Should Kindle owners get a Kindle 3?

The new $189 Kindle 3 isn’t just tempting for people who don’t own eReaders – It’s also very tempting for Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 owners.

This Kindle 2 vs Kindle 3 comparison pointed out that Kindle 3 has massively improved on the Kindle 2 – However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to upgrade to Kindle 3. This post will help you figure out exactly what you’d get by moving to Kindle 3 and will help you decide whether you should.

Breaking down Kindle 3 improvements into software and hardware

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

We can break up Kindle 3 improvements into 5 categories -

  1. Important Hardware improvements – WiFi, eInk Pearl Screen, graphite casing, Lighter and more compact Kindle 3, Quieter Page turns buttons.  
  2. Helpful Hardware improvements – Microphone (this could be very significant down the line),  the back is texturized rubber (easily fixed by using a Kindle Case).
  3. Improvements that could be hardware or software or a mix – Improved fonts, faster page turns, improved battery life.
  4. Important Software improvements – Better PDF support, 3 Fonts, WebKit Browser and Article Mode, Support for CJK fonts and Cyrillic fonts, Voice Guide.
  5. Helpful Software improvements – set time manually, view downloads progress, improved progress bar, etc.

It’s clear that at least 50% of the big improvements are software and might make it to Kindle 2 eventually. It’s a ‘might’ and not a definite Yes. Also note that Kindle 1 is unlikely to get these software improvements.

You also get a few disadvantages with the new Kindle 3 – the number keys are gone, there are now only 3 options for line-spacing, etc. There are other questions – How will you feel about the smaller Kindle? Do you really need the 50% improved screen contrast the eInk Pearl screen offers?

Before we look at whether it makes sense to upgrade from Kindle 2, Kindle 1 to Kindle 3 let’s consider what might end up being the second most important Kindle related release this year.

Kindle App Store will be available on Kindle 2

The Kindle App Store could be anything – It could be a massive failure or it could be a massive success. The first app store in a particular niche tends to do well so chances are Kindle App Store will do pretty well.

The key for Kindle 2 owners is – It’ll be available to Kindle 2 owners. The two recent free apps are proof Kindle 2 will support apps.

You don’t have to buy Kindle 3 to get Kindle Apps and that’s a huge factor – We might very well see apps tailored to Kindle 2 owners since there are more of those than there are Kindle 3 owners.

Should you upgrade from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3?

You don’t have to.

In my opinion it’s a discretionary purchase – If you feel $139 isn’t a big deal get a new Kindle WiFi.

However, you really shouldn’t be feeling left out because half the Kindle 3 improvements are software based and ought to get to Kindle 2 eventually. Plus you may very well get a lot of Kindle Apps that lessen the pain. Even 2 or 3 killer apps would soften the pain of not having a Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 would get them too – However, the gap would become narrower (10 killer features vs 7 is easier to handle than 6 vs 3).

The two absolute must-get Kindle 3 features are the new eInk Pearl screen and WiFi. The lighted kindle case threatens to become one too – However, at the moment, we don’t know that.

If neither of those is a must-have for you then you ought to be fine with the Kindle 2 and when the Kindle App Store opens (hopefully sometime in the next 3-6 months) it’ll add features and apps that’ll make the Kindle 2 stronger.

Should you upgrade from Kindle 1 to Kindle WiFi?

This is an easy answer – Yes, you should. The $139 Kindle WiFi is really, really good value for money.

Plus the jump from Kindle 1 to Kindle WiFi is huge. You get all the Kindle 3 features listed above – eInk Pearl screen, WiFi, faster page turns, lighter weight, etc. You get all the improvements introduced in Kindle 2 such as the new 5-way controller. You also get all the Kindle 2.5 upgrade features – Folders, better PDF support, and a lot more.

Those are very good reasons to upgrade just by themselves. However, you also have the Kindle App Store. You let crazy developers run free and you get really interesting apps – some of which are really, really going to make you wish you had a Kindle 2 or a Kindle 3.

At that point getting the $109 refurbished Kindle 2 US (if it becomes available again) or the $139 Kindle WiFi might become vital to your continued Kindle happiness. If 2 word games are bothering you it’s going to be a lot worse when there are dozens of Kindle Apps – some of which might appeal to you a lot more than word games.

You can probably get nearly as much for your old Kindle 1 as the new Kindle WiFi costs

Used Kindle 1s are selling for $130 and higher at Amazon. Even with the sales fee cut out you still get $100 to $110. Add on $39 and you have a Kindle WiFi. Add on $89 and you have a Kindle 3. 

Here are the downsides (the reason Kindle 1s are still holding their value) -

  1. You get free 3G with the Kindle 1. Please check this Kindle 3G or WiFi post to make sure you can get by with Kindle WiFi.  
  2. It’s on Sprint’s network. If you get Kindle 3 it’s on AT&T’s network.
  3. You have an SD card slot on the Kindle 1.
  4. Kindle 1 has a replaceable battery.
  5. There’s more bulk to it and the keyboard is better.

However, if you can live without those, the Kindle 3 and the Kindle WiFi are much, much better. You get accessibility, super size fonts, a marvellous eInk Pearl screen (compared to the Kindle 1 the new screen will blow you away), and all the improvements and benefits of a device that is 2.5 years more current.

Conclusion – Kindle 1 owners should get a Kindle WiFi, Kindle 2 owners ought to be fine

It’s pretty clear-cut -

  1. Kindle 2 owners should let the Kindle 3 arrive and see the reactions and videos. They should let the Kindle App Store arrive and see what apps it brings. At that point it’s quite likely that either the eInk Pearl screen or WiFi or WiFi based apps will convince them to upgrade or the Kindle App Store and (hopefully) new software improvements to Kindle 2 will make them feel Kindle 2 is enough.
  2. Kindle 1 owners should really consider moving to Kindle WiFi (if they can get by on WiFi) or to Kindle 3. The pain of not having access to the Kindle App Store might make Folders seem trivial in comparison (or perhaps not).

Kindle 2 owners are also pretty safe in the knowledge that they have great strength in numbers. There are probably 2 to 3 million Kindle 2 owners – as compared to (probably) .5 to .75 million Kindle 1 owners and (probably) .75 million to 1 million Kindle DX owners. Amazon has to take good care of us.

Kindle App Store developers will probably focus on Kindle 2 owners until Kindle 3 owners outnumber them (which might not be till end of the year) and probably even after that.

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