The New Amazon Fire HD 10 Made Me Free My Old One From The Closet
Oh yeah, I *own* one of those!
About a week ago, Amazon announced a brand new iteration of their Fire HD 10 tablet, and I missed this news somehow.
And then last night I saw it randomly because I was wandering around the internet.
Look, I’m not always on the pulse of technology.
Honestly, until I awkwardly and randomly stumbled into this announcement, I thought that Amazon had given up on this segment of the tablet market.
But I’m glad they didn’t.
I’m one of the five people who thought the Fire HDX was kind of cool…and I’d still own one today if mine hadn’t melted down after three weeks into a fire of sudden dead pixels that forced me to return it.
And so then I bought a Fire HD 10. I loved it for a few months, as is my custom. Then, it went to live proudly in the weird technology graveyard of my closet.
About every 5 months, I remember that I have one, and I re-enjoy it all over again. So I guess I was due.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
The Fire tablet business is based on an older model: Sell the hardware at a very low/zero profit margin, and make it up later on the back end.
This model was often used in the gaming hardware space, sometimes to great success.
But recently, and I think partly thanks to the premium pricing of Apple, that model has all but dried up. Companies now make rather large profit margins off of tech products. Everything, from tablets to phones to headphones to game consoles, has a higher markup over the break-even point than it used to.
This left a gap that Amazon has been more than happy to fill for a long time now, and I’m glad they’re doing it. Yes, their hardware is a touch more locked down than some of their competition…but again, that’s right in line with the older business model.
At $149, the new Fire HD 10 is a stupidly disruptively-priced product. It has a 1080p screen, a decent amount of RAM, a solid processor, Dolby Audio support with virtual surround for headphones, and a tank-like construction. If you’re a feature-focused shopper, you can’t beat it.
Of course, the tablet market is a little bit soft right now. Tablet sales have probably already passed their peak, and no one is sure whether they’ll ever come back. The humble laptop had more staying power than anyone expected. Right now in this cafe I’m sitting in, there are 5 other people using laptops, one guy on a phone, and no one using a tablet.
But I think there’s still a market out there for a highly portable media consumption and computing device that’s bigger than a phone. Apple clearly believes in this, doubling down with both the newer iPad Pro models and the recent “budget” $329 iPad 2017. And they don’t place wild bets any more.
I know that Amazon likes to compare this new Fire HD 10 to the iPad Pro on their product page…but I think that latter item is what they’re really aiming it at. They want to capture a consumer who is like “This cheaper iPad seems pretty good oh hey this Amazon thing is less than half the price.”
The “cheap” iPad (Still sold at a large margin percentage) was never targeted at a hardcore user, and neither is the new Fire HD 10.
A thriving mainstream market is vital, in my opinion, to long term success in the tech/media industry. If you have a large base of consumers that can get introduced to your ecosystem for relatively little money, then they have more money and time to spend on your content. I think that’s why tiered pricing and multiple models have reared their controversial head in Apple’s product line, even though all of their stuff is still relatively premium.
Whether you like it or not, there has to be a good cheap thing. And Amazon is doing this better than everyone else right now.
SOFTWARE OVER HARDWARE
My favorite thing about the Fire tablet line, and the reason I keep buying them and retiring them to my closet, is that they try to stay out of the way and just let you consume content.
I think Amazon does this better than most other hardware manufacturers.
The entire OS is designed around showing you as much Amazon content as possible, and nothing else. I get that this is a brazen marketing/sales move. But I think it’s also a very good user experience philosophy.
The typical user isn’t there to marvel at the chamfered edges of the tablet or the color gamut of the screen. They just want to watch movies, read, and play games.
(Incidentally, I would be shocked if Nintendo didn’t study the Fire extensively when designing the Switch. That thing has a laser-like focus on game consumption).
Tablets do many things better than phones, and many things better than laptops…but they still live in an awkward middle ground if you try to make them end-all be-all devices. I think they make the most sense as a media consumption device.
I’ve never understood why most of them have cameras.
I’ve been enjoying using my older HD 10 again…even though it’ll probably go back into my closet in a few weeks, because I’m weird.
I’ve been playing through Sky Force Anniversary, which I also recently started on my phone. The experience is so much better on the tablet. The bigger screen gives me more real estate to easily control my ship without blocking my view of the enemies I’m trying to dodge and shoot, and the bigness of the AV presentation is just naturally more impressive.
It instantly reminded me why tablets were such a thing for so long, and that they still have something valuable to offer in the modern world. I’m sure that Amazon, Apple, and Nintendo will happily continue to sell lots of them as others struggle to make a dent.