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Kobo’s Latest Firmware Update Drops Hints of New eReader Models

kobo itunes ios logoKobo’s known for following their own launch schedule.  Most of their competitors launch new models in the fall, so Kobo’s last couple launches were in the spring and summer. And now it appears we might possibly be looking at a new launch tomorrow.

Kobo has announced on Facebook that they have news coming tomorrow (Thanks, Anne!),and while we don’t yet know what they’re going to announce I can report that references to a couple Kobo devices have shown up in the latest firmware update.

Several Kobo enthusiasts over at MobileRead Forums have taken apart the firmware update Kobo released late last month and discovered code names and technical details for a couple new devices called Pika and Alyssum.

Alas, all I can report at this time are the expected screen resolutions, and a few guesses.

The Pika device is tied to a screen resolution of 800 x 600, while the Alyssum device was paired with a screen resolution of 1072 x 1448. I can’t tell you the screen sizes with any certainty, but there’s a high probability that the Alyssum is going to use the same screen panel as either the Aura H2O (6.8″, 265 dpi) or the Kindle Voyage (6″, 300 dpi).

The screen resolution doesn’t match up perfectly with either screen, no, but it’s close enough that both are possible.

Based on my guess that Amazon paid for an exclusive on the 6″ screen in the Voyage, I’m betting that we’re looking at a new 6.8″ Aura, and not a 6″ unit. If I am right then I may have seen the unit in question at CES 2015 last month. It had both a capacitive touchscreen and an electromagnetic touchscreen sandwiched around a 6.8″ Carta E-ink screen.

netronix 6.8 e 60q62-wt 1

But I should also point out that the other Nathan is betting the other way; he thinks we’re going to see a 6″ Aura with a 300 dpi screen ($50 says he’s wrong).

And as for the Pika, your guess is as good as mine. Some are speculating that this is a new 5″ model intended to replace the cute little Kobo mini, but it could just as likely be a new budget 6″ Kobo ereader. I lean more towards the latter, but honest to goodness the odds are 50-50 that it will be one or the other. It’s really too close to call, and we’re going to have to wait until at least tomorrow before we have any more information.

Speaking of which, Kobo posted an update on the Book a couple days ago which pre-announced something for tomorrow:


Kobo isn’t usually one to pre-announce device launches like this, so I’m betting tomorrow’s event is related to something else. And even though February would be a strange time of year to launch a new ereader, I will be paying close attention in any case.

Update: About 10 minutes after I posted, I heard back from Kobo:

No need for an embargo as the news will be out by 6am, and it’s industry-wide book related news.


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Paul February 9, 2015 um 3:46 pm

Well the Kindle Voyage accidentally dropped to $59 earlier today (unfortunately I found out after Amazon realized their mistake and jacked the price back up to $199). I hope the new Kobo is a better reader than the last one of theirs I bought, and competitively priced.

Michael February 9, 2015 um 10:04 pm

My personal theory, based on the O in their tease combined with the #ReadMore hashtag: they’re acquiring Oyster.

Nate Hoffelder February 9, 2015 um 10:17 pm

Not a bad idea, but I haven’t heard anything from Oyster. I would have been on the pre-brief list.

But I’ll double check.

Michael February 9, 2015 um 10:22 pm

Ah well. That theory seemed more likely to me than my wishful thinking that maybe Oprah’s decided Kobo e-readers are her most favorite thing ever, and we’re all getting a free one.

Nate Hoffelder February 9, 2015 um 10:49 pm

Now that you mention it:

Michael February 9, 2015 um 10:59 pm

Huh. Well, that wouldn’t be terribly exciting (to me, anyway). I wonder if they might do something like offer every new Oprah pick for free to Kobo device owners, sort of like Amazon has that Amazon Kindle First program, where Prime subscribers can choose one of four featured books for free each month.

Michael February 9, 2015 um 11:01 pm

Oops, that was meant to be a reply to your Kobo blog link re: Oprah.

Nate Hoffelder February 9, 2015 um 11:12 pm

I figured. No biggie.

Nate Hoffelder February 9, 2015 um 11:22 pm

And since I haven’t said it yet, good catch. I hadn’t made the connection, and I already had that post from Kobo’s blog.

Michael February 9, 2015 um 11:50 pm

Nate, if you have a Voyage handy, could you try taking a screenshot and checking the dimensions of the resulting file? I suspect it’ll turn out the be the same 1072 x 1448 as the Alyssum’s. It’d appear Amazon didn’t get an exclusive this time around:

Nate Hoffelder February 10, 2015 um 7:25 am

We also need to make sure that source can actually supply a 6″ screen.

Good find, though.

Hrafn February 10, 2015 um 7:31 am

It certainly strongly implies that a "1072 x 1448″ screen would be a 6″ and that a 6.8" screen will turn out to be 1440 x 1072.

Nate Hoffelder February 10, 2015 um 7:38 am

The reason I mentioned the 6.8″ screen is that the Aura HD has a resolution of 1440, while the Aura H2O has a resolution of 1430. So a 1448 screen is not out of the question.

But you’re right that the 6″ screen is now looking more likely.

Hrafn February 10, 2015 um 10:39 am

Yes e-Ink can (and likely occasionally do) make screens in just about any resolution but, barring a special order, would tend to do so in a few standardised resolution/size combinations for cost-minimisation reasons.

Admittedly, this is at least partly wishful thinking on my part, as the more manufacturers who produce 1072 x 1448 6″ Readers, the more likely it is to replace 1024 x 758 as the new standard — which I’m rather hoping for.

Nate Hoffelder February 10, 2015 um 10:43 am

I don’t think the different screen resolutions between the H2O and the Hd was a deliberate choice; I think it was a quirk of the manufacturing process. A similar quirk could result in a different resolution on the next 6.8″ screen.

But I agree that a 6″ screen is more likely at this point.

Nate Hoffelder February 10, 2015 um 5:27 pm

I don’t have one handy, but I just remembered that I did take some last fall when i was comparing web browsers.

The Voyage does have a screen resolution of 1072 x 1448.

Paul February 10, 2015 um 11:48 am

I don’t see anything about it on their web site, unless its the Oprah thing.

Michael February 10, 2015 um 1:14 pm

Guess I missed this bit you’d posted: "No need for an embargo as the news will be out by 6am, and it’s industry-wide book related news."

The industry-wide bit makes it sound like something non-exclusive to Kobo, and Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 fits. Looks like we have a while longer to wait for those new devices.

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