What’s New in the Latest Fire Tablets

By Nancy C. Muir

Every Fire tablet has all the things most people want from a tablet packed into an easy-to-hold package: email, web browsing, players for video and music content, built-in calendar and contacts apps, an ereader, a great online content store, access to tens of thousands of Android apps, and so on. Fire tablets with their new operating system, Fire OS 4.1.1, bring several new or improved features to the table:

  • Firefly: A feature that was announced as “coming soon” at the time of this writing, Firefly is essentially a text-recognition app that allows 8.9-inch Fire tablets to identify text on movie posters, music albums, and so on. Firefly finds matches for the movie, music, or whatever in Amazon’s huge online store.

  • Profiles: You can create profiles for different people using your tablet so each has his own settings and content. This feature is like providing unique tablets for all the people in your family, including kids.

  • Family Library: This new feature has also been announced but isn’t yet available for Fire tablets as of this writing. Family Library allows you to link accounts to share content among a group or family members without sharing a tablet.

  • ASAP: ASAP stands for Advanced Streaming and Prediction. Essentially, this feature allows your tablet to anticipate content you might want to watch, like your favorite TV show, and pre-load it for faster streaming. You don’t have to do a thing to use this feature; just know it’s working for you.

  • WPS Office: Amazon made a change in the latest Fire tablets from OfficeSuite to WPS Office. WPS Office is more integrated into Fire and allows you to create, open, and work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well as a few other file formats. The working experience with documents is somehow more intuitive and simpler than in OfficeSuite.

  • Fire keyboard: For the 8.9-inch model only, you can buy a keyboard accessory that attaches to your Fire tablet, making it possible to work on it comfortably as well as using it to view or listen to content like books, music, and videos.

  • Support for 802.11 ac Wi-Fi standard: The 8.9-inch Fire has added support for the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11 ac. This makes your connection to Wi-Fi networks that much faster.

  • Second Screen: This feature allows you to “fling” content from Amazon Cloud to your television. This causes the content to stream to the TV so that your Fire tablet is freed up (so you can do other things with it while watching your TV). You can even explore X-Ray information about the content on your tablet while it plays on your TV.

  • FreeTime Unlimited: This feature, which comes free for one year with the latest Kids Edition Fire tablet, lets you create a unique environment by limiting what content and apps they can use. When you turn on FreeTime, your kids see only the content you’ve given them permission to use, and it’s all shown against a kid-friendly graphical background.

  • Integrated Goodreads: This service is like a social network for readers. Goodreads was available as an app in previous Amazon tablets, but with the latest models this feature is more integrated. Goodreads allows you to track and share what you’re reading and get access to reviews and recommendations from other readers via your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

  • SmartSuspend: This is a battery setting that, when turned on in Power Management Settings, turns off your wireless connection when you’re not using your Fire tablet. You can even set up a schedule for SmartSuspend to kick in.

  • Dynamic Light Control (DLC): This feature, only available on the 8.9-inch Fire model, modifies your screen when reading ebooks to match ambient light. DLC produces a more paperlike background.