TIME Tablets

Amazon Unveils $99 Tablet, Refresh of Fire HDX Line

The kiddie Fire HD prohibits tots from making in-app purchases--a solution to an issue the company has run into in the past

A slew of new products and updates to Amazon’s Kindle reader and Fire tablet lines are on their way, the company announced Wednesday–the biggest announcement of all that they’ll offer a new Fire device for just $99.

The new Fire HD comes in six and seven-inch models, with the smaller version costing $99 and the larger one costing $139. The device features a quad-core, 1.5 Ghz processor that Amazon says can run graphically intensive games. Front and rear-facing cameras should make selfies a breeze, and all the new devices will have unlimited photo storage in Amazon’s cloud services. The company claims that its new tiny tablets are more resistant to falls than any other devices on the market, including the iPad Air.

Amazon is also rolling out a slightly more expensive but nearly identical product aimed at kids. The Fire HD Kids Edition will have all the same features as the regular edition, but will also include a kid-centric interface called FreeTime, which serves up videos, books and apps aimed at children. The FreeTime mode prohibits kids from making in-app purchases–an issue Amazon has been accused of negligence on by the Federal Trade Commission. (Amazon is challenging those allegations in court).

The kiddie Fire HD also comes with a colorful protective case and a free year of FreeTime Unlimited, which is an all-you-can-eat subscription-based service that gives kids access to a variety of entertainment content. The 6-inch kids’ tablet is $149 and the 7-inch version is $189.

On the other end of the audience spectrum, Amazon announced a new version of a high-end tablet, the Fire HDX, which features an 8.9-inch screen, has a faster processor that clocks in at 2.5 Ghz, and which, at 13.2 ounces, is 20% lighter than the iPad Air. The new Fire HDX will also feature faster Wi-Fi, improved Dolby audio and a new dynamic light control system that changes the display to accommodate ambient light, making it more similar to the paper-like screen of the Kindle.

Amazon will also include a suite of office software called WPS Office, to encourage using the Fire HDX (and the cheaper Fire HD) as a productivity device. A super-thin keyboard made specifically for the new tablet will sell separately for $59.99. The HDX will cost $379 for the basic version, while the 4G-enabled version will cost $479.

Tying all these products together will be a new version of Amazon’s mobile operating system, Fire OS 4 (also known as “Sangria”). The new OS is packed with a lot of new features, including a service called Family Library that allows family members to share games, videos and other content they’ve purchased across multiple devices. Family members will also be able to create individual profiles on a single device with different app and content lineups to allow for easier sharing.

Fire OS 4 also pulls in some of the most prominent features from Amazon’s two new product lines this year: the Fire TV and the Fire Phone. Firefly, which lets people scan real-world objects to find out more information about them, will now be available on all the tablets, as will a video pre-buffering feature from the Fire TV called Advanced Streaming and Prediction. The popular Mayday button, which provides 24/7 customer support, will also make a return.

The devices continue Amazon’s habit of undercutting competitors on price by selling fairly sophisticated products at relatively low cost. It’s a strategy that’s a boon for customers, if not for Amazon’s bottom line. The company lost $126 million in the most recent quarter.

All the devices are available for pre-order now on Amazon.com and will begin shipping in October.

MONEY Family

Walmart Swears Your Kids Want This New Smartwatch for Christmas

Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch
VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch courtesy of VTech

Parents: Don't have a heart attack. It's not the Apple Watch kids are supposedly demanding.

Well, at least not yet. But that may only be because the freshly introduced Apple Watch isn’t on sale until early 2015.

Though critics have voiced plenty of concerns about the new Apple Watch—you still need a phone to use it, battery life is limited—the assumption is that young people especially will be eager to strap on the fancy, futuristic new gizmo and see what it can do. This, in turn, has caused some to rally parents to put up a united front and just say no to kids having Apple Watches, which will sell at retail for a hefty $350 after all.

Lots of kids will have smartwatches anyway—and they’ll get them even before their parents are noodling around excitedly to see what their own Apple Watches can do. According to Wal-Mart, which just released its “Kid-Approved Holiday Toy List,” one of the top gifts young children crave under the tree come December 25 is something of a knockoff of Apple’s hot new gadget. The VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch just entered the marketplace, and after consulting hundreds of children, Wal-Mart claims that it will be one of the hottest toys of the season. VTech lists the product as best for kids ages 4 to 7, and it sells for the comparatively low price of $60.

What does VTech’s Smartwatch do? Mostly, it takes photos and video and can be used for a few games. It has a touch screen, and, yes, it has a clock (50+ different designs) with an alarm and a timer. It doesn’t have Siri or the ability to track your heart rate or communicate with others, so there shouldn’t be any confusing this watch with the Apple offering.

Early reviewers of the device—many of them mommy bloggers who say upfront that they were given one free to test and write about—rave about it, for the most part. A PCMag.com review rated the Kidizoom at four out of five stars, with strong marks given because it’s easy and fun and takes decent videos and photos, but it loses a few points because of limited memory (a few minutes of video and you’re tapped out) and battery life that didn’t live up to what’s promised.

Yet all things considered, there’s good reason to be a little skeptical that kids will make this one of the hottest toys of the season. And if it does wind up being a hot holiday gift, who knows how long this device will actually hold a child’s interest?

Then again, who knows about any of this? A few years back, there was plenty of skepticism about the idea of buying tablets for kids, but before you knew it gadgets like the Leapfrog LeapPad tablet were in high demand around the holidays.

Bear all of this in mind when determining whether or not to purchase the supposedly “Kid-Approved” new smartwatch as a holiday gift. And if you do buy one, good luck convincing your kid that the VTech smartwatch is just as good as Apple’s when its smartwatch goes on sale to the public a few weeks after Christmas.

MONEY Fast Food

Two New Ways McDonald’s Is Trying to Win Over Millennials

Build the Burgers of Your Dreams
McDonald's is testing a program in which customers can personalize burger orders using a tablet. courtesy of McDonald's

Marketers know that millennials love technology, personalization, and brunch. What might McDonald's do with this information?

McDonald’s has a millennial problem. Globally, same-story sales fell 3.7% in August, the largest monthly dip in a decade. While McDonald’s struggles are widespread, the fast food giant is having a particularly difficult time wooing millennials, the all-important offspring of Baby Boomers who will soon be replacing that generation as the largest consumer demographic. Fortune recently cited data indicating that since 2011, the number of U.S. consumers ages 19 to 21 that ate at McDonald’s at least once a month was down 13%. In a study about millennials’ favorite fast food brands published earlier this year, McDonald’s was ranked fifth, after Taco Bell, Subway, Panera, and Chipotle.

What millennials will and will not buy has been the subject of much market research, and the consensus holds that Gen Y prefers fast casual options like Panera Bread and Chipotle over McDonald’s basically because orders are always easily customizable, and the food is deemed to be healthier, fresher, and higher quality. Millennials aren’t content with cookie-cutter anything; they like being able to personalize everything from burritos to greeting cards so that what they get feels special rather than generic. Millennials have also shown a willingness to spend a little extra to get exactly what they want, especially when it comes to restaurants and food in general.

Add in the undeniable fact that the generation that came of age with the iPhone demands that companies use technology to make their lives easier and more comfortable, and it’s not hard to see how McDonald’s came up with a new “Build Your Burger” program now being tested in southern California. Last week, the concept expanded to a couple of San Diego-area McDonald’s. As the San Diego Union-Tribune explained, customers place orders using a tablet (technology!), and they personalize exactly what they want, including a choice of buns (artisan or brioche) and toppings (spicy mayo, classic ketchup, cheeses, guacamole, jalapenos, bacon, etc.). The customer then retreats to a table, and when the made-to-order meal is ready, a McDonald’s worker delivers it on a shiny metal basket rather than a scuzzy old plastic tray.

The food and the overall experience are meant to come off as fresher, personalized, high-tech, and higher-end. (The price is higher-end too: $5.49 per burger, plus 80¢ extra if you want bacon. In some test markets, prices are even higher, starting at $5.79. Add fries and a drink and you’re close to $10.) It’s easy to see how the concept would appeal to many diners, but especially to millennials, given what we know of their preferences.

That’s not the only way McDonald’s is trying to get millennials more on board with the Golden Arches. Millennials are renowned for being obsessed with brunch, and wouldn’t you know it? Word spread this week that back in July, McDonald’s quietly trademarked the term “McBrunch.” BurgerBusiness.com, the blog that broke the McBrunch news, speculated that a McDonald’s brunch could feature many menu items that are already available in different parts of the world, including the Tsukimi Burger from Japan (egg and burger patties topped with bacon and creamy tomato sauce) and the McMorning that’s sold in Croatia (pork, bacon, potatoes, and cheese on a torpedo roll). Let the attempts to cure your hangover begin!

“Their declining sales show they have to do something,” BurgerBusiness editor Scott Hume told USA Today, regarding McDonald’s possible foray into brunch. To clarify, McDonald’s has not yet launched a brunch (or McBrunch) menu option, and the Build Your Burger program remains only a test in limited markets. If either or both of these concepts resonate with millennials, though, they’ll surely be hitting a McDonald’s near you.

TIME Gadgets

Apple’s iPhone Event to Stream Live Online

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers his keynote address at the World Wide developers conference in San Francisco
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers his keynote address at the World Wide developers conference in San Francisco, June 2, 2014. Robert Galbraith—Reuters

A visit to Apple.com redirects to Apple.com/Live today, where company CEO Tim Cook and friends will unveil Apple’s holiday gadget lineup. The event begins at 1:00 p.m. EDT/10:00 a.m. PDT.

Note the fine print at the bottom of the page: You’ll need to use an Apple device running the Safari web browser or a new-ish Apple TV box in order to stream the event.

Here’s a primer on what we might expect to see unveiled; all our iPhone 6-related news and analysis can be found here.

Check back here for additional coverage as things unfold.

TIME Gaming

The One Reason the New Nintendo 3DS Is Going to Crush Competitors

Nintendo New 3DS Nintendo

Doubling down on what tablets and phones simply can't do

Nintendo unveiled an updated design for its popular handheld system, the 3DS, on August 29. The sleek new version is more powerful and packs a number of incremental improvements like better cameras and screens. As competition for consumers’ attention with phones and tablets increases, the Japanese gaming giant is also doubling down on something Apple iPads and devices powered by Google’s Android system typically don’t have: buttons. The New Nintendo 3DS features a new analog control stick as well as two new buttons.

Buttons matter because, no matter how much more powerful phones and tablets get or how much more sophisticated the software that runs on them, manipulating many games without them is still cumbersome. The best mobile games have devised unique control methods for touch interfaces, but titles with traditional setups—guiding a character across 3D space, for instance—still suffer. Nintendo’s trio of new buttons amounts to a keen doubling down on what a gaming-dedicated device like the 3DS still does best, namely playing console-like games.

On Nintendo’s new device, the right analog knob is located above the right-hand face buttons. In addition to the new controller, the gadget has third and fourth back trigger buttons, dubbed ZR and ZL buttons, located for use in conjunction with the new stick. The New 3DS will be available in both regular and XL-sized models with dimensions similar to current hardware.

In a presentation, the company promised a wider 3D viewing angle than previous models. Additional features include an automatic brightness adjustment sensor, Micro SD card slot, camera improvements, and colorful face buttons. The New 3DS will be available in Japan in October 2014. A U.S. release date has not been set yet.

 New 3DS
Nintendo
 New 3DS
Nintendo
 New 3DS
Nintendo
TIME Big Picture

The Future of Tablets? Market Segmentation

The tablet market is one that has greatly polarized many who follow the technology industry.

The initial debate centered around whether the tablet would kill the PC. Then, the tablet market began to slow from its once triple-digit annual growth rates to much more modest single-digit growth rates. The market for tablets is still growing in terms of annual sales, just not as much as it did in 2011 and 2012.

The tablet remains an important product and it will continue to evolve, but one trend we see happening may shed some light on what we can expect for the future of tablets.

It appears the tablet is segmenting. This is something our firm has been highlighting for some time in our tablet presentation:

tablets
Creative Strategies

We are starting to see tablets being built for kids, tablets being built just to consume content and media, tablets that can replace PCs, and now with the latest entrant from Nvidia, we see tablets being specifically built for hardcore gamers.

The market appears to be segmenting. Part of this has to do with the diversity of the pure-slate form factor. The design itself opens up the possibility that, through software, tablets can appeal to a wide range of use cases. This is what makes the tablet form factor so exciting.

Segmentation in many markets is not new. Specifically in the PC market, desktops and notebooks are examples of purpose-built segmentation. PC gaming machines are another example of segmentation. So it isn’t surprising that we’re seeing segmentation in the tablet market as well.

People often criticize segmentation without realizing that these are very good business moves. The Nabi kids tablet, for example, sold nearly two million units in the U.S. during the holiday quarter last year. Nvidia’s creation of the Shield tablet may be an even smarter move still. The hard core PC gaming market may not be the largest one but it is still lucrative. DFC Intelligence estimates there are upwards of 270m core PC gamers.

However, to target these segments, companies have to truly understand the market they are building for and make products uniquely tuned to fit their needs. The Nabi tablet includes custom software for kids. They offer a range of tablets targeting at different age groups and create custom experiences just for those age groups.

The Nvidia Shield tablet has a hardcore gaming processor and can stream games over a Wi-Fi network from the gamer’s computer to the tablet, which can in turn connect to a TV. By giving gamers access to all their PC games in mobile form on a tablet, Nvidia has custom-built experiences for its tablet that check the necessary boxes for serious PC gamers.

I expect more segmentation to come as hardware manufacturers discover parts of markets that are underserved or not served at all. Ultimately, this segmentation is what can continue to fuel the tablet market. There are all types of every day use cases for tablets: Many will be general purpose like the iPad, but many will target certain verticals like the ones I mentioned above. Despite anyone’s opinion on the tablet market, I remain bullish on its future.

Bajarin is a principal at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to the Big Picture opinion column that appears here every week.

TIME Tablets

Apple Slated to Launch Larger iPad in Early 2015: Reports

Apple IPads Sales Down
In this photo illustration the rear of an Apple iPad is seen on Aug. 6, 2014 in London, England. Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

Insider sources indicate 12.9-in. version is in the works

In the midst of sluggish sales, Apple has been developing larger touch-screen devices in order to see off competition from rivals including Google and South Korean giant Samsung, according to reports.

The new 12.9-in. iPad will be launched in the spring, inside sources told Bloomberg, following the company’s release of a larger 4-in. iPhone next month.

Apple’s 10-in. and 7.9-in. tablets have been unable to maintain a stable consumer base because of the release of larger smartphones by largely Asia-based competitors.

The new iPad’s 12.9-in. screen would be comparable in size to the largest MacBook Air on the market.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Tablets

This Enormous Tablet Could Replace Your Kid’s TV

Fuhu's Big Tab tablet boasts a screen as large as 24 inches. Fuhu

The Big Tab is aiming to replace video game consoles and TVs for kids' entertainment

Family game night is going digital — a new super-sized tablet for kids is aiming to replace the classic board game, the Xbox and maybe even the television.

The Big Tab, developed by fast-growing startup Fuhu, boasts a massive screen of either 20 or 24 inches, depending on the model. That’s a big jump from the company’s popular Nabi 2 tablet, which has a seven-inch screen. But Fuhu founder Robb Fujioka says the big screen size will encourage children to collaborate and socialize when they use their device, rather than tuning out the rest of the world.

To make the tablet into a social hub, Fuhu has developed a large suite of multiplayer games, from classics like checkers and Candyland to internally developed titles. A feature called “Story Time” offers 35 interactive e-books that utilize animated illustrations. Kids can also utilize video editing software, a Pandora-like radio service and educational software.

There are also tools for adults on the Android-powered device. A separate Parent Mode allows adults to download apps from the Google Play or Amazon stores. Parents can also set limits on which apps their children can access and for how long they can use them. Like Fuhu’s other devices, the Big Tab also boasts a virtual currency system that lets parents pay their kids when they complete chores or use educational apps for a certain amount of time.

The device, which also lets parents track their kids’ usage patterns, could appeal to adults looking to guide their children toward more productive forms of entertainment. Fujioka says he replaced the television in one of his children’s rooms with the Big Tab and uses it to keep track of whether his kid is playing educational games or watching Netflix. “It’s not just a boob tube,” he says. “It’s an interactive device.”

Though the tablet market is only a few years old, the devices have been embraced by parents in a big way. Tablet usage among children between ages two and 12 increased from 38% to 48% over the last year, according to research firm NPD. Juli Lennett, head of the toys division at NPD, said it’s a combination of safety, durability and kid appeal that has led to the quick popularity of children’s tablets. “When the price point is $99, on top of being a real functional tablet, these additional features are tough to beat,” Lennett told TIME via email.

The challenge for Fujioka and Fuhu will be convincing parents to pony up for a high-end tablet. The Big Tab will cost $449 for the 20-inch model and $549 for the 24-inch when it launches this fall, far more than the $180 the Nabi 2 goes for. And while the larger size means the Big Tab can be used by multiple people at once, it also makes the device less portable than its smaller cousins, eliminating one of the original selling points of the tablet form factor. “The beauty of these tablets is you throw them in your bag and you go,” says Gerrick Johnson, an equity research analyst at BMO Capital Markets who follows the toy industry. “A [24-inch] tablet becomes a little more difficult.”

Still, Fuhu is well positioned to prove skeptics wrong. The company sold 1.5 million of its normal-sized kids’ tablets in 2013, says Fujioka. This year, Fuhu is leading the children’s tablet market in the U.S., according to NPD, beating out competitors like Samsung and KD interactive. The question now is whether others will follow their lead in developing kids’ devices that cost as much as an iPad or a video game console.

“We think there’s a big market out there,” Fujioka says. “We believe we’re defining a new category of tablet products for the family.”

TIME Video Games

Skylanders Series Finally Heads to Its Logical Home: Tablets

Activision

Activision's toy-game franchise is finally coming to tablets, and not a watered-down spinoff, but the full console experience (and then some).

Toys — speaking as a child informed by the 1980s’ halcyon infusion of Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe and Transformers — are things you want to play with using your hands, not virtual appendages. You want to feel their heft, to pick them up and set them down, to put fingers to their plastic contours and movable joints and smooth or spiny textures before positioning them along imaginary compounds and battlements.

Activision’s Skylanders series celebrates the physicality of toys by folding that experience into a virtual one and back again. But until now, you’ve always had the virtual part of the experience with a television screen, probably up off the floor and away from the toys themselves. The toys were the physical experience you had to carry to the virtual one.

Activision’s finally remedying that by inverting the formula and bringing the virtual experience to the physical one: Skylanders Trap Team, the newest installment in the series that lets players “trap” characters from the game in physical objects, will be the first to support tablets, and it’ll launch simultaneously with the console versions when they ship on October 5.

It’s not a scaled-down version, either, but the full Trap Team experience you’ll have with any of the console versions, soup to nuts. What’s more, and this is where the notion of a table version starts to get interesting, Activision’s engineered its own Bluetooth gamepad. Imagine an Xbox 360 controller with all the trimmings, including dual analog thumbsticks, d-pad, face buttons and triggers, only one that’s slightly smaller (designed for the game’s younger target demographic).

It’s available as part of something the team calls the Skylanders Trap Team Tablet Starter Pack, which includes a Bluetooth version of the Traptanium Portal (the plastic stand you set the Skylanders action figures on, as well as the traps) and the gamepad itself, which rests under the platform in a formfitting cubby hole.

The starter pack includes the controller, the built-in tablet stand (it’s part of the platform, so “included” may be overselling this point) and a display tray that lets you track the traps and villains you’ve collected. Activision told me all 175 existing Skylanders toys are compatible with the platform, and that’s in addition to Trap Team‘s over 50 new playable Skylanders heroes and 40 new villains.

The tablet docks directly to the portal, tilting backward slightly, nestling in a crook-like stand (built into the portal) designed to grab and hold it without mechanical latches. That’s so you can pull the tablet out or drop it back in with ease. Watching Activision demo the new interface, it looks like coming home, like a game that’s finally found the interface it was designed for.

How much? You’ll need a tablet, of course, but assuming you have one that’s compatible — Activision supports the 3rd gen iPad forward, the Kindle Fire HDX, the Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Note — you can lay hands on the starter pack for $74.99, same as console.

TIME Tablets

These Are the 10 Best Android Tablets of 2014

Samsung

Here's how to choose the best tablet for you

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 9.42.33 AM

This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at Trusted Reviews.com.

By

Are you on the lookout for an Android tablet? The range is vast and varied so we understand it can be a nightmare finding the right one for your needs. So to help you in your search we’ve selected some of the best Android tablets for a number of different scenarios, whether you want the best for a specific budget or you want a tablet that is perfect for your kids or for work.

If you’d like even more advance on what to look for when buying for a new tablet, you should read our Tablet Buyer’s Guide which explains the strengths and weaknesses of each type of tablet and anything else you may need to consider.

If, on the other hand, you know that the iPad Air or a Windows tablet isn’t for you then here’s the place to be.

One of the golden rules when looking at Android tablets is that you should steer clear of cheap no-name models. There are countless of them and they’re almost never worth the money or the effort of using such inferior products.

As for the “best” Android tablet, well there isn’t really one at the moment. What you have is a number of great Android tablets that do some things better than others. What is best for you may be very different from what the person next to you might need.

Click the next arrow to go through and read a bit more about each tablet to find your perfect Android tablet partner.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

Originally reviewed by 09 July 2014

Best Android Tablet Overall

Key features:

  • 8.4-inch Super AMOLED screen
  • 16GB storage
  • MicroSD slot

It’s taken some time, but we finally have a tablet to knock the Nexus 7 (2013 edition) off its lofty perch. The 2,560 x 1,600 display on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is fantastic, making it a great place to watch Netflix or BBC iPlayer. The battery life is great and the slim design means it’ll slip nicely into your bag. As we’ve come to expect from Samsung tablets, it still has some not so great software quirks and the fingerprint scanner is not very useful. But if you are looking for an iPad Mini 2 alternative, then this is currently your best option.

Nexus 7 2013

Originally reviewed by 12 August 2013

Best 7-inch Android Tablet

Key features:

  • 7-inch, 1920 x 1200 IPS screen
  • Powered by a reasonably nippy Snapdragon S4Pro quad-core processor
  • Features a 5-megapixel rear camera
  • 16GB/32GB non-expandable

The successor to the brilliant Nexus 7, Google teamed up with Asus once again for the Nexus 7 2 and it’s still one of the best portable Android tablets to own. So, what’s new? Well, the screen resolution has been bumped up to 1,920 x 1,200, the Tegra 3 processor has been replaced with a Qualcomm snapdragon S4 Pro CPU and there’s now a 5-megapixel main camera. It’s more expensive than the original at £199 but it still looks great and offers a zippy performance. The new camera addition is no different from the average rear-facing snappers we’ve seen on other tablets, though.

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