In a week of product launches that saw Amazon unveil a new line of tablets and e-readers and Nokia and Motorola launch their latest smartphones, Toronto-based Kobo updated its own set of e-readers and introduced a new Android tablet.
The now Japanese-owned company, which was spun off from the Canadian bookstore chain Indigo, launched three new products Thursday, just hours ahead of Amazon's much-anticipated launch of its new devices.
Kobo's offerings include:
Kobo Arc — the next generation of Kobo's underwhelming tablet, the Kobo Vox, the seven-inch, Wi-Fi-enabled Arc has a faster processor (1.5 GHz) and more RAM (1 GB) but has lost the Micro SD slot so there's no option of adding additional memory.
It runs an "open" version of the Android 4.0 operating system, meaning users can access the Google Play app store, and has a 1.3 megapixel, front-facing camera and a high-definition display.
It adds a new social reading feature called Tapestries that makes recommendations based on e-book selections you've "pinned" as interesting.
The Arc will go on sale in November for $199.99 for the 8 GB model and $249.99 for the 16 GB version.
Kobo Glo — the new version of the popular Kobo Touch, which was Wired magazine's editor's pick for best e-reader in 2012. The six-inch, Wi-Fi-enabled Glo has a no-glare, high-resolution, front-lit screen, which the company says will make the experience of reading on the device "just like reading print on paper." Kobo's proprietary ComfortLight technology will light up the screen at night.
The Glo sells for $129.99 starting Oct. 1.
Kobo Mini — a five-inch, Wi-Fi-enabled e-reader that "fits in your purse or pocket" and can hold up to 1,000 e-books. It goes on sale Oct. 1 for $79.99.
Kobo will also keep selling the Kobo Touch for $99.99.
New to tablet market
Since launching in 2010, Kobo has focused on offering affordable e-readers and the e-book retail business. It only recently entered the tablet market, where it is one alternative to Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet for consumers in Canada and other markets outside the U.S. where the Kindle Fire is unavailable.
Any leg-up Kobo might have over Amazon in non-U.S. markets, however, could soon be eroded, as Amazon prepares to start selling the seven-inch version of its new Kindle Fire HD in the U.K. and several other European countries this fall — but not in Canada.
The 16 GB version of the seven-inch Kindle Fire HD is cheaper than the Arc at $199 but has a somewhat slower processor. It runs on the same Android 4.0 operating system.
Some early reviews have positioned the Arc as a more likely competitor to Google's Nexus 7, whose 8 GB and 16 GB models sell for the same price as their Arc counterparts, although they have a quad-core Tegra 3 processor to the Arc's dual core.
Kobo started out as an offshoot of the Canadian bookstore Indigo Books & Music but was bought by the Japanese company Rakuten last year. Its devices are still sold at Indigo and Chapters stores.