Wi-Fi performance could be secret weapon for Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablets

Wi-Fi performance could be secret weapon for Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablets

Summary: You're not going to stream and download all that media content using Amazon's 4G LTE plan, which is why Amazon amped up the Wi-Fi capabilities on its new

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TOPICS: Amazon, Tablets, Wi-Fi
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With due respect to my colleague Larry Dignan's belief that hardware will become irrelevant soon, the roll-out of Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablets was chock full of specs -- pixels-per-inch, gigabytes, and floating point operations, to name a few. While services may indeed be sexier than hardware these days, you can't just consume all the high-definition media those services provide on just any cheapo slate -- or at least consume them in an ideal fashion.

And though everyone's jaws dropped when Jeff Bezos unveiled the pricing for the 4G Kindle Fire HD's wireless data plan -- 250MB of monthly data delivered via AT&T LTE for a mere $50 per year -- that plan won't do much for you when you want to stream or download the HD movies Amazon built the tablets to display optimally. (See here for what I'm talking about.) Sure, you can pay a lot more to up your monthly data limit -- since once you reach your monthly limit, AT&T will shut off your 4G LTE service -- but then you're dealing with ordinary mobile rates (3GB for $30 per month, 5GB for $50 per month), not Amazon's special deal.

All of this is why one of the most important features unveiled last week -- the unsung lynchpin to the Kindle Fire as service provider -- may be its enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities. Eyes may have glazed over when Bezos presented the slide touting how the addition of dual antennas and dual-band and MIMO technologies have boosted the Kindle Fire's Wi-Fi speeds to what Amazon says are 41-percent faster than what the iPad 3 can offer, but zippy downloads and lag-free streaming can enhance the Kindle ecosystem in ways consumers may not expect, but will appreciate on a daily basis. (Of course, that's assuming those consumers have up-to-date Wi-Fi hardware to make those transfer rates possible.)

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Other than pricing, there isn't a lot that Amazon could offer that would wildly out-spec the competition -- version two of the Kindle Fire was about matching the rival's hardware while keeping prices low. But Wi-Fi performance, perhaps because of its very unsexiness, was the one area where Amazon could solidly trump competitors. It could be argued that a speedy network connection is every bit as important to a tablet's performance as processor speed or graphics performance when you consider how many apps rely on the Internet to function effectively.

Unfortunately for Amazon, as potentially impressive as the Wi-Fi specs for the new Kindle Fires seem to be, it's an easy target for competitors to match. The next iPad or Google Nexus tablet could add an extra antenna and MIMO technology, and there goes Amazon's advantage. Of course, Apple has had years of introducing new features to the iPod, iPhone, and iPad (most recently, Retina Display technology) and watching rivals add them to their offerings, and it seems to be doing OK despite that. 

How important do you think fast Wi-Fi performance is to the overall tablet experience? Are the improved Wi-Fi capabilites of the new Kindle Fires a big selling point for you? Let us know in the Talkback section below. 

Topics: Amazon, Tablets, Wi-Fi

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Talkback

17 comments
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  • I just ordered one yesterday over Nexus 7

    It was close, but I went with the 7" Kindle Fire HD because of the WIFI, 16GB storage, speakers and HDMI port. I plan to use it to do presentations so HDMI was actually the key factor. I definitely prefer Google's platform and not looking forward to being locked into Amazon, so hardware trumped software in this case. I wonder if you can root it and install Jelly Bean. ;)
    Jon Poland
  • I just ordered one yesterday over Nexus 7

    It was close, but I went with the 7" Kindle Fire HD because of the WIFI, 16GB storage, speakers and HDMI port. I plan to use it to do presentations so HDMI was actually the key factor. I definitely prefer Google's platform and not looking forward to being locked into Amazon, so hardware trumped software in this case. I wonder if you can root it and install Jelly Bean. ;)
    Jon Poland
  • A good thing, but not a selling point

    I think features like this can lead to "customer delight," and that's a good thing, but I'm skeptical that they help sell the product. Unlike, say, some razzed-dazzle display technology, this is not something you will experience until after you've bought the product.

    I think some of Nokia's features in their new Lumias are the same way: no one will see them until after they've bought the phone.
    Robert Hahn
  • Surface First

    The Microsoft Surface tablets will have 2x2 MIMO WiFi antennas. It was announced earlier this summer.
    Now, if the Kindle is actually released early November, it means the Surface tablets will beat them to the punch with this feature.
    There goes the advantage.
    TheCyberKnight
    • But the Kindle Fire HD *won't* be released in early November ...

      There will be versions of it with MIMO shipping this month.
      bhartman36
      • True!

        You're right. The small Kindle Fire HD has a September 14th release date.

        Then, Amazon will enjoy this "unique" tablet feature for just over a month.
        TheCyberKnight
  • Competing With The Google Tablet

    Looks like the Nexus 7 has achieved its purpose of lighting a fire under the entire tablet market. Good to see companies already trying to outdo its price/performance capabilities. Bring on the competition!

    (Typed on my Nexus 7.)
    ldo17
  • If it wasn't for the surfaces and other windows 8 tablets coming out

    I would be all over the wifi 8.9 in kindle hd. But compared to the surface it's not worth it ever if it's only $300.
    Sam Wagner
  • 250MB/ month is not enough

    If we use the $G LTE for multimedia we can easily use the 250MB quota in One days, instead in one month.
    I think Amazon miscalculated the number.
    250MB a month is a joke
    Utomo Prawiro
    • the point is

      it's $50/year. that's just over $4/month. you're not seriously complaining about a data plan that cheap are you? if you were to get 250MB on AT&T or Verizon they would charge you 10-15/month.
      theoilman
    • Amazon designed this, on purpose

      Of course, 250 MB will be consumed in just few hours. Then, if you want cellular connectivity, you will have to pay more. A lot more. Many people will pay, at least for a while.
      This is how it works.
      danbi
  • v nexus

    the Nexus 7 also has GPS capability and the 7 inch Kindle Fire HD lacks the more powerful processor of the larger model.

    dictated from my Nexus 7.
    putkowski
  • does "Google Tablet" refer to the nexus 7?

    because there are a lot of android tablets, with a number of antenna types
    theoilman
  • Wireless performance comparison

    Wonder, who made these 'measurements'? The difference in single and dual 802.11n antennas is 150 Mbit or 300 Mbit raw speed (half-duplex). A single-antenna radio can easily do more than 31 Mbit unidirectional speed. And this is so even with single-band radio!!!

    The testing methodology is important. Relying on Amazon's marketing charts is ridiculous.
    danbi
  • Improved wi-fi vs I-pad 2

    I live in an old farmhouse and the centre of the house has always been a wi-fi signal desert.........until now. Didn't realise the kindle HD had dual antennae but it can see routers my I-pad 2 can just dream about. Very impressive.
    Ballofrockfloatingthroughspace
  • Nexus wifi, sound & no HDMI will make me to return it & get KINDLE FIRE HD

    Just got a Nexus 7 but noticed the You Tube videos were lagging. I haven't tried viewing a movie yet. I am a novice techie. Is the You Tube issue due to the Nexus wifi antenna?
    scoop1969
  • Kindle Fire HD 8.9

    I have owned this device for about three months now, and while I wish Kindle had not modified the Android 4.0 OS, it's an excellent product. When B&N drastically lowered the price of their Nook HD+ for this past Mother's Day, I purchased one because it was lighter in weight and had more of a true Android OS plus access to Google Play. I just returned it yesterday because it would not stream video without jutter or buffering. I attribute this to the Wifi. The signal strength on my Kindle is a full 10db better than the Nook. This is a huge advantage if you stream video on your tablet. Also, the more closed system of the Kindle really makes the device more stable for the average consumer. Unless you like to tweek your device all the time, go with the Kindle.
    Tadben123