Amazon’s Next Kindle Paperwhite To Feature 300ppi Screen, Better Typography, Arrive Early Next Year

Amazon is now preparing a new Kindle Paperwhite for release in early Q2 of next year, TechCrunch has learned. The marquee feature of the new device is a high-resolution 300 ppi screen that will bring the company’s e-reader displays back into technical parity with devices from competitors like Kobo.

In addition to a higher resolution screen, the new Paperwhite will be getting a few more hardware improvements. We’ve seen a prototype of the device which has a front screen that is flush with the edges of the device, rather than recessed, and is made out of very matte glass of some sort, not plastic. Despite moving to glass, the new units are said to be lighter than this year’s models.

The current Amazon Kindle Paperwhite features a 212 ppi screen that compares poorly to the Kobo Aura HD. E Ink, the company which manufactures the Pearl E Ink screens for both Amazon and Kobo devices, delivered a high resolution 265 ppi screen to Kobo first. Amazon, we hear, was a bit irritated when Kobo shipped the Aura HD earlier this year with a much higher resolution screen than its upcoming Paperwhite would feature.

The new 300 ppi Paperwhite, code-named Ice Wine, will leapfrog Kobo’s limited edition device and place a high-resolution screen on Amazon’s marquee e-reader. We hear that there are no major software improvements planned for this edition, but that it will be upscaled to take advantage of the new resolution.

However, those of you who are heavy Kindle users will be very pleased to know that Amazon is working on new typography for the device with a custom-built font that’s great for reading. Typography has long been one of the Kindle’s big failing points. Though several fonts were added in its last release, they were not received overly well for the most part. A new custom font specially designed for reading on the device will be a major improvement. We also hear Amazon is working on allowing books to be presented with hyphenation, eliminating the awkward right hand margins, but it’s not clear if that will be in the new software or not.

The edges of the device will also now be ‘buttons’ of a sort. According to what we’ve heard, instead of old-fashioned ’split’ buttons found on previous Kindles, these will be ’squeezable’ buttons that give off haptic feedback when activated. Theoretically, this should allow you to change pages without having to awkwardly reach over with your thumb to tap the ‘next page’ zone on the Paperwhite’s screen. And making the buttons squeezable keeps the sleek lines of the Paperwhite’s margins.

The rear casing of the new Paperwhite will follow on with the industrial design of the current Kindle Fire HDX tablets, with a more angular shape and chamfer to the edges. Similar in look to the images of the HDX above. It will also feature a rear power button that looks similar to the new Kindle Fire tablets.

Rounding out the features of the next Kindle Paperwhite is an ambient light sensor that will take readings of the light in the room and adjust the screen brightness to compensate. On the prototype that we saw the light sensor was faintly visible behind the black bezel in the upper corner of the unit. The system gradually adjusts light in timing with the way an average person’s retina expands or contracts in order to prevent jarring transitions.

We’re still several months away from when this new Kindle would debut, so there may be alterations to its design or functionality between now and then, but these are the items currently on the agenda. Amazon is also working on a couple of smartphone offerings we’ve detailed previously. Both a budget model and a crazy-sounding high-end device with six cameras in total are being developed. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.