SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Amazon.com Inc. unveiled four new Kindle Fire models today, including ones with larger screens, as the online retailer steps up competition with Apple Inc. ahead of the holiday shopping season.
Amazon unveiled the larger Kindle Fire amid expectations of a smaller iPad from Apple.
The larger Fires will have screens that measure 8.6 inches diagonally, compared with 9.7 inches for the iPad. The original Fire had 7-inch screens. The speculation on the mini iPad is that it’ll have a 7.85-inch screen. Apple isn’t commenting, but it has an event scheduled next week during which it is expected to at least announce a new iPhone.
The Kindle Fire is an effort to take a larger share of a tablet computer market dominated by Apple’s iPad. Amazon has been selling lower-priced tablets at thin, if any, profit margins to boost sales of digital items from its online store.
The basic, 7-inch Fire model will cost $159, down from $199 for the original model. It will start shipping next Friday.
Amazon is coming out with a high-end version called Kindle Fire HD. It will have two Wi-Fi channels for faster transfers. That will be crucial for high-definition movies and other large files, CEO Jeff Bezos said.
The HD model will also have more storage, starting at 16 gigabytes, compared with 6 GB for the old Fire. It wasn’t immediately clear what the updated basic model will come with. The iPad also starts at 16 GB.
Bezos noted that the operating system takes up about 2 gigabytes, leaving an 8 GB model with just 6 GB.
“For a high-def device, 8 GB is dead on arrival,” Bezos said.
For the HD, a 7-inch model will sell for $199 and ship next Friday. An 8.9-inch model will go for $299 and start shipping Nov. 20.
Amazon also unveiled a premium Kindle Fire model, one with the ability to connect to the 4G cellular networks that phone companies are building. It will cost $499 and come with 32 gigabytes of memory and an 8.9-inch screen. A data plan will cost $50 a year.
Amazon also refreshed its line of stand-alone e-readers. Called Paperwhite, the new e-reader model has a black-and-white screen. It promises 25 percent more contrast. Bezos said “the whites are whiter, and the blacks are blacker.”
The Paperwhite has a light source. Bezos says the device is “perfect in direct sunlight.” Tablets such as the iPad and the Fire don’t work as well in bright light because they are lit from the back. Bezos says the light on the Paperwhite is directed down at the display. The device promises eight weeks of battery life, even with the light on.
It costs $119 and starts shipping Oct. 1. Amazon says it will start taking orders Thursday. There’s also a model with 3G cellular connections for $179. Amazon is also dropping the price of its low-end Kindle to $69, from $79. That will start shipping next Friday.
Amazon’s stock increased $4.93, or 2 percent, to $251.15 in afternoon trading today.
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