The best bit of Amazon’s new Kindles is a flesh-and-blood IT genie in a box - the first IT person in history who YOU can turn on and then off again, in a slight twist on their usual “solution” for all PC problems.
Click “MayDay” and a real person appears in a video panel, asking to help - they can even draw lines on screen to show you where buttons are.
The new Kindle Fire DX range is probably the most granny-friendly tablet ever designed - and instantly lets Amazon’s machines vault over Apple’s as the ones you’d buy for fuddled old relatives and the technically challenged.
The call-centre elves are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - and you can even “block off” their view in case you’re entering a password, or reading Fifty Shades.
It’s a neat touch - and a very Amazon-ish one, from the company who perfected the idea of having pretty good customer service without a phone number.
[Argos tablet - is it any good?]
The new range also, finally, get rid of the “trophy case” look, where your books, videos and apps scrolled along in a line - as if to remind you you’d just bought a tiny shop window, built to sell you stuff from Amazon.
It’s still there, but you can flip down to a grid view of apps, which makes you feel a little bit less like you’ve signed up to have your bank balance chiselled away bit by bit by Amazon.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a fan of money - just ask his tax accountants - but his new Kindle Fire HDX will, he admitted, make no money at all. It all comes from the locked-in system where you buy apps, books, videos and magazines from Amazon.
If you don’t mind that, you’ll love these. With the addition of Mayday, this is perfect elderly relative fodder - simple, easy to use, and full of entertainment.
For families, it’s also got the best protected “children’s zone” out there - with a list of permitted apps, a block on in-app purchases, and an interface that lets youngsters organise entertainment by character. In child mode, the background colour changes to blue, so even across a room, a parent can check to see whether their offspring have escaped the child-friendly bit and are now reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
It’s a smart idea - and not one done well by either iPad or Android. On many Android tablets, turning on “child mode” basically breaks the device. Here, it feels fun. Well, fun if you’re into Peppa Pig etc.
The new range have a beefed-up browser, and “proper” email - ie with conversation threads, etc. You still would not want to run a business off a Kindle, though - despite the addition of security software to allow roving professionals to do just that.
The seven-inch HDX is the best of the bunch, with an HD screen that blasts out colour - and a light, sturdy feel. But the big seller will the £119 entry-level model, which takes the fast processor out of last year’s big one, shoves it into a seven-inch model, creating a machine that crushes cheapie tablets such as Tesco’s to dust.
On both the 7-in and 8.9-in HDX’s, the pixel count has been ramped up to the point where it seems utterly pointless - until you start browsing the web. Then you think, “Ah!” Sites look crisp, pictures look gorgeous, and all’s well with the world.
The only problem is whether you’re the sort of person who doesn’t mind being locked in - once you own one of these, everything comes from Amazon. The app store’s now nearly as good as Google’s so it’s not a problem - but if you want to load something that’s not Bezos-endorsed on here, you’ll need black belt computer skills.