Amazon wants you to think of your Fire tablet as not just a tablet but a full-fledged Alexa-enabled device — or more precisely, a slimmed down Echo Show.
It's called Show Mode, and it's coming as a free software update for current generation Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets. Like the Echo Show, the new mode serves up full-screen visuals to complement voice responses from Alexa. Without touching your tablet, you can ask Alexa to see trending news, the weather report, calendars, camera feeds and more.
Aside from the software update — it'll start rolling out on July 2 — Amazon is also introducing the Show Mode Charging Dock, a docking station for current generation Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 that includes a cover that magnetically adheres to the dock, fixing your device in place on the angled stand.
I got a chance to see an early demo of Show Mode and came away thinking it was it was a pretty nifty feature addition. If you already have a case with a built-in stand, you could just put your Fire tablet into Show Mode (you access the feature by swiping down from the top of the tablet to reveal the settings menu) and pretend your tablet's an Echo Show.
The microphone array in a Fire Tablet isn't as robust as the one you get with an Echo device, but in a relatively quiet room, your tablet should hear your voice commands from several feet away. For even richer audio sound, Amazon suggests you connect your Fire tablet to an external speaker via Bluetooth.
The Show Mode Charging Dock simply creates a more elegant Show experience. The case has a short, integrated micro-USB charging cable that plugs into the USB port on the bottom of your tablet. To charge your tablet you set it in the dock and it charges inductively.
Leaving the tablet in the dock for extended periods will not damage the battery, said Kevin Keith, General Manager, Amazon Devices. It's also worth noting that the dock has no additional microphones to enhance Alexa's listening capabilities.
Show Mode Charging Dock will cost $40 for the HD 8 and $55 for the HD 10, but Amazon is offering both at a $5 discount as part of a pre-order launch special. Show Mode Charging Dock will begin shipping on July 12.
The accessory is also available bundled with a Fire HD 8 tablet starting at $110 ($10 savings) or bundled with a Fire HD 10 tablet starting at $190 ($15 savings).
In other Fire tablet news, Amazon has also announced a new Fire HD 10 Kids Edition. It comes with a "kid-proof" case, a year of FreeTime Unlimited and a two-year "worry-free" guarantee — if the tablet breaks, Amazon will replace it, no questions asked.
The Fire HD 10 Kids Edition is available for pre-order starting today for $200 and and ships July 11. It's available in three color options: blue, pink, and yellow. It joins the Fire 7 Kids Edition and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition.
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