Amazon fires into tablet battle

AmazonAmazon has waded into Britain's brewing battle of the tablets, announcing the arrival of its latest Kindle Fire devices.

The American online retail giant presented its new Kindle Fire HDX tablet, which has improved graphics and is billed as significantly faster and lighter than the previous generation.

Its arrival means UK consumers will be spoiled for choice this Christmas after Argos and Tesco entered the increasingly crowded tablet market.

With new features such as troubleshooting with a live customer service representative and improved parental controls, Amazon hopes the new-look gadgets will give it the edge.

Jorrit Van der Meulen, vice-president for Kindle in the EU, said: "It is competitive but it's a huge space and there is room for lots of people to sell tablets.

"It's really hard to do really well because it is not just a device. You have to have a very solid ecosystem of content that people can purchase.

"We're very comfortable with the position Amazon is in. I just know we are never satisfied because costumers are never satisfied, and we will keep innovating on their behalf."

Available in an 8.9in version costing £329 and a 7in model which will retail at £199, experts said the Android-powered Fire HDX would be in competition with the iPad Mini and Google's Nexus 7 after it hits stores in November.

The already-available Fire HD model, costing £119, has been spruced up to be slimmer and lighter, with improvements to its sound system, and will be up against the cheaper new devices offered by Argos and Tesco.

Dickon Ross, editor of Engineering and Technology magazine, said: "The Kindle Fire has already proved popular, together with other Android devices, and has been attracting demand away from the iPad.

"Price is the key issue - Android devices are much more competitively priced, while the iPad is more expensive.

"At the moment Android devices seem to be getting cheaper month by month and some users consider it a more open system compared to the more closed-walled garden approach that Apple takes."

Offering a tablet of their own is increasingly seen as a means of generating costumer loyalty by retailers.

Argos announced this week that it is launching its MyTablet device for £99.99 after Tesco unveiled its Hudl tablet, which costs £119, last month. Both use Google's open source Android operating system.

Amazon includes advertising and recommendations for its vast offer of products, which range from books to jewellery, on its tablets' lock-screen.

Users can opt out of the advertisements - but must pay for the privilege. Amazon claims that most choose not to.

In terms of novelties, the Kindle Fire HDX offers a live-aid feature called Mayday, which allows users to to summon a live customer service representative in a tiny video window within 15 seconds.

Helpers are on call to explain new features and answer queries while guiding users with on-screen scribbles and remotely take control of the device.

For both the Fire HDX and HD, Amazon has expanded its X-Ray feature, which uses the IMDb movie database to offer instant trivia, character back stories and soundtrack information.

It has also introduced new-look parental controls called FreeTime which allows parents to determine exactly what their children do with the device.