Amazon today unveiled the next generation of its Fire HD 8 tablet and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, refreshing the devices to add some new features.
The new Fire HD 8 will include hands-free activation of Alexa, a feature that was first introduced with the Fire HD 10 last year. The virtual assistant can be on and listening for the wake word at all times, and users can activate the digital brain without having to press the tablet home button.
The new Fire HD 8 supports “Show Mode,” a capability unveiled earlier this year that essentially turns the tablet into a version of the Echo Show. Unlocking Show Mode, which lets users ask Alexa to show trending news, weather, movies trailers, camera feeds, and more, requires a $39.99 Show Mode Charging Dock.
The new Fire HD 8 ships Oct. 4, starting at $79.99 for the 16GB version, and there is also a 32GB version. Amazon is offering a bundle with the Fire HD 8 and a Show Mode Charging Dock for $94.99.
The new edition of the Fire HD 8 Kids edition also ships Oct. 4, starting at $129.99. It is bundled with a regular Fire HD 8 tablet, as well as a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a kid-proof case, and a 2-year guarantee.
As part of the tablet refresh Amazon is expanding FreeTime — which lets parents load up tablets with kid-friendly books, videos and other content — to add a Spanish version. Parents can keep track of their kids’ activities on the device through the Parents Dashboard, which lets them control bedtime settings, set daily goals and time limits, adjust age filters, lock and unlock the device for a set amount of time and enable the web browser.
The tablet market has been in decline for some time, and Amazon has struggled to get ahead of competitors like Apple and Samsung. According to IDC, Amazon sat in fifth place in the tablet market in the second quarter, with a 4.9 percent market share. Amazon saw an annual decline in tablet shipments of 33.5 percent, per IDC, greater than the overall market which dipped 13.5 percent over a year ago.