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Amazon's Latest Kindle Lasts for Months on a Single Charge -- Why Can't More Devices?

The latest model, Kindle Oasis, has an internal battery about a tenth the capacity of those in a smartphone.

Amazon

In a world filled with great mobile devices, one thing still missing is decent battery life.

So you might think the arrival of a gadget that can last for months on a single charge would be greeted with oohs and ahhs. But, when that device is a new Kindle, we just kind of shrug. After all, the electronic book reader has had great battery life since it arrived on the scene in 2007.

 Battery life has been a strong suit of the Kindle since the first model arrived in 2007.
Battery life has been a strong suit of the Kindle since the first model arrived in 2007.
Ina Fried for Re/code

What’s more, Amazon’s new Kindle Oasis does this with a comparatively tiny internal battery that is one-tenth the size and power of those found in the latest smartphones. It has an integrated cover that adds more battery life, giving it an embarrassment of riches at a time when many smartphones struggle to make it through the day.

So why can’t other devices do what the Kindle does?

The screen is obviously the first issue. E-ink has its limitations, such as being black and white, but it uses a tiny amount of power and only has to refresh when a page is turned.

Second, the Kindle isn’t trying to do a million different things. It is used to read books — content that doesn’t require much in the way of processing power to display. That means instead of needing a mobile megaprocessor like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Kindle can make do with a rather basic (and ultra-low power) chip from Freescale Semiconductor.

All this could also be avoided if batteries would just get better, but that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.

It’s not just battery life, though, where the Kindle shines. Its focus on books lets the Kindle do another thing we wish other devices did — include cellular service with no monthly bill. Of course, Jeff Bezos is not doing this as some sort of philanthropy. It costs next to nothing to send a $9.99 book over the Internet so Amazon can afford to build the cost of wireless service into the price it charges for the book. So, even the models that connect to AT&T’s cellular service do so for no monthly fee.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be easily done with TV shows and movies. The cost to send them sometimes rivals the cost of renting or buying the content.

Even Amazon isn’t immune to these issues. One need look no further than the Kindle Fire to see this.

The company has aggressively moved on the front it can handle — the cost of the device — where Amazon has managed to deliver a decent $50 tablet. But even the magical powers of Jeff Bezos haven’t been able to do much to improve either battery life or the cost of wireless access.

Now, back to the Kindle e-reader. If the company faces an obstacle, it’s the fact that most people are pretty happy with their existing Kindle; the devices tend not to obsolete themselves the same way phones do.

The Oasis faces the additional challenge of starting at $289, making it pricier than all the other Kindles on the market, including the previous top-of-the-line Voyage, which sells for $199.

One area where Amazon could still shake things up is if it ever delivers a truly flexible reading device, something executives said — in rare candor — remains a goal.

Kindle VP Charlie Tritschler said the goal with Kindle all along has been to merge modern technology with all the benefits of a paper book.

“Paper of course is flexible,” he told Re/code. “Certainly, we think there are some benefits to flexible.”

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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