Amazon in its ongoing press conference has hinted at some improvements to the Kindle Fire software. It seems to be a completely new interface with great improvements to existing apps — or, in some cases, totally new apps. Over the past few days, developers have spotted that the Kindle Fire OS is now based on Android 4.0 instead of 2.2. It remains to be confirmed but the important changes seem to indicate that.
Among the new features, Amazon has a completely new email client with Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo support out of the box, a custom Facebook app in which, for example, you can share your book highlights and a custom Skype app to take advantage of the HD camera on the new devices.
The previous Facebook app was just a link to the mobile website. Other notable features include the addition of multiple profiles to get a custom experience depending on the person using the device, whispersync for games and audio books so you don’t lose your progress between devices and more.
X-Ray for movies is another important addition. It uses Amazon-owned IMDb to get information about actors in a specific scene of a movie. It is now available for textbooks as well. Kindle Free Time is a new feature that allows you to set time limits for each app. For example, you could allow your kid to read books while restricting access to other apps to one hour a day.
In portrait mode, the Kindle Fire displays recommendations at the bottom of the screen for apps or content to buy.
The Kindle Fire was known for its unresponsive operating system. The demos on stage showed a much more responsive operating system than previous versions. The home carousel was very snappy. Amazon gave us an example of a special offer, which would hint at lower-priced ad-subsidized models.
The Kindle Fire OS is still deeply integrated with Amazon’s ecosystem and content cloud. You can stream music from Amazon Cloud Player, download your Kindle books or stream movies if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber. For example, if you buy a song, it is backed up on Amazon’s servers.
Amazon has yet to say if the new features will be only for the new Kindle Fire HD or for all the devices. It will probably be available for the new Kindle Fire. But existing Kindle Fire owners might not get the update as Amazon usually doesn’t add new features to previous-generation devices. It was the case for E Ink Kindles.