Kindle 3 killer features for Kindle 2

Take a look at the Kindle 3 and it’s hard not to notice that a lot of the improvements are software based. In fact, we can make a rather bold claim about Kindle 3.

50% of the killer Kindle 3 features are software based

It’s not at all contentious if you dig in. Here are the 12 killer Kindle 3 features in my opinion (the ones that are mostly likely software based are in italics) -

  1. Kindle WiFi – This is obviously out of the question for Kindle 2.  Please note that we’re keeping Kindle WiFi and its $139 price point out of this particular discussion.
  2. eInk Pearl Screen and Graphite Casing – Out of the Question.
  3. 3 Font Choices - All software and will probably translate. 
  4. Improved Fonts and 20% faster page turns (Perhaps) – These Kindle 3 improvements are due to waveform tuning, custom fonts, and font-hinting. Amazon says it tuned the Kindle 3’s waveform and controller mechanism and wrote code for better fonts – That definitely sounds like some/all of it could work with Kindle 2.
  5. Lighter and More Compact Kindle 3 – This isn’t possible as it’s a hardware change.
  6. 1 Month Battery Life with wireless off (Perhaps) - May or may not be possible for Kindle 2.
  7. WebKit Browser and Article Mode (beginnings of a killer feature) - Should translate perfectly from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2.
  8. PDF Improvements - All the PDF improvements should be movable to Kindle 2.
  9. Support for Cyrillic Fonts and CJK fonts (killer feature for people in China, Japan, Russia, etc.) - Should transfer fine.
  10. Voice Guide (Killer feature for blind and low vision readers) - Should transfer from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2. 
  11. All the usability enhancements – A few of these are software based (disappearing auto-scroll bar, set time manually) and could make their way to Kindle 2.
  12. Better placed and better/quieter buttons. This is Kindle 3 only.

That’s quite a realization – 5 out of 12 killer Kindle 3 features are software based and there’s no reason Kindle 2 couldn’t have them. 

Another 2 are perhaps software based with 1 in particular (1 month battery life) quite likely to be software based.

Thanks to ShirleyKat for the ‘Kindle 3 killer features to Kindle 2′ idea

ShirleyKat at the official Kindle forum wrote this list of Kindle 3 improvements that are software based and that, at least in theory, should be transferrable to Kindle 2 – 

Additional fonts (change typeface and change line spacing in the Aa menu)
PDF improvements (dictionary lookup, add notes and highlights, open password-protected PDFs, adjust the contrast)

Read to me menus (already promised as an update)
Two dictionaries
Monitor download progress

Browser enhancements (zoom in and out, switch to article mode)
Set time manually

Additional Kindle file type supported (azw2). Maybe it’s for another enhancement that allows you to set bookmarks in personal documents
Start location in the progress indicator shows how far you’ve read in the current session
Even the longer battery life seemed to indicate that at least some of it was done via software.

We’ve already seen that at least 5, and perhaps 7, of the top 12 killer Kindle 3 features are software based. Let’s go through all the Kindle 3 software improvements we know of and see which would add value to Kindle 2.

Kindle 3 Improvements for Kindle 2 – Top 7

We actually end up with a huge list of Kindle 3 software improvements -

  1. The choice of 3 font types – We don’t need new hardware to support font types. The sans serif font in particular would be a good addition.  
  2. PDF improvements – All the PDF improvements ought to make their way to Kindle 2 eventually. We have the dictionary, ability to add highlights and notes, ability to open password protected PDFs, the option to change the contrast of the PDF, and the ability to incrementally pan when zoomed (Amazon calls it ‘nudge’).  
  3. Voice Guide (Accessible Menus) – Amazon promised this by mid of 2010 so we ought to see this in Kindle 2 soon. 
  4. WebKit Browser – If the Kindle 3 help is accurate and the browser can display complicated websites perfectly then this is a must have.
  5. Article Mode in Browser – This is such a cool feature it gets its own bullet point. In Article Mode everything except the main text on a page is stripped away and you can focus on reading. 
  6. Support for CJK fonts and Cyrillic Fonts in Kindle 3. It’s hard to imagine you need hardware for this.
  7. Usability Improvements in Kindle 3 – Auto-Disappearing Top Bar to allow more reading space, press left or right on the 5-way to jump to previous or next chapter, etc. 

Each one of these would fit right in with the Kindle 2’s feature-set.

Important Kindle 3 Improvements that might be Software Tweaks

There are 3 Kindle 3 improvements that might be software tweaks -

  1. Improved Fonts – There are font related improvements in Kindle 3 that are software based. Amazon says it used waveform tuning combined with new hand-built custom fonts and font hinting to make alphabets crisper, clearer, and more accurate. That ought to be transferrable from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2. 
  2. 20% Faster Page Turns – The speed improvement is due to waveform tuning and the tuning might be via software or hardware.
  3. 1 Month Battery Life – Given that the Kindle 3 is smaller and thinner than Kindle 2 it’s unlikely a bigger battery was added. That strongly indicates part or even most of the improvement in battery life is due to more efficient use. Surely, that can be transferred over from Kindle 3. 

Note that these are the things we know about. There might be other improvements in Kindle 3 that are software tweaks.

Kindle 3 Improvements for Kindle 2 – The Rest 

There are a few things that don’t hold as much appeal but could nevertheless be transferred from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2 –  

  1. View Downloads Progress – This is a cool sounding Kindle 3 feature but you have to question how often people will be checking status when it’s mostly 60 second book downloads.
  2. Set Time Manually – Perhaps this is necessitated by Kindle WiFi but it’s a good feature to have.  
  3. Improved Progress Bar – Progress Bar in the book now shows the starting point of your current reading session and notes and highlights you’ve made.
  4. Additional Dictionary – The addition of a dictionary for British English isn’t necessarily a most requested feature.  
  5. Line Spacing in the Menu – Kindle 2 actually has more flexiblity as by using Alt+Shift+ (number between 0 and 9) you can choose 1 out of 10 line spacing increments. Kindle 3 offers only three choices. 

All this discussion of Kindle 3 software improvements leads to an interesting question – Why not release the software based killer Kindle 3 features for Kindle 2 at the same time?

Well, that would make the jump from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3 not quite as marvellous. 

Amazon is probably going to wait 1 or 2 months and then add a few (hopefully more than a few) of these killer Kindle 3 software features to the Kindle 2. Kindle 2 owners can take solace in the fact that Kindle 3 owners don’t get to play with all these features until end of August when the new Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi are released.

13 Responses

  1. I’m going to upgrade and would appreciate it if you helped me choose between WiFi and 3G + Wifi.

    With only WiFi, I know I can read books that are loaded on the Kindle, can shop at Amazon and download thru WifI on the Kindle (or a computer and side load).

    Are all the other wireless functions supported that are just WiFi? Can I sync bookmarks, notes and last page read with my other Kindle and devices (iWhatever, Android Apps, etc)?

    Can I surf the net and check e-mail both at home using a WiFi router, and out and about at WiFi hotspots?

    Did you get a chance, or talk to Amazon team, about the surfing the net on K3? It isn’t a very pleasant experience on my K2, and while I was happy to have it incase of an emergency, I never found myself actually using it for pleasure.

    Thanks for your insights, it will help me choose which model.

    • Joe,
      Kindle 3 can connect to WhisperNet via WiFi and then everything works the same. So you can sync bookmarks, notes, and last page read. The Kindle WiFi product page clearly mentions WhisperSync (under Kindle at a Glance section).

      Yes on the ‘surfing the net’ part. Again this is mentioned on the product page under Experimental Features. I didn’t get a chance to try the browser – however, it is a webkit based browser and supposed to be better than the one on the Kindle 2 – not sure by how much.

      It sounds like you can get by just fine with the Kindle WiFi.

  2. Thanks. When I order one, I am going to link thru your site. I really enjoy your blog and try to read it every day.

  3. Out of curiosity, do you think that any of this would translate to Kindle 1?

    Us Kindle 1 owners are pretty much abandoned. Didn’t even get folders. But the pure software ones I would think would mostly translate, but I get the feeling that platform is abandoned for feature updates.

    • It’s unlikely that Kindle 1 gets any of these. You have to imagine the number of Kindle 2 and now Kindle 3 owners will dwarf Kindle 1 owners and perhaps getting the $139 Kindle WiFi is a better option.

  4. You state “press left or right on the 5-way to jump to previous or next chapter” as a Kindle 3 improvement for Kindle 2, but doesn’t the Kindle 2 do it already? Mine (a Kindle 2 International, software version 2.5.2) does, except the book has to have a table of contents, and thus have some kind of mark for the chapters.

    Your blog is great, it actually convinced me to buy the Kindle 2 and I love it. Thank you.

  5. Just bought Kindle 2 about 2-3 weeks ago, couldn’t believe that kindle 3 dropped this early and at this price! Oh the frustration of ever evolving technology.

    Do you think its worth trying to selling my brand new Kindle 2 and upgrading or should I just wait it out until the software upgrades and hold on until Kindle 4

    • Quinn, there’s a 30 day return period. I do think it’s worth returning the kindle 2 and getting a Kindle 3. For example, the wifi is fast and with the new browser and potential other additions that might play a big role.

      plus the 1 month battery life and double memory.

  6. [...] details please check post on Kindle 3 features which points out that nearly half the big improvements in Kindle 3 are software [...]

  7. [...] post on Kindle 3 improvements has details on which of the Kindle 3 additions are software based and which are hardware based. [...]

  8. [...] post on Kindle 3 killer features goes over other improvements and notice how lots of the improvements are things you have to [...]

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