Amazon’s Kindle Fire 2 HD will outperform its first generation predecessor — in both sales and innovation. Set to release on November 20, the tablet earns praise for new volume buttons and camera, not to mention eight hours of battery life. Priced at $199, Fire 2 HD is a discretionary investment with measurable return. Under-resourced in applications, the tablet compensates with crisp graphics, a sizable e-book library, and a new, hotly-anticipated mapping API.
Kindle Fire 2 HD targets the conservative spender with a strict interest in reading; Kindle’s application spread, or lack thereof, is a trifling determinant in the buying process. Competitive tablets offer e-books and comprehensive app markets which, when juxtaposed against the Kindle Fire, reign superior. Kindle had to adapt to meet the needs of tablet users — most immediate of which, a mapping utility. With the release of an in-house mapping API for Fire 2 HD, Amazon finally ousted Google from the Kindle brand and positioned Fire 2 HD as a forcible and substantive contender.
Amazon is partnering with Nokia to develop a mapping API that supports custom overlays of data. Stacked with customized pins and positioning tools, beta specs look promising. Reports speculate Amazon acquired UpNext, a New-York based 3D startup. Developers will source and integrate 3D rendering capabilities into the new API.
Essential to maps is the search function, which remains intact — with one caveat: search is powered by Bing. As Amazon’s brand profile rises, Google’s seems more ominous. Apple and Google preside over the tablet sphere; to create its own presence, Amazon intuitively cut Google’s reach. Déjà vu? You’re not alone.
Apple recently ditched Google Maps for iOS 6. Successor to Google Maps, Apple Maps has drawn complaints for its buggy, often bizarre, functionality. Coloration is inconsistent. A New Orleans bridge traverses a Home Depot. A Helsinki marketplace warps into a park. Apple reps claim Maps will improve with use, but kinks are largely developmental. Amazon, pay attention.
Check out a few more Maps gaffes.
At Apple, “the products speak for themselves.” Diplomatic and cool, Steve Jobs sat with Playboy Magazine and discussed Apple’s modus operandi. “Ad campaigns are good for competition,” but “good PR educates people.” Jobs oversaw every finish, acting as a self-contained quality assurance unit. We won’t make the “if Jobs were here” argument. Instead, we’ll examine if iPhone 5 and iOS 6 live up to Jobsian conventions.
Apple reported sales in excess of five million units for the weekend following the iPhone 5 product launch. Fans praised the phone’s four inch display, anodized aluminum case, and lightning-quick 4G speeds. However, Apple incurred criticism for releasing a facelift of its 4S model. iPhone 4S delivered Siri, retina display, and reimagined design. Pre-launch expectations for iPhone 5 were in a similar, lofty vein and, for the first time, met with accuracy. In an apology issued last Friday, CEO Tim Cook admitted, “we fell short” of making “a world-class product.”
Cook acknowledged Apple Maps as the company’s biggest indiscretion and suggested users “try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest, and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps.” Apple could have leased Google Maps for another year, but felt pressed to provide “customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover, and vector-based maps.”
Cook’s vision for Apple Maps would make Jobs proud. Apple is working to improve the Maps interface and deliver a tightly-integrated, fully-functional service.
Google runs the maps ecosphere. It has a six-year head start on Apple and Amazon and a loyal following. Google Maps runs on Android devices, which account for a 68.1-percent market share. Notwithstanding its success, Google can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Mapping applications log significant screen time and demand ongoing operational updates. Fickle users will swap devices if that means a more dependable performance. Apple Maps licenses map data from TomTom and integrates Yelp plug-ins. Google purchased Zagat last year, but the review service lacks the audience enjoyed by Yelp. With proper refinements, Apple Maps could rule the map market.
This leaves one question: How does Amazon fit into the equation? Amazon’s mapping API will be limited to branded products, like Kindle. With this in mind, speculation of an Amazon smartphone doesn’t seem far-fetched. Amazon has proven that it’s not afraid to take risks. Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Prime are among the company’s most successful offerings and, if converted to mobile formats, could help tilt the balance of the smartphone market. Throw in a killer mapping API, and Amazon could give Google or Apple a serious run for its money.