Amazon will release the latest generation of its Fire HD 10 tablet next month, cutting the price by more than 42 percent for the 32G model and adding deeper integration of the company’s voice-based assistant, Alexa.
The new tablet will ship Oct. 11, with a 32GB version selling for $149.99, or $110 less than the current’s 32GB model. A 64GB version will cost $189.99, and both models have a slot for an SD card to add 256GB of space.
While previous Fire tablets came with Alexa integrated, the new Fire tablet has a setting for running Alexa hands-free. That means the virtual assistant can be on and listening for the wake word at all times, and users can activate the digital assistant without having to press the tablet home button. This brings Amazon’s family of tablets closer to full-blown Alexa devices. Voice features include the ability to queue up movies and shows, set timers and organize a calendar.
The Alexa integration means the tablet can also control smart home devices like lights, and Amazon plans to update the device to be able to interact with smart home cameras.
GeekWire checked out the new tablet at Amazon headquarters this week. Kevin Keith, general manager of Amazon’s Devices group, said the company aims to break even on the sale of its Fire tablets, and the company works to bring down costs while adding new features and capabilities. The tablets represent a gateway to bring people further into Amazon’s ecosystem, encouraging them to purchase items online, or subscribe to Amazon content.
“We try to build products customers love and want to use all the time,” Keith said. “We make money when customers use it, not when they buy it. And in that way, if it’s sitting in a drawer the customer’s not getting a lot of value out of it, that’s a disincentive for us.”
Although Amazon remains in fourth place in the tablet market — behind Apple, Samsung and Huawei — its business is growing at a faster rate than its fellow tech giants, according to a recent study by International Data Corp. Keith noted that the overall tablet market has declined, while Amazon’s tablet business has continued to grow. Dropping prices for its tablets, therefore making them available to a wider customer base, has helped Amazon gain ground.
The tablet market today is made up of two categories, in Amazon’s view. There’s the 2-in-1s and other devices meant to replace PCs, such as high-end iPads and Microsoft’s Surface Pro models, and there are the lower cost models. Amazon belongs in the latter category.
Amazon built the new Fire 10 HD with a goal of creating the ultimate entertainment device, Keith said. The company built many of the tablet’s biggest upgrades — a high-powered 10.1-inch, 1080p screen, increased RAM, 10 hours of battery life compared to eight in previous models — with that vision in mind.
“For customers that just want a really good, well-priced tablet that’s primarily focused on entertainment, that’s really where we’ve hit out sweet spot,” Keith said.
The new tablet features a deeper level of personalization than previous models. Alongside a traditional app interface is a “For You” page designed to reflect how customers use their tablets. If the device is used primarily for streaming shows and movies, recent content will pop up in that section along with recommendations from Amazon. Same for those who use the device for reading books and magazines.
The device also lets users pick up where they left off on a movie or book. Amazon’s Prime Photos app is integrated into the device’s personalized page and displays recent photos as well as memories from the same day in previous years.