The differences between Amazon’s Kindle e-readers used to be stark. The cheapest base model had paltry storage, bitsy battery life, and a slow, low-resolution screen. Meanwhile, the extravagant Kindle Oasis luxuriated in its sleek aluminum chassis, fully adjustable lighting, big battery, and physical buttons for turning pages.
But the models have slowly begun to blend together, with the less expensive Kindles adopting premium features previously only found in the Oasis. The mid-tier Paperwhite got some sprucing up in 2021, when Amazon added adjustable lighting and a USB-C port. (It’s still WIRED’s pick for best e-reader.) At last, Amazon is juicing up the base-model Kindle as well.
The new Kindle gets an upgraded display—a 300-ppi-resolution screen versus the previous Kindle’s 197 ppi. Storage is doubled to 16 GB. The new Kindle also—finally!—features a USB-C port like the newest Paperwhite models. It charges in as little as two hours over USB-C.
Unfortunately, the prices have started to converge too. The new base-model Kindle costs $100, which is 10 bucks more than the previous version. Spend another $20 and you get a version that doesn’t bombard you with ads on the lock screen.
Here’s some more news from the world of consumer technology.
Alexa Speaks Brand
The worst thing about searching for something on Google is all the ads that show up at the top of the page. Well, now Amazon is planning something like that for its Echo smart speakers.
In a blog post with the not-at-all-dystopian title “Alexa Can Now Help Brands Answer Customer Questions,” Amazon laid out a new business strategy that will allow brands to provide answers to user questions that might relate to the products the brand wants to sell. Amazon gave an example of asking Alexa how to remove pet hair from the carpet. Such a query could cause a brand-backed response to spring forth, offering to send you links to Amazon pages selling the brand’s products.
In Amazon’s brand registry system, sellers will be able to view common user questions and attach their branded answers to them. Amazon says the questions and branded answers will be reviewed by content moderators before they can be used by Alexa. Amazon insists these are not ads and that brands won’t be able to pay to submit answers. The company also says branded answers will be attributed to the brand that answered them, but it didn’t elaborate on what form that disclosure would take.
The company plans to test the feature starting in October, then roll it out across the US after that.
TikTok Wants to BeReal
Every app is trying to be TikTok, but sometimes the viral video-sharing app has to play a bit of catch-up itself.
If you are hip and cool (read: young), then surely you know about BeReal. The popular app prompts users with a notification at a random time every day that reads “Time to BeReal.” Users then have two minutes to snap a photo that captures images from both the front and back cameras. The results are quick and candid; the point of catching people unawares is to encourage more “authentic” moments than the carefully staged shots you see on platforms like Instagram.