Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader has turned up FCC paperwork suggesting that the Kindle Oasis might have Bluetooth built in, and possibly even an earphone jack. The paperwork is light on details, given that it’s filed as part of the supporting documentation for FCC tests of new hardware and such material nearly always leaves out most useful information in the name of secrecy.

Nate wonders whether this might justify the high price tag of the Oasis, and be meant to permit the Kindle to stream audio to a speaker or hook up to Amazon’s Echo home automation system. Or perhaps it might work with a keyboard case for taking notes on books.

It’s a nice thought, but I’m highly skeptical. For one thing, none of Amazon’s marketing documentation mentions Bluetooth or earphones at all. If it was going to be important, you would think Amazon would want to mention it from the outset, even if it wasn’t fully functional yet.

More importantly, Amazon removed all audio support from its Kindle e-readers a couple of models back, in favor of shifting audio playback and text-to-speech over to its Fire tablet line. This leaves the Kindle free to concentrate on text e-books and nothing else. As much as David Rothman might wish Amazon would add text-to-speech support back to the Kindles, it doesn’t make sense for the company to reverse itself on that at this point.

My suspicion is that the comments on the headphone story and on The Digital Reader piece have it right—WiFi chips usually include Bluetooth support built in. That doesn’t mean any device that uses the WiFi chip will necessarily do anything with the Bluetooth support. Many devices only use part of the function of commodity chips, because buying a chip that does more than they need actually costs less than designing a whole new chip that only does exactly what they need. The FCC paperwork just mentions Bluetooth because it’s there, not because the device actually plans to use it.

I can’t see Amazon bringing audio support back to the Kindle Oasis, and I certainly can’t see the company doing that and not saying anything about it.

But I could be wrong! I look forward to finding out when the Oasis finally starts shipping to people.


  1. You’re right, it’s all in the saying. If it has Bluetooth, it’s hard to come up with a reason Amazon would not say so. There’s no competitve advantage to delaying that news by a mere few weeks.

    Epaper Kindles have almost no competition, so this can’t be about gaining an advantage there. Nor is there likely to be a technical glitch. If Amazon has issue with Bluetooth this close to release, the design is seriously flawed. The article you linked to suggests that Amazon may be waiting until they have an attaching Bluetooth keyboard to sell with it. But why wait for that? Bluetooth keyboard standards are so well-established, existing keyboards should work fine. Also, I can’t see mating being as important with an ereader as it is with a tablet used as a laptop. With a reader, you’d probably want the two to be separate. You hold the Kindle to read, only occasionally picking up the keyboard to type a note. This is a case where those small, hand-held keyboards you find on eBay for under $20 might make sense.
    The good news is that Amazon does seem to be testing Bluetooth in epaper Kindles. They could be hiding the hardware in this model, but more likely that’s either planned for a later model or Amazon is engaging in ‘just in case’ preparation for something they might do. Getting FCC certification could be part of that.

    It’d be nice to see an earphone jack come back. My Kindle 3 not only has one, it has a microphone whose intended purpose Amazon never revealed.

    If Amazon were really innovative—a big if—in addition to adding an earphone jack they’d look seriously at enabling the FM radio circuitry that’s built into many WiFi chips. The hardware cost would be almost nothing and, once written, maintaining the software would cost little. The same is true of smartphones, as these two articles suggest:

    It’s be handy for those who like to listen to the radio while they read and not needed a radio would be one less thing to carry on vacation.

    The radio is the chip not the greatest and would probably use the headphone cord as an antenna, but it could be handy. As some are pointing out, in a disaster scenario that takes down cellular system, many radio stations would still be on the air to give news. My hunch is that it won’t happen until the FCC requires it. Cell companies want to sell data and Apple wants to sell its music service.

    –Mike Perry

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