I received an email asking if I thought Amazon would be releasing a new Kindle, the “Kindle 4”, later this year, and if so what new features would it likely have.
Thinking about it, that’s a really good question.
With Barnes and Noble and Kobo both releasing new touchscreen ebook readers in June, and with Sony rumored to unveil a new ereader or two soon, Amazon probably won’t be content to stick with the Kindle 3 through the rest of the year . . . or will they?
One approach that Amazon may take in lieu of a new Kindle is to drop the price even more on the existing Kindle 3 line. The Kindle WiFi with Special Offers is currently priced at $114. That could easily drop to $99 for Christmas.
Or, another rumor that’s gaining a lot of momentum is that Amazon is going to release a line of Android tablets this fall, what some would call the color Kindle, or Kindle Tablet. But I don’t agree with that assumption. If Amazon were to release Android tablets, they probably wouldn’t have anything to do with the “Kindle” brand name; Android tablets would build off all of Amazon’s electronic services, music, video, cloud storage, etc., not just the Kindle Android app.
So if Amazon does release Android tablets later this year, that doesn’t mean a Kindle 4 couldn’t come along too. In fact, I’d say the odds are good that a new Kindle will be released in 2011. The Kindle 3 is already nearing its 1 year birthday in August. And Amazon released new Kindles in 2009 and 2010, so why would 2011 be any different? Especially now that ebooks are more popular than ever.
Kindle 4 Possible Features
So if Amazon does indeed have a new E Ink Kindle in the works, what new features will it have?
The most obvious answer is of course a touchscreen. Since all the major brands have touchscreens now, a new Kindle would most certainly have a touchscreen too, which would make it the first Kindle without an external keyboard, something that would make a lot of people happy.
If it’s going to have a touchscreen, it will need a new updated user interface, more like the touchscreen-friendly Kindle reading apps for Android and iPad. It could use other software upgrades too, like more fonts choices, more ebook organizing options, increased social tools, page re-fresh settings, better performance, and so forth.
Another likely upgrade, since the Kindle 3’s battery life magically doubled overnight after the Nook Touch was revealed to have a 2 month battery life, it’s safe to assume that a new Kindle will have an even longer battery life, complete with exaggerated claims.
Support for DRM-free EPUB ebooks would be huge. DRM’d EPUBs will never happen so there’s no hope for that. But there’s no reason why Amazon couldn’t add support for DRM-free EPUB ebooks. They don’t need to release a new Kindle for that, though, just a firmware update.
Perhaps it isn’t the 6″ Kindle that will be updated. A new large-screened Kindle could be a possibility too. Or maybe even a super-cheap 5″ Kindle for Kids.
Other than that, I don’t see many other potential changes happening. A color Kindle is a possibility but not likely. E Ink unveiled color epaper, called Triton, last November, but it still hasn’t been used on any ebook readers thus far, at least not outside Asia. The technology, while advanced for E Ink, is slow to go mainstream, perhaps because colors aren’t as bright as most are accustomed to with traditional LCD displays since there is no backlight to illuminate the screen. Mirasol, another possibility for color screens, scrapped their planned ereader because it wasn’t good enough. So if it’s going to be color, it’s most likely going to be an LCD tablet, not a color Kindle.
That means the main upgrades, if a new Kindle is indeed coming, will be the addition of a touchscreen and updated user interface, which will probably include some new features like on-board ebook lending and borrowing.
Of course this is all just speculation, especially when it comes to the touchscreen. Adding a touchscreen to a Kindle sounds easy, but pretty much everything from a software standpoint has to change for it. And what about all the Kindle games and apps that are designed for use with the Kindle’s nav controller and cursor? The web browser would have to change for a touchscreen too. All the menus, settings, zooming, scrolling. Pretty much everything. That could take some time to perfect.
Nevertheless, a new Kindle will come along at some point—that much is certain. The matter of when is the big question, and what shiny new features it will come with.