Kindle Hands free reading? Speech to text? Kindle 3 microphone

One of the features of the new Kindle 3 that hasn’t received much attention is the tiny microphone at the bottom. Thanks a ton to John Holloway for pointing this out and speculating about what it might mean. 

The Kindle Help pages clearly show that there is a tiny microphone lodged between the headphone Jack and the micro-USB port. They include this snippet -

Microphone: Kindle (Latest Generation) is built with a microphone jack. This feature is not yet enabled and is for future use. 

Aah … the deliciousness of speculating on what Kindle 3 features the microphone might enable.

Kindle 3 microphone – What cool features might it enable?

There are a lot of potential Kindle 3 features that instantly come to mind -

  1. Voice Activated Page Turns for hands free reading.
  2. Speech to Text.
  3. Voice Activated Menus.
  4. Adding Notes by speaking them out.
  5. Adding Voice Notes.
  6. A voice journal that stores our notes and ideas.
  7. A journal that converts what you say to words.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What Kindle Apps will the microphone enable?

We are going to see a Kindle App Store at some point of time - that means we will have developers playing with the microphone and extending what it’s used for.

At the minimum we’ll get – notes, text to speech (if Amazon doesn’t provide it first), voice recording, spoken word journals, voice commands in apps, and perhaps voice activated games. There’s also the chance that developers use the microphone in ways we don’t anticipate - Karaoke? Another interesting area is using the microphone with sheet music and comparing how accurately you play or overlaying what you’re playing with an underlying track.  

Note: Kindle Apps currently can’t access sound on the Kindle so Amazon would have to enable both the speakers and the microphone for some of these Kindle app ideas to be implemented.

Are there more hidden surprises in Kindle 3?

It’s remarkable that in the middle of – adding WiFi, doubling the battery life and memory, improving PDF support, making page turns faster and fonts sharper – Amazon managed to add-in a microphone and lay down the foundation for hands free Kindle reading and Kindle speech to text.

It makes you wonder what other surprises Amazon has in store for us with the Kindle 3. Perhaps the Kindle 3 microphone and support for CJK fonts (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) and Cyrillic fonts are the only hidden features. Perhaps there are more. It’ll be interesting to see what Amazon does with the Kindle 3 microphone and whether we get hands free Kindle reading and Kindle Speech to Text in the next 6 to 12 months.

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2

The Kindle 3 is here!

Thanks to Stephanie from the Kindle Team was able to do a quick Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 comparison. The Kindle 3 is MUCH better than the Kindle 2 and improves on it in a dozen different ways. Check my Kindle 3 Review for a detailed review of the Kindle 3.

At $189 it’s really, really good value for money. The Kindle WiFi at $139 is stealing. Together these ought to sell millions.

Please do note that the entire Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 comparison lasted just 15 minutes - It was, however, enough time to contrast the screens (definitely 50%+ better contrast), the weight (felt much lighter), the feel (about the same), the look (about the same), and the page turns (noticeably faster) and get a pretty good idea of the improvements in Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 - Kindle 3 hits it out of the ball park

Perhaps the biggest improvement in Kindle 3 is the screen contrast – The 50% better screen contrast combines with the graphite casing to make for a markedly better reading experience. The Amazon Team said that in addition to the new eInk Pearl screen there are software tweaks done to improve the screen contrast (which aren’t present in DX 2). Didn’t have my DX 2 so couldn’t contrast it with the Kindle 3.

The Kindle 3 is noticeably smaller and thinner. It feels much lighter. The page turns are clearly faster. There are a bunch of usability improvements – page turn buttons don’t make a loud clicking noise, on-off slider and volume controls are at the bottom, buttons other than page turn buttons are moved next to the keyboard.

The claimed 1 month battery life (with wireless off) really stood out – it’s hard to believe and it’ll be fun to see if it really lasts that long.

The improvement in PDF support, the WiFi, the double memory, the font options (there are now condensed and sans-serif fonts), and the new browser with ‘article mode’ all combine to make an exceptional package. It’s easily the best eReader available and at $189 it’s a steal. The Kindle WiFi at $139, if you can get by without free 3G, is even more of a steal.

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 – 10 ways in which Kindle 3 is better

Here are the top 10 features/improvements that make the Kindle 3 markedly better than the Kindle 2 -

  1. 50%+ better Screen Contrast – The screen itself is 50% better, Amazon has added proprietary technology to make fonts sharper, and the graphite casing adds to the effect. Side by side the Kindle 3 outshines the Kindle 2 – it’s a much more readable screen. The Kindle DX 2 video page shows the difference between eInk Pearl and the old eInk and Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 is slightly more of a difference.  
  2. Faster Page Turns – With Kindle 2.5 we already have fast page turns. The page turns with the Kindle 3 are 20% faster. 
  3. Thin, Compact, and Light Design - Kindle 3 is really thin and compact. It’ll fit into a jacket pocket or a small purse. It feels really light at 8.7 ounces. It makes the Kindle 2 seem heavy and that’s an achievement.
  4. Built-in WiFi – There’s WiFi support so you can use your home network. There is free access for browsing and buying books at all AT&T WiFi hotspots.
  5. Improved PDF support – Now you can add notes and highlights and use the Dictionary in PDFs. Also, password protected PDFs are supported.
  6. Accessible Menus – Blind and Low Vision readers will be really happy to know that menus and the home page are now text to speech enabled. Combine this with the supersized fonts in the Kindle 2.5 upgrade and we have very respectable accessibility.
  7. 1 month of battery life. Quite frankly, don’t believe this and will wait to test it – 1 month battery life is something else.  
  8. Double the Storage – No SD card is tough and getting double the storage makes up for it a bit.  
  9. Usability improvements – Page Turns aren’t loud, buttons are placed better, page turns are easier to do now (though the button edges wrap around a bit and it’ll take a little getting used to).  
  10. 3 Font Options – You now get to choose between Serif, Sans Serif, and Condensed Fonts. Didn’t like the condensed font much though the Sans Serif looked very nice.
  11. Bonus: The Cover – You have to buy this separately but the cover is a delight. There’s a pull out LED light that’s powered by your Kindle. You have to use it to see how cool it is – It uses the hinges of the case (that latch on to the Kindle) to power the LED light.

Quick Note on Negatives

There is no touchscreen and there is no color and if those matter a lot to you (for illustrated textbooks or taking notes) then Kindle 3 isn’t the device for you. We still don’t have ePub support or an open eco-system and it seems unlikely that they will arrive anytime soon.

It’s also worth noting that we just have the Press Release and Amazon’s product page so far. There might be some downsides we realize only after using the Kindle 3. One downside is that the Kindle 3 almost seems too small – it’s smaller than a paperback and super-thin and you have to wonder how it’ll react to a fall. 

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 Conclusion – Kindle 3 is Strongly Recommended

Kindle 3 manages to improve massively on the Kindle 2. It’s a huge relief that it does this without straying from a focus on reading. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Amazon is to release the Kindle 3 for $189 and the Kindle WiFi for $139.

The Kindle 3 is easily the best eReader on the market and it’s strongly recommended. 

  1. If you are looking to buy an eReader then definitely get the Kindle 3 - unless ePub or library books or an SD card are a must-have.
  2. If you have a Kindle 1 it’s well worth the upgrade.
  3. If you already have a Kindle 2 then perhaps it’s worth waiting till Christmas. You might want to spring for the Kindle WiFi if the improved lightness or screen contrast or WiFi appeal strongly to you.

After getting a Kindle 1.5 masquerading as Kindle 2 and a Kindle DX 1.7 masquerading as Kindle DX 2 we finally get a Kindle 3 that’s worthy of the 3 in its name.

new Kindle 3 to arrive – Digitimes

The Kindle is still out of stock and now there’s some interesting news/speculation from DigiTimes that a new Kindle 3 might be the reason -

1.35 million e-book readers were shipped to the global market in the second quarter of 2010, 33.2% fewer than the originally projected 2.02 million units, chiefly because shipments of new models were delayed to the third quarter, according to DigiTimes Research.

It seems a bit of a stretch to say that eReaders sold less because new models were delayed to Q3, 2010.

New Kindle 3 arriving in Q3, 2010 – DigiTimes

DigiTimes is saying that Amazon will be releasing a new product in the third quarter of this year (Q3, 2010 would include July, August, and September of 2010). Kindle 3 is the only thing that comes to mind.

DigiTimes starts off by claiming that 1.35 million ebook readers were shipped to the global market in Q2, 2010. This was lower than its expected 2 million projection. Apple people – Yes, you can now write about how it’s due to the iPad and how iPad ate up 33% of the market. It probably did and it also didn’t kill off eReaders. A 33% loss is easy to withstand - especially since the Kindle price-cut to $189 didn’t happen until June 21st and there may be a new Kindle 3 soon.

DigiTimes also says China Mobile didn’t do well and SiPix shipments were delayed and these factors contributed to the lower eReader shipments.

New Kindle 3 prediction from DigiTimes

Here’s what DigiTimes writes about Kindle vs Nook and a forthcoming Kindle 3 (courtesy Teleread) -

Barnes & Noble took the leading position in the second quarter with 33% market share, followed by Amazon’s 27%.

However, Amazon is expected to regain the leading position in the third quarter when the company launches a new product, DigiTimes Research noted.

For the second half of 2010, demand is expected to pick up as vendors lower their prices.

DigiTimes is projecting 7 million eReader sales in the second half of 2010. That’s quite an assumption given that 1.35 million were sold last quarter. Even factoring in a new Kindle 3 and the holiday season you’d think 4 to 5 million would be the upper bound.

New Kindle 3 – Is Price going to be a big factor?

DigiTimes talks a lot about price. It’s saying that vendors are going to lower their prices, SiPix’s ePaper will lead to more competition (and perhaps lower prices), and system on chip solutions will help reduce prices (and also facilitate new and faster developments and features).

Sounds like we might get Kindle 3, Nook 2, and the new Sony Readers all at around $200 price-points.

Basically, we now have a combination of factors coming together -

  1. eInk might have hit volumes of scale or implemented some efficiencies they learnt from LG Display. That would explain the Kindle DX 2 being $379 and suggests that the Kindle 3 might be closer to $200 than to $259 (price of the Kindle 2 before the price cut to $189).
  2. There is a lot of pressure due to Nook WiFi being at $149 and Amazon is unlikely to price the Kindle 3 for $110 more.
  3. Amazon has new Kindle models and used Kindle models (excluding the DX) retailing between $109 and $189. This suggests that it might have decided that sub $200 prices are ideal. A sub $200 price does seem plausible. Perhaps something between $199 and $225?
  4. All the Digitimes points above. Competition from SiPix and system on chip solutions will definitely help lower prices.
  5. Agency Model and the fact that eReader makers are no longer taking losses on ebooks. They can now price their new eReaders cheaper. Add-on the contribution from ebook sales via various Kindle Apps and Amazon might decide to take a hit on the Kindle 3 or sell it at close to what it costs to make each Kindle 3.

If Kindle 3 is merely Kindle 2 graphite then we really ought to see a lower price than the earlier $259 Kindle. A $199 or $220 price would also help with sales and would entice more people into reading.

DigiTimes has a pretty up and down record when it comes to making Kindle predictions. It does however have its sources in China and Taiwan and there’s a chance it might be right. Certainly hope its right about 7 million eReaders being sold in the second half of 2010 and it’d be good if Kindle 3 makes up 5 million out of those. A lot more money for Amazon that it can devote to getting us a color Kindle 4 and adding new features to Kindle 3 and Kindle 2.

Kindle 3 Expectations – What Readers expect

The Kindle is still sold out and people are still speculating on what it means.

Consensus amongst the main-stream Press seems to be that Amazon didn’t anticipate demand for the $189 Kindle and sold out all its stock. One article even claims Nook and Sony are laughing at the Kindle shortage – Guess the summer is the worst possible time to run out of stock. It would have been far less damaging to run out of stock during Christmas when everyone is buying gifts and … wait a minute.

Consensus (hope?) amongst Kindle owners seems to be that the Kindle 2′s disappearance means the Kindle 3 is about to arrive.

What are people’s Kindle 3 expectations?

Ran into this comment at the official kindle forum about what a user expects the Kindle 3 will be like (courtesy T. Semple) -

I have pretty low expectations for K3: basically just the Pearl screen (and dark enclosure) is the only new feature I really expect, and that is probably not enough to entice me. So I’m ready to be surprised…

You know what – It’s hard to disagree. Kindle DX 2 had the screen and the graphite casing and that was pretty much it. Don’t get me wrong – It’s a hugely impressive screen. However, there’s nothing else. There’s not much reason to think Kindle 3 is going to arrive with extra features on top of that. It’s been a month since the Kindle DX 2 came out so perhaps we might get 1 or 2 software tweaks or perhaps a microphone that lets you take notes via speech to text.

Well, let’s go through some more people’s Kindle 3 expectations and then draw up a realistic list of what might be in Kindle 3.

Optimistic Kindle 3 Expectations

Let’s start with some wishful thinking (courtesy BareThoughts, and me) – A Kindle with a Qualcomm Mirasol screen. This is actually fairly unlikely. Qualcomm has said their screens will be ready and arrive in devices by end 2010 to early 2011 which in ePaper technology parlance means end 2011.

There aren’t really very many people with high expectations. Kindle DX 2 has pretty much set the expectation that we will have an incremental Kindle 3 release - a new Kindle that differs from Kindle 2 only in screen contrast and color of the casing. 

Pessimistic/Realistic Kindle 3 Expectations

 S. Dunham pretty much captures the general sentiment -

I don’t think we’ll be getting a K3. I think it’s just going to be a K2 Graphite. When the rumors of a new Kindle coming August started, it did talk about a thinner Kindle and better contrast but no other new features. Not even WiFi was mentioned.

Given what the Kindle DX 2 is like it wouldn’t be a big surprise if Kindle 3 was indeed a graphite Kindle 2.

There are even a couple of people who feel it might just be an out of stock event -

Amazon’s either keeping this secret really well, or they’re just out of stock and there’s no secret to keep.

Well, so it seems Kindle 3 expectations are generally very low and given the massive Kindle 2.5 upgrade it’s hard to imagine Amazon would have been able to add-on much. Perhaps we’ll see Amazon take a few more months and release a Kindle 3 at the end of the year.

Most Probable List of Features for Kindle 3

For an August Kindle 3 release it’s really hard to say. The list would probably include -

  1. A graphite case (since it’s an easy way to improve readability and it’s already been done for Kindle DX 2).
  2. The eInk Pearl screen.
  3. Two software improvements – My money would be on some speed improvements and perhaps another experimental feature.  
  4. 1 or 2 hardware improvements – Perhaps speech to text and perhaps an SD card slot.
  5. Kindle 3 might come in at a $200 price. This is assuming the eInk Pearl screen is cheaper and that’s not a given.

There’s also a borderline chance we get some news on the Kindle App Store. There isn’t yet open entry to the App Store Beta so it’s hard to say if Amazon is ready to launch or if it’s still experimenting.

If Kindle 3 doesn’t arrive soon then it’ll probably arrive in time for Christmas and come with -

  1. eInk Pearl Screen. For now let’s assume Qualcomm Mirasol screen Kindles won’t be here till 2011 – That way there’s no disappointment.  
  2. Definitely a few software features – Expect something of the scale of the Kindle 2.5 upgrade with perhaps better PDF support and other improvements. Hopefully we don’t get too much social stuff unless it’s Kindle to Kindle.  
  3. Definitely hardware improvements. It might make sense for Amazon to go with a 7″ screen for Kindle 3.  
  4. Perhaps a touchscreen and stylus.
  5. Definitely the Kindle App Store. Don’t see why Amazon wouldn’t release it this year – especially as it would give Amazon a big advantage for Christmas. 
  6. The price would be less and would probably be around $170 to $190.
  7. There’s a chance we get some feature that we haven’t yet thought of.

There are additional things Amazon has mentioned that might make it in this year – accessible menus and a better browser. However, you have to think those are lower priorities and not as likely as PDF and speed improvements.

WiFi is a possibility if the Nook WiFi ends up selling well. It’s really hard to figure out what Amazon has planned for Kindle 3 and the Kindle App Store and the rest of the year. There will obviously be changes based on what happens with Nook 2 and iPad 2 – The one certainty for Kindle 3 seems to be the new eInk Pearl screen and that’s a good thing.

Kindle 3 arriving? Kindle 2 is missing

There’s a very interesting thread about a potential Kindle 3 release going on in the official Amazon Kindle forum. It stems from the strange disappearance of the $189 Kindle 2 - it’s out of stock and there isn’t even an available by date.

Kindle 3 – Could it really be arriving?

Here’s what we know in a nutshell -

  1. The Kindle 2 is out of stock.
  2. There is no available date listed. This is highly unusual - Amazon are saying to order now and they’ll ship the Kindle when it’s available.
  3. The last time something like this happened (end 2008, early 2009) users who had ordered the Kindle got the Kindle 2 instead. From the thread mentioned above (courtesy Sherry) -

    Thats what happened with the K1, went out of stock, huge buying frenzy of used k1′s going for outrageous prices, then they released the K2, so it looks like a new realease coming soon.

Even by itself this is a strong indicator Kindle 3 is likely to arrive soon. However, piece together the other evidence and an August Kindle 3 release date seems a virtual certainty.

The circumstantial evidence for an August Kindle 3 release date keeps piling up

We have a lot of signs that the Kindle 3 might arrive soon -

  1. The price cuts – Kindle 2 is selling for $189, refurbished Kindle 2s are selling for $169 and $109 (for the US version).
  2. Rumors of an August Kindle 3 release – These talked about a thinner, faster, cheaper, better screen-contrast Kindle and given what the Kindle DX 2 is like it makes sense that Kindle 2 would be similar.
  3. The arrival of the Kindle DX 2 with a serial number that jumps 3 spots. 
  4. The new eInk Pearl screen. A much better screen is as good a reason as any to release a new Kindle.  
  5. The fact that Kindle 2 is currently out of stock and there is no ‘available by’ date.
  6. Nook 2 got approved by the FCC a few days back. Nook 2 might have the new eInk Pearl screen (FCC documents don’t suggest any big design change so the screen changing is quite likely). That would mean those screens are also available for a Kindle 3 from Amazon.
  7. It’s 26 days since the special offer at Woot (Kindle 2 for $150) that sold 4,800 or so Kindles. Perhaps that was a sign that Amazon was getting rid of Kindle 2 stock. Again from the forum, courtesy Shirley Kat -

    When they dumped almost 5000 K2i’s on Woot, you couldn’t have asked for a better predictor of what was coming down the pike.

  8. There’s talk at the forum that current orders are being held back till August (although this is just 1 case). Courtesy Lesley -

    I suspect it’s the K3 coming. One of the other Canadians ordered recently and was told her order would be filled early in August….

Combine all these pointers and they point to just one possibility - a Kindle 3 release in August. It’s been a year and 5 months so it’s about time. Am resisting the temptation to buy a Kindle 2 (in the hope that Amazon will ship a Kindle 3 instead). Best to wait for an actual, confirmed Kindle 3 release.

Kindle 3 or another possibility? 

Perhaps Kindle 3 seems the most probable cause for the sell-out only because we all want to see a new Kindle. Perhaps there’s another, far more logical reason.

What are the other possibilities?

  1. The $189 Kindle 2 is selling so much it sold out. This is actually just as likely as the arrival of the Kindle 3.
  2. Amazon is fixing its death grip problem. You know – if you hold it in both hands and squeeze you lose your WhisperNet connection.
  3. Amazon is replacing the Kindle 2′s eInk screen with an LCD screen – They decided that’s the best way to promote the new Kindle Enhanced Books with audio and video.  
  4. Amazon will now build Kindle 2s with Andrew ‘The Jackal’ Wylie’s signature and face laser etched onto the aluminium back – This was his condition (along with 70% of sales revenue) to give Amazon the 2 year exclusive on his 20 gems.  
  5. Amazon decided to embrace openness with ePub support and an open ecosystem and no DRM and decided it’d be fitting to make the entire front and back cover (except for the screen) transparent to really drive the point home.

Seriously, the only two reasonable possibilities are the Kindle 2 being sold out due to the lower price and the Kindle 3 arriving soon. Since Kindle 3 is rumored to arrive in August and we are just 6 days away from August 1st it’s possible Amazon decided to switch everyone over to the new Kindle 3. The good news – it’s possible the Kindle 3 will be for $189 as Amazon are letting users continue to order Kindle 2 at $189.

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