Voice Guide and Explore by Touch Coming to Kindle Fire Next Year; Introduces Kindle FreeTime Unlimited and A/B Testing for App Developers

Amazon is bringing two new accessibility features "Voice Guide" and "Explore by Touch" to Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD 7 early next year. These features previously available on Kindle Fire HD 8.9 help vision-impaired customers to more easily navigate the menus and content on the device, enjoy books and audiobooks, and listen to music. […]

Amazon is bringing two new accessibility features "Voice Guide" and "Explore by Touch" to Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD 7 early next year.

These features previously available on Kindle Fire HD 8.9 help vision-impaired customers to more easily navigate the menus and content on the device, enjoy books and audiobooks, and listen to music.

Voice Guide leverages technology from IVONA, and any action performed using it on the device is read aloud," informs Amazon.

And, the Explore by Touch lets customers swipe their finger across the touchscreen and as they touch an item, the system announces what item has been tapped (e.g. when touching a book in the library the book title is called out loud). A second tap on the item will perform the default action on the item (e.g. a second tap on the book would open it).

Additionally, vision-impaired customers can also take advantage of the free Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin reading application, which provides an accessible way to enjoy the vast Kindle library on any personal computer.

"The application features voice-guided menu navigation, large font sizes, high contrast reading mode, keyboard navigation and accessible shortcuts, as well as text-to-speech reading with adjustable voice settings for customers who have an external screen reader program installed on their PC."

Other Kindle reader features vision-impaired customers and those with learning disabilities can take advantage of on the all new Kindle Fire tablets include:

  • Text-to-speech--simultaneously reading along with the synchronized text
  • Adjustable fonts--customers can select from multiple font settings, including large font sizes for low vision, and adjust margins to allow for less text to appear on a page
  • Modify the text color to appear as white over black, black over white or sepia
  • Built-in dictionary for instant access to look up new or difficult words.

Amazon also introduced Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, bringing together for the first time all of the types of content kids and parents love--books, games, educational apps, movies and TV shows--into one simple, unlimited, easy-to-use service for kids ages 3-8.

For a special monthly price of just $2.99 per child or $6.99 for the whole family, Prime members get unlimited access to thousands of popular kids titles. Customers who are not yet Prime members can sign up for FreeTime Unlimited for a monthly price of $4.99 per child or $9.99 per family.

FreeTime Unlimited will be available on the all-new Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9" as part of a free, over-the-air software update that will be automatically delivered in the coming weeks.

Amazon also launched the beta of a new, free A/B Testing capability for Kindle Fire developers.

"With A/B Testing, developers can test simultaneous treatments of their apps, receive data about what's worked best, and quickly adjust their apps to take advantage of this customer learning.

"A/B Testing is the latest developer service that Amazon has launched (along with Achievements, Leaderboards, Whispersync across devices, In-App Purchasing, and 1-Click Purchasing) that make it simpler than ever for app developers to concentrate on the differentiating parts of their apps rather than the undifferentiated infrastructure and engagement components," Amazon wrote.

Developers interested can download the A/B Testing beta SDK here.

Other recently added tools and features for developers include:

  • GameCircle is a set of highly useful services that make it easier to create more engaging gaming experiences. The GameCircle API is available in the Amazon Mobile App SDK, and for download on the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Portal.
  • New Amazon Maps API makes it easy to integrate mapping functionality into apps that run on the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD. The Maps API offers two core features: Interactive Maps, which embed a Map View enabling customers to pan, zoom and fling around the world, and Custom Overlays, which allow developers to display the locations of businesses, landmarks and other points of interest with customized markers and pins.
  • Test Drive on Kindle Fire enables customers to try out apps before buying them. Amazon has offered the ability to Test Drive apps on the web for more than a year, and this popular feature is now available on the Kindle Fire HD 7", Kindle Fire HD 8.9" and Kindle Fire (2nd generation). More than 20,000 apps are currently Test Drive enabled.
  • Kindle Fire Emulator allows developers to be confident that their apps' user interface, navigation and flow through the application are functioning as intended. These emulators also include support for some of the Kindle Fire unique capabilities such as GameCircle, In-App Purchasing, and Maps.
  • Unity Plugins for the In-App Purchasing and Amazon GameCircle APIs, making it even faster and easier for developers using Unity (one of the most popular tools for building mobile games) to add these features into their games and apps.
  • Localization Support let developers localize their apps by adding marketplace-specific pricing as well as language translations for their apps, in-app purchasable (IAP) items and subscriptions.
  • Developer Forums gives developers a place to ask questions and have discussions with other developers in the Mobile App Distribution Program.

Amazon also shared some recent stats revealing that:

  • "App downloads in the Appstore have grown more than 500 percent over the previous year.
  • number of GameCircle enabled games available on Kindle Fire has more than doubled since the launch of Kindle Fire HD.
  • Total downloads of the SDKs for In-App Purchasing and GameCircle have more than doubled since the Kindle Fire HD launch and availability of the Kindle Fire HD development resources.
  • number of developers with In-App Purchasing incorporated in their apps more than doubled in the third quarter of the year (from the start of the quarter to the close of the same quarter).
  • In October, 23 of the top 25 grossing apps used Amazon's In-App Purchasing technology," informs Amazon.