Kindle vs Sony is becoming an afterthought

After the new Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi came out it became apparent that Nook 2 and the new Sony Readers would have to make some significant advances to keep up.

A much improved Kindle 3 meant Sony and B&N had their work cut out

Here’s a short list of Kindle 3 features that illustrates why Kindle was threatening to leave Nook and Sony Reader behind permanently - 4 weeks battery life with wireless off, faster page turns, Voice Guide, WiFi (Kindle 3 has both WiFi and 3G), free Internet with Kindle 3, better browser, more compact and lighter Kindle, low $139 and $189 prices.

In parallel Amazon has been improving its WhisperNet service, adding Kindle Apps for various platforms, and adding books to the Kindle Store. It has also released two free Kindle Apps and the first paid Kindle app.

B&N needed a very solid Nook 2 and Sony needed a very solid group of Sony Readers and a much better Sony Reader Store to compete. We don’t know what B&N’s answer is but we do know Sony’s answer – Sony 350 and Sony 650.

Sony hasn’t really delivered

Here’s my conclusion from my Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 post -

Sony comes very, very close and if not for its stubborn refusal to add wireless support and compete on price it would have had the better eReader.

As it stands, the Kindle 3 is a clear winner unless you need a touch screen or ePub support or must have an eReader that fits in your pant pocket.

Here’s Engadget’s wrap-up from their Sony 350 review -

The way we see it there are two main reasons you’d buy the $179.99 e-reader over the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook: its incredibly responsive touchscreen navigation and extreme portability.

However, if those don’t appeal to you or you really just prefer having a larger selection of e-books and the ability to buy books over the air via WiFi or 3G, it’s obvious that Amazon’s $139 Kindle with WiFi or its $189 3G version would be a better choice.

Notice the similarities – Touchscreen navigation, ePub support (including support for library books), and extreme portability are the only qualifiers. In every other case Kindle 3 wins.

Sony 350 and 650 have failed to re-ignite the Kindle vs Sony debate

Just to paint a picture of how lopsided the competition is let’s contrast the main advantages -

  1. Sony 350 and Sony 650 – very cute, 350 is super light and compact, ePub and library book support, touch screen, custom screensavers. Better PDF support too – slightly better.
  2. Kindle WiFi and Kindle 3 – much lower price ($139 vs $179, $189 vs $229), better battery life, much better store (book range and price), wireless support and browser, 60 second downloads, infrastructure, Kindle App Store, Text to Speech, Accessibility, and lots of small things.

Even if you’re pro-Sony and hate Amazon you have to admit Sony has dropped the ball. It hasn’t won back the #1 spot, it hasn’t won back the #2 spot, and it might end up an afterthought.

Engadget has been less generous than me and it’s right – There just aren’t that many reasons to buy a Sony Reader. If you really must have ePub support then Nook is a better choice as it offers a much better ebook store.

The gap is going to get bigger

B&N and Amazon are improving their infrastructure and adding apps for additional platforms and improving their stores and offering new features. Sony is offering hollow words – that they will fight on quality.

How can you fight on quality if you aren’t matching your competitors’ features?

No matter how shiny the aluminium of your Sony Reader’s casing it doesn’t make up for high book prices and low selection and the lack of wireless downloads and the lack of Internet browsing for reference.

Sony just isn’t keeping up.

The wild card is the Kindle App Store – It will mean that in addition to Amazon we will have lots of developers adding features to the Kindle 3 and 2 and WiFi. We only need a handful of developers to make killer apps and suddenly Sony is even further behind.

Perhaps most worrying for Sony is that people don’t seem to care about it any more.

Where are the Sony Reader Reviews?

Engadget posted its review on October 8th, 2010. That’s nearly a month after my review and 22 days after the official release date of September 16th, 2010. PC World posted on October 5th. CNet posted its review on September 26th and gave it 6 on features and 7 on performance.

Did Sony not hand out review units? Did people not want to review them? Why is everyone waiting 2 to 3 weeks before reviewing the Sony 350?

There were no ‘exclusives’ and there were no release day reviews. There was no big flurry of reviews and press coverage like we had for Nook and for Kindle 3.

Sony’s release strategy is a mess – either because they don’t care or because people and the Press no longer care. Even Nook WiFi got more press buzz than the new Sony Readers.

Think about that – Nook WiFi got more press coverage than the new generation of Sony Readers. That’s what Sony Reader has devolved too – People don’t even care enough to review the new Sony Readers or write about them when they are first launched.

It makes you wonder if everyone is gradually forgetting that Sony Readers exist. Sony can keep hiding behind excuses like ‘we are focused on international markets’ or ‘we only care about quality’. The truth is that if you release in the biggest eReader market and the Press won’t even review your devices you are just a few steps away from becoming invisible and irrelevant.  

Kindle vs Sony Review – Kindle vs Sony 350

You’ve seen the Kindle 3 but what about the Sony 350? 

Well, it’s time for some Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 photos courtesy the fact that Sony 350 started shipping yesterday in Canada. The photos are after the jump (please see the later part of this post). 

Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 

There are a few things that jump at you right off the bat - 

  1. Sony 350 manages to add touch without interfering with the eInk screen at all. It does this by using infra-red sensors which are all around the edges of the screen. You’re not touching anything – just break the plane of the Infra Red beams and that’s interpreted as touch. It’s actually possible to ‘touch’ an on-screen button without touching the screen at all. 
  2. The Kindle 3, Sony 350 screens are almost identical – with different font settings one seems better than the other and then they seem the same. Both are infinitely better than the Sony 600 screen.
  3. The Kindle has a whiter background and it especially stands out in sunlight. Not sure how much of an impact the graphite casing has.  
  4. Sony 350 is ridiculously light and small. It’s so light you feel strange because it feels too light for its size. See the comparison shots below for the size comparison. It’s so small it even fits in my jeans though the screen might be too delicate to carry in a jeans or pant pocket.
  5. The lack of wireless in the Sony 350 is a pain. No instant downloads and no browser. 
  6. Sony 350 spoils the beautiful aluminium case by adding a strange white strip along the edges and by using a plasticky stylus that looks super-cheap. Actually, Sony 350 looks gorgeous despite the white plastic strip and stylus.
  7. Sony still has its annoying ‘two steps to do anything’ UI. You have to go into a special mode to add notes and highlights. Here’s how you start a note – Press Options, Choose Notes, Choose Create, Click on the special ‘Notes’ button at the top, and then add a Note. That’s 5 separate steps. You can’t write notes and use the touchscreen to turn pages at the same time - There are separate modes for each. The physical page turn buttons still work so perhaps it’s not that bad.  

Sony 350 is really good but it can’t beat the Kindle 3.

It almost makes you feel like crying because all Sony had to do was add wireless and a few features and it would have become the joint best eReader or perhaps even beaten Kindle 3. That in turn would have forced Kindle and Nook to evolve quickly and drastically. 

Yet, Sony doesn’t think adding wireless is worth it.

How can Sony still not get it? 

There are only two reasons Sony 350 doesn’t win – its relatively high price and its lack of wireless. If it had both it would equal Kindle 3.

Will read a book on the Sony 350 and get back to you about how the reading experience on the Sony 350 compares with the Kindle 3 reading experience. 

Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 – Main Areas Kindle 3 outshines Sony 350 

The Kindle 3 is still the better eReader in my opinion. Here are its advantages - 

  1. Much better value for money. For $10 more you get WiFi and 3G and free Internet.
  2. Convenience of browsing the Kindle store and buying books from Kindle 3 itself. Books in 60 seconds.
  3. Text to Speech feature. Some Publishers disable this for their books.
  4. Much better store with more new books and cheaper prices (except for Agency Model books which are 45% or so of new books).
  5. Much better infrastructure and apps for more platforms. Synchronize your place in a book and your notes and highlights across your phone, PC, and Kindle.
  6. Kindle 3 has a physical keyboard which is a factor if you prefer having a physical keyboard. There are no number keys so it’s not a huge factor.
  7. Stereo speakers and music player though with bare minimum functionality.
  8. WiFi and 3G. For US customers 3G store browsing and 3G Internet browsing is free and free in 100+ countries.
  9. A pretty solid Browser that’s great for reading blogs and sites (most sites work) and for checking email (all 3 main email providers work – you might have to use the mobile version of GMail).
  10. Larger screen – Kindle 3 has a 6″ screen while Sony 350 has a 5″ screen.

Kindle 3 also has two promising future developments in store that Sony 350 will probably not be able to match -   

  1. A microphone that might be enabled later on and there might be cool features added. 
  2. Kindle Apps - there might be a Kindle App Store by end of the year. It could end up becoming very significant if it takes off.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 – Main Areas Sony 350 outshines Kindle 3 

Thankfully, the screen is no longer one of them.

Here are Sony 350′s strengths - 

  1. It’s super pretty – especially the back.
  2. Touch is pretty cool.
  3. It’s so light and compact it’s amazing.
  4. It comes in at $10 cheaper at $179. Please note that it isn’t better value for money – just cheaper.
  5. ePub Support.
  6. Better PDF Support – Sony 350 supports PDF reflow but it breaks down often when there are tables and/or images. Highlights always work while on Kindle 3 highlighting often doesn’t work.
  7. Support for Library Books.
  8. There’s an option to ‘adjust view’ that lets you try out various screen contrast options like saturated and detailed. You can make your own ‘view’.
  9. There is a ‘word log’ for every book which keeps a record of words you looked up. A really cool feature.
  10. Small Advantages – The main screen and settings pages are slightly better. There’s an option to turn off the screensaver.
  11. Will confirm this in a bit but think Sony 350 allows custom screensavers.

Overall, the Sony 350 does have a lot of advantages - some are major ones (ePub, touch, compactness and lightness) and some are minor ones. However, the areas in which it loses to Kindle 3 are pretty major (value for money, 3G+WiFi, Free Internet, Book range and prices, Infrastructure). 

Kindle 3 manages to win the Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 contest – However, the gap is far less than the gap between Kindle 3 and Sony 600. 

Kindle 3 vs Sony 350 Photos … 

After the jump we have lots of Sony 350 vs Kindle 3 photos. 

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