a note, bookmark or highlight is added to the text, the Kindle 2 indicates the specialized status of the text by displaying a folded page corner for a bookmark, a superscript number for a note or an underline beneath the text for a highlight. Pretty nifty. Reading a periodical, blog subscription or non-Kindle e-book is similar to reading a Kindle e-book. The overall navigation is the same but you have different menu options that reflect whichever type of content you are reading.

The Kindle Store: Searching, Previewing and Purchasing Books

The biggest advantage the Kindle has over its competition is Whispernet, the wireless connectivity that makes browsing and buying books ridiculously simple. The wireless coverage is provided by Sprint and, depending on your location, can be a high speed 3G EV-DO connection. Why bother with wireless connectivity? To browse and purchase books directly from the Kindle, of course! You can browse books by genre with almost every category broken down into subcategory upon subcategory. You can also view the National Bestsellers list, a new and noteworthy book list and the top Kindle books as ranked by Amazon.

If you prefer a more direct approach, you can search the book catalog using the search field and the QWERTY keyboard. When browsing categories or search results, the books appear in a scrollable list with the book cover, title, author and the review ranking (up to 5 stars) of each book. You use the 5-way controller to move up and down the list and the previous page and next page buttons to advance forward and backward through the list.

Clicking on an individual book will bring you to the the book detail page which has a link to the author’s other available Kindle books, a short list of details and a brief description of the book, the ever important “buy” button, a link to user reviews and finally, a helpful “what others have bought” section. If this book is not what you expect, you can use the search field at the bottom to start over. You can also select to “Try a sample” or “Save for later” if you want to mark the book for further review. The “Try a sample” option is another ingenious idea from Amazon and is present in the Kindle 1 as well. You can liken the experience to sitting in your local bookstore, grabbing a book off the shelf and thumbing through it before purchasing. You lose the ambiance of a bookstore with the Kindle of course, but you retain the ability to try before you buy which is most definitely appreciated. It is also handy if you have 20 minutes to fill and want a quick read.

Once you pick a book that warrants a purchase, buying it is a breeze — it’s almost too easy as a matter of fact. Hit the “Buy” button and Amazon will process the purchase using your Amazon One-Click settings. You do have to log in to your Amazon account using your PC and setup One-Click prior to purchasing of course, but once One-Click is configured, purchasing is a one step, no hassle process. The delivery of the book is equally elegant. In matter of a minute over the 3G connection, your book is downloaded to your Kindle 2 and is ready to read. If you were the proud owner of a Kindle 1, you can also use Whispernet to sync all your previously purchased books to your new Kindle 2 which certainly makes things much easier. Amazon really has captured here with Whispernet, what Apple has captured with the iPhone and its App store. Elegant and easy over the air purchasing.

For those who prefer purchasing books from sources other than Amazon, the Kindle 2 provides several methods for getting non-Amazon content onto your reader. The Kindle 2 supports the Kindle format (AZW), TXT, Audible (format 4 and Audible Enhanced AAX), MP3, unprotected MOBI and PRC natively. No conversion is needed for these formats and the content can be dragged over to your Kindle 2 via USB or sent wirelessly for a fee of $0.10 per item. It also supports PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP but these formats require conversion. Amazon provides an easy to use email-based service for converting these documents to a Kindle 2 friendly format. Basically, each Kindle 2 is assigned a unique email address (”your_kindle”@kindle.com) and you send the item for conversion to this address. Amazon will accept the content, convert it to a Kindle-friendly format and forward it on to your Kindle. It is easy but as you might imagine, it’ll cost you $0.10 per item.

If you need the conversion and don’t want to pay Amazon $0.10 to forward the book to your device, you can instead use your Kindle’s “free” email address (”your_kindle”@free.kindle.com) and Amazon will send the book back to you via email. You will need to connect your Kindle via USB and drag the newly converted content to your Kindle, but for frequent flyers this could save you a bundle in the long run. For security and privacy and purposes you can’t send content from any email, you must pre-designate a list of acceptable email addresses from which content will be sent.

Web Browsing/MP3Player/Text to Speech

The Kindle 2 also comes with a few “experimental” features including a web browser, an MP3 player and the much talked about Text to Speech function. The web browser works but don’t expect a Safari or even Opera Mobile-like experience here. You’re looking at a browser for mobile web sites only, and it’s a bit sluggish and clunky to navigate. Despite its unpolished nature, the browser does work and is convenient if you really need to check out the latest news headlines, read/post to a forum or search Wikipedia. The same applies to the MP3 player. It works and provides decent-quality background music through the small speakers, but don’t fire it up expecting to be wowed.

Last but not least is the Text to Speech function. This experimental feature actually works better than expected. It reads the text back in a computerized voice but does so with surprising clarity and proper enunciation. It is not as “sterile” and “robotic” as expected. It won’t replace audible and all those folks upset about this feature should not be concerned about book lovers opting for the Kindle audio version of a book over the audible version. The Text to Speech lacks the intonations, inflections and drama that a real person reading would bring to a book. Nonetheless, the Text to Speech is quite listenable and is a great accessibility feature to boot.

Overall Conclusion

Kindle 2 PROS:

  • Whispernet service makes book searching and purchasing a breeze
  • Kindle 2 is thin, well-balanced with a nice layout of buttons
  • QWERTY keyboard makes entering text easy and allows for features like note taking and web browsing
  • Text is crisp and easy to read with minimal glare and the screen refresh is quick
  • Navigation is easy and intuitive

Kindle 2 CONS:

  • Device is a bit long due to the presence of the QWERTY keyboard
  • Side buttons are a bit awkward to press as you have to push the inner edge and not the outer edge of the button
  • 5-way controller can be difficult to use
  • Cost is a bit prohibitive and you need to purchase a case asthe retail pack does not include one

Overall, the Kindle 2 is a gorgeous looking device that makes digital book reading a joy. For those looking to make the jump into the digital book reading experience, the Kindle 2 is an excellent choice and the experience it provides will be tough to match with a competitive reader. The price tag of $359 is a bit high, especially when you consider the extra $30 you’ll need to shell out for a cover. Never the less, the ability to have all your books on one device and new content accessible via a wireless connection is indispensible and lessens the sting of the high price tag. If you are an avid book reader and have the cash on hand, the Kindle 2 is definitely the way to go. Amazon did a fantastic job and while it might not live up to the hype surrounding its launch, it most definitely came a whole lot closer than we expected.

Amazon offers one-day Gold Box deal on the Nokia E71 NAM

Now that the E63 is a reality it’s tough to get excited about a crazy deal on a new E71 but… No, wait, we forgot. The E63 is is like the Star Wars prequels — a mistake that never should have seen the light of day. The E71 is still far and away one of the sexiest handsets Nokia has ever produced and those who haven’t had a taste can finally get one today for the more than respectable price of $289.99. The reduced price is part of Amazon’s Gold Box deal offers where a new item is offered at a steep discount every day. Think Woot without the snarky commentary. Today’s price is $37 lower than Amazon’s regular price and $60 lower than Nokia’s direct price but like we said, it’s only available today. Actually, at $290 we might just snag a handful of them to throw in a drawer until BAS for S60 is finally released. BAS on the Touch Pro is awesome but BAS on an E71 would be… Wow.

[Via The Nokia Blog]

Read

Kindle 2 teardown reveals some surprising surprises

The Kindle 2 is one of those gadgets that people either love or hate. One the one hand it’s a glimpse into the more versatile, eco-friendly and portable future for the written (and spoken) word. On the other hand it is also the devil’s dandruff, a little white monster that is attempting to ruin the noble and glorious history of the written word. But no matter what people think of it, most everyone is fascinated by the Kinde 2 and the technology that lurks underneath those understated looks. Thankfully the jewelers screwdriver-wielding maniacs at iFixit did their thing because we’re quite fascinated by some of the findings:

  • The Kindle 2 is powered by a 532MHz ARM-11 Freescale MCIMX31L processor
  • The 3.7 V 1530 mAh Li-Pol battery makes up roughly 10% of the weight of the Kindle 2 coming in at 31g
  • Upon disconnecting the battery from the unit, the E-Ink display continued to display the last image before the power disconnect
  • An outline of a SIM card is present indicating the potential for international versions of the Kindle 2
  • A Samsung 2GB moviNAND and two 32MB DDR RAM chips perform all memory duties
  • Only 26 screws and four connectors need be removed to completely disassemble the Kindle 2

There are of course a few more pics after the jump, but before we have to say it; the Kindle 2 has a processor that is faster than the iPhone 3G and on par with the Curve 8900. So sad and so true, but we’re so over it.

[Via Gizmodo]

Read

Amazon Kindle 2 Unboxing

Way, way back in October we broke the news of Amazon’s Kindle 2. Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it? Amazon snubbed us at the launch event, but we’ve taken matters into our own hands and got a Kindle 2 delivered. As we all have come to expect, the Kindle 2 arrived in its very own customized packaging. Occupying the size of a large hardcover book, the inside of the box and the Kindle 2 packaging was matte black with a slightly embossed Kindle logo and swirl of letters that typifies the Kindle brand. The contents of the box are meager — Kindle 2, power adapter, USB sync cable and brief getting started guide. Unlike the original Kindle, the Kindle 2 does not included any type of case or slipcover. All in all, much as you think it would, the unit doesn’t disappoint aesthetically. It has a nice rounded look and is amazingly thin, not clunky and awkward-looking like the original Kindle, and despite its diminutive size, it has a nice heft and feel to it. The only drawback from an appearance point of view is that the screen is eclipsed by the overall size of the reader. Unlike the Sony series of readers which have minimal casing, the Kindle 2 is dominated by the keyboard and large casing, making the screen appear smaller that it actually is. A small trade-off for including a physical QWERTY keyboard. We are waiting for this baby to charge before we dive into our first book but you can enjoy the pictures with us while we wait.

Amazon Kindle 2 gets official

We can’t exactly call it a surprise, seeing as the long awaited and highly anticipated Amazon Kindle 2 was first BGRized over five months ago, but e-bookers around the globe breathed a sigh of relief this morning as Amazon finally made its updated Kindle official. While your good pals here at BGR weren’t on hand at Amazon’s launch event – we suppose the reasoning behind snubbing us and denying us press passes is fairly obvious – news travels fast on the interwebs so here’s what you need to know:

  • The design is identical to the early model we showed you back in October – no surprises there
  • The unit is 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″ and weighs about 10 ounces – 25 percent thinner than iPhone (wow, even Amazon is jumping on the iPhone-killer bandwagon)
  • 6″ diagonal E-Ink electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale (original Kindle was only four shades)
  • Battery life has been improved by 25 percent – Amazon claims two weeks on a single charge
  • 2GB of internal storage – 700 percent more than the original Kindle, holds over 1,500 books
  • Page turning is now 20 percent faster
  • Pricing is exactly in line with last week’s leak: $359, same as the first Kindle model
  • The release date was no surprise either: Ships February 24th

Bezos & Co did have a few tricks up their sleeves – there had to be something unexpected to announce we imagine. In a very savvy move, Amazon had Stephen King write a story (involving a Kindle, err) and will release the story as a Kindle-only exclusive. King’s publisher stated the story may become available in physical form down the road a bit but for the time being, die hard King fans will need to snag a Kindle in order to keep claiming they’ve read every one of his six trillion published works. King was on hand at the launch event to explain that he typically does write stories on demand but the money was so good Kindle 2 is so cool he made an exception. He even read an excerpt from the story, titled Ur, off of his one-of-a-kind pink Kindle 2 at the event. Hooray for celebrity cameos!

Beyond that, the new Kindle will be able to automatically download magazines and newspapers, it will sync your content between devices and with a new feature called Read-to-Me it’ll even read content to you in a synth voice (great feature for the blind). The Kindle 2 is currently available for pre-order on the site and original Kindle owners get priority if they order before midnight tonight. Hit the read link for the Kindle 2 product page on Amazon.com, complete with a video.

Read

BlackBerry Storm drops to $99 on Amazon

The BlackBerry Storm is on a fire sale right now. First it was Verizon’s BOGO sale and now Amazon has jumped on the bandwagon, offering the Storm for a mere $99 with a 2-year contract. No need to buy two storms as this deal applies to a single Storm purchase and the price drop comes in the form of an instant discount which means there are no annoying rebate forms to fill out. Yippee! This deal does have its restrictions: You’ll need to sign up for a 2-year agreement and for the first 181 days you cannot lower your calling plan, switch the phone to a different line or fail to pay your bill. Most of those requirements are agreeable and not a big deal for someone buying the phone for themselves but those who switch out their phones on a regular basis or are looking to resell the Storm may be run into some problems as a result. If you fancy one Storm for $99 over Verizon’s 2 Storms for $199, head on over to Amazon’s website.

[Via Gear Diary]

Read