Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
On Thursday, September 6, both Kobo and Amazon made press announcements to unveil new lines of ereaders and tablet devices. Bad timing on both of their parts since whichever way you look at it, a bit of thunder was stolen from each one of them. But besides those unfortunate circumstances, for people considering a tablet purchase, which new tablet is the best pick?
That’s hard to say definitively without getting my hands on them just yet (both Kobo’s and Amazon’s tablets will be available in November), but based on yesterday’s announcements, we can do a quick features overview and make a few preliminary judgments.
And since everyone is really out to best Apple’s iPad, I’ve thrown those technical specs in the mix for comparison’s sake. Behold the charts.
As you can see, there are several models for each tablet listed above, with the major differences being the amount of storage, connectivity options, and price (note: Amazon also announced a seven-inch Kindle Fire HD yesterday, a revision on the original Kindle Fire; but here we’re only looking at the brand-spanking new models). Kobo’s Arc offers the lowest capacity storage with 8G and 16G models, whereas Amazon has taken example from its Cupertino, California rival and offers the same three storage capacities: 16G, 32G, and 64G. The Arc doesn’t have cellular capability, but both the new Fire and iPad do. Kobo takes the cake for cheapest tablet offering at only $199, the iPad is the most expensive with a top price of $829, and Amazon falls comfortably in the middle. All in all, it looks like Amazon has tried to undercut Apple’s iPad sales by offering a seemingly comparable device for much less: compare the $499 Fire with 32G of storage and 4G LTE capability to the $629 iPad with the same two features.
When we compare the most important physical specifications (as far as e-reading is concerned, anyway), the two newcomers fall short of Apple’s iPad. The iPad display continues its reign as the largest, clearest screen available on the market. The Fire HD 8.9″ comes pretty close, however, and at $130 cheaper this tablet is certainly going to turn heads. The glimmer of hope for the Kobo Arc here is that it will feel much lighter in a reader’s hands than the other two. For tablet buyers who would consider themselves primarily readers, this could sway them toward the Arc rather than a more robust tablet.
In this category, Kobo leaps out ahead of its competition. Of course with the iPad you can download a Kobo or Kindle app and thus combine the total number of books to come up with the real Apple available books number, but with Kobo’s partnership with Google and its Google Play app store, the Arc has a definite edge on the other two. Amazon’s 50,000 apps seems rather minimal when compared with the other two app stores (and especially when Amazon usually lumps its apps into its other content and touts “20 million” songs, movies, books, apps, TV shows, and more), but it does seem to be growing quickly. Just yesterday it was reported that Amazon passed the 50,000 mark, 18 months since its app store opened for business.
So which of the two newbies take the prize for best new tablet release? That’s going to depend on your personal preferences, of course. It looks like the weight and content availability make the Arc the better choice for buyers who do a lot of heavy e-reading, but the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ appears to have come up with a real alternative to the iPad—while saving consumers $130 in the process. Although, Amazon still hasn’t found a way to outmatch its Apple rival entirely.