Amazon announces high-resolution Kindle Fire HDX models, new Fire OS 3.0

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Online retail giant Amazon quietly unveiled new versions of its Kindle Fire line of devices this week, showing off a tweaked form factor and a novel on-screen helpdesk feature that could differentiate the company's lineup from Android tablets and Apple's iPad.

The new Kindle Fire HDX devices come in 7-and 8.9-inch models, both featuring a more angular form factor and much higher display resolutions. The 7-inch model sports a resolution of 1920x1200 with a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch, while the 8.9-inch configuration outputs at 2560x1600. Amazon has also built in dynamic image contrast, allowing the device to alter its contrast to enable better reading even as lighting conditions shift.

Amazon has also worked to make the devices as light as possible, with the 8.9-inch version weighing in at 13.2 ounces, or seven ounces lighter than its predecessor. Inside, both devices will have a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, which will likely result in much smoother operation for the devices.

In terms of battery life, Amazon is promising 11 hours of standard use, an increase of one hour over the 8.9-inch model from last year. In the special reading mode, the device will reportedly last for 17 hours on a single charge.

Kindle Fire HDX

As with previous Kindle Fire devices, the new models run Amazon's Fire OS. Dubbed "Mojito," Amazon's latest OS is a forked version of Google's Android operating system, as were its predecessors.

Perhaps the most novel addition to the devices is a 24-7-365 online helpdesk with a video component. Amazon has built a "Mayday" button into Fire OS, allowing users to press it whenever they want and to be connected to a tech advisor. The tech advisor appears in an on-screen video chat box, but the advisor cannot see the device user. Once connected, the tech rep can walk a user through the steps of using a device, drawing help steps onto the user's screen.

Amazon has a goal of keeping wait times for this service down to 15 seconds or less. To that end, the company has reportedly brought on thousands of technical reps, and it can supposedly bring on more if necessary.

The retailer also refreshed last year's Kindle Fire HD device and dropped its price. The new Kindle Fire HD packs a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and the same display as last year's model, but Amazon remade the device's form factor to match this year's high-end models. It also runs Fire OS 3.0 Mojito, but without access to the helpdesk function, which requires a microphone that the older model lacks.

Kindle Fire HDX

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the new devices in a much more reserved fashion than he did with last year's Kindle Fire devices. Instead of renting out an airplane hangar, Bezos showed off the devices to members of the media in an Amazon conference room.

"Today, we're going to show you the third leg of our device business strategy," Bezos said, according to Engadget. Before showing off that third feature — the new Kindle Fire HDX devices — he named the first two. "One: premium products at non premium prices. Two: make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices."

The 7-inch and 8.9-inch models of the Kindle Fire HDX are currently available for pre-order starting at $229 and $379 respectively. The new Kindle Fire HD is also available for preorder starting at $139. The HDX models will begin shipping on October 18, while the new Fire HD will begin shipping on October 8.