Review of the Amazon Kindle Fire – First Impressions
Updated on Friday November 25,2011 with additional comments and links to Kindle Fire Tear down and articles
On Sunday November 20, 2011 I toddled down to my local Best Buy, laid down $208, and bought a Kindle Fire.
On this particular Sunday there was a feeding frenzy at Best Buy – despite what they tell me about the economy and the fact that people do not have disposable income. There were plenty of people disposing of their income on this particular Sunday.
Also, this particular Best Buy has decimated the retail space dedicated to desktops. The floor space that was dedicated to the display of desktop machines that I saw about a month ago has been reduced to about 1/3 its original size. Tablet’s and laptops now fill that space. When I went looking for the Kindle Fire I saw just about every other conceivable tablet on the market being displayed.
Although I went to buy the Kindle Fire, seeing all the other tablets on display, I decided to look around. I asked the “Blue-shirted one” if they had the Kindle Fire in stock and how many they had. He said they had the Kindle Fire and pointed to a cage of stock above the wall displays. I looked up and saw they had about 200 boxes of Amazon Kindle Fire – so I had time to look around.
When I finally decided on the Fire I stood in line to ask the Blue-shirted one to get me one out of the cage. I was the third in line. “How many do you want”, he asked. I said, “Just one’. The guy in front of me bought six (6) Kindle tablets. The woman behind me bought one. When the manager saw the Blue-shirted one coming down the ladder with an arm load of Kindle Fire’s he went off to the store manager to inquire if there was a limit of how many tablets a person could buy at one time. While waiting in line to pay I watched as the stack of about Kindle tables in the cage was diminished foot by foot.
Can hundreds and thousands of people be fooled into buying a Kindle Fire? Is the frenzy an example of marketing genius? Or does the marketing hype deliver on the promise? Does Apple have anything to worry about? Is the Amazon Kindle Fire an iPad killer?
After playing with the Amazon Kindle Fire for a few days – here are my first impressions
- When I un-boxed the Kindle Fire it was at about 90% charge and ready to use.
- Connecting to my in-home wi-fi was flawless
- Once I got connected and registered with my existing Amazon account linked to my older e-ink Kindle I found all my books and all my music purchased at Amazon already on the device or ready to download to the device
- Amazon’s integration with the cloud is the cat’s meow.
- Amazon’s store looks just like, and works just like the Apple App Store
- Purchasing applications and media is (too) easy.
- You get one month of Amazon Prime for free when you register your Kindle Fire for the first time
- Price point – $200 for a tablet.
- Reading a book on a bright display is a real pleasure over the e-ink Kindle
- The on/off button on the bottom is not recessed. It is very easy to unintentionally hit this button. On the first day I had the Kindle Fire I was sitting on the couch, put a pillow in my lap and set the Kindle on the pillow. Next thing I knew it was asking me if I wanted to shut down.
- The mini-USB looks flimsy. The connector wiggles around in there. Very much unlike the Apple iPod Touch which has a very large connector with a solid grip. The min-USB looks like it will soon break. How many “insertions” is this connector rated for? If you break the mini-USB connector there will be no way to charge the Kindle Fire – game over
- The Kindle Fire will not charge when connected to your computer’s USB port. To charge the Kindle Fire you need to connect it to the supplied wall wart.
- If you want to use the Kindle Fire on external power using the wall wart you will soon find that the cord is too short. Better keep a power strip near where you want to use the Kindle with external power.
- When scrolling through lists the interface is jerky and not smooth. This may be due to an under powered CPU or what the user interface is trying to do with the speed of the CPU in the Fire.
- The interface seems slow. If you touch the screen, sometimes, I had to hold my finger there for it to recognize my screen-tap or press.
- The keyboard is either too small or the resolution on touch lacks precision (or my fingers are too big). In any case, it is hard to type on the virtual keyboard and get the letters right the first time. (Typing on my Apple iPod Touch I get better accuracy)
- Font size is too small in some applications. No way to set a ‘system” or default font. In some application you can “pinch” to enlarge. In many applications, the font is the font is the font and if it’s too small for you to read – then you are out of luck.
- Battery life with WiFi enabled does not seem good.
- There is no way to organize books or applications. On my e-ink Kindle you can organize books into collections. The Kindle Fire does not have this concept of organization into collections or categories. If you have hundreds of books, well, it’s just one long bookshelf into infinity.
- No way to organize applications. It’s just on long endless list of apps. The more apps you have the worse it is.
- My biggest complaint based on how I use my e-ink Kindle is that he Kindle Fire does not talk – it does not have text to speech. So that great feature of the e-ink Kindle that can turn just about any book into an audio book is missing.
- The Kindle Fire knows if it is in portrait and landscape mode but not all the applications respond to orientation. For example, in landscape mode I stated a weather application and it came up “sideways”. That is, this particular weather app only does portrait mode.
- The audio could be louder
- Speakers at the top facing up and away from you
- No microphone
- No camera – but I did not really expect it in a $200 tablet
- The Kindle Fire could use a side cutout like the Nook so you can put a lanyard on it for quick grabs and carry
- The Mini-USB cable that you need to connect the Kindle Fire to a PC or Mac was not included. (I used my cable from my e-ink Kindle – works great). If you don’t have a min-USB connector you need to go out and buy one at extra cost (and delay in fully enjoying your Kindle Fire)
- When I first plugged the Kindle Fire into my PC USB port it did not recognize it. Had to mess with it to get it to work.
- The Amazon App store is mostly filled with junk… but that may get better in the future
- The preferred orientation of the Kindle Fire is portrait with the power plug on the bottom. Having that power plug at the bottom means that you can’t rest the Kindle Fire on something (like your lap or a pillow) while using it with the power connector present – its in the way.
- The default for the web browser is to come up in Mobile mode. This is probably the right mode for the size screen on mobile phone but not appropriate for the larger screen on the Kindle Fire Tablet. You can change the settings to put the Fire in full web page mode. In full web page mode, the Kindle Fire is too small to really enjoy the page without zooming and scrolling. So, you are caught between a rock and a hard place.
- On opening some web pages on the Kindle Fire I got a message saying… “Sorry, Forbidden. You do not have permission to access this URL on this server”. And that’s a message I got when I tapped on a couple of news stories from the Yahoo.com home page. Not sure what’s going on with that. And yes, my wireless was connected and had good signal strength.
- Lacking geek-info, so far. How do I get it back to factory default? What if I format the drive on the Kindle from my PC? Is there a possibility that I could “brick it” when applying a Kindle update or other messing around? Looks like some apps provide access to the entire filesystem on the Kindle Fire. What shouldn’t I do? Are there any apps out there that could trash my Kindle Fire? Does Amazon vet the apps in the Kindle Store like Apple vets the apps in the Apple Store to ensure that meet certain standards? What are the standards for the Apps that users will buy through the Amazon Kindle Fire Store? Can I trust the Apps in the Apple Kindle Store like I have come to trust the apps for my iPod Touch and Apple Mac from the Apple Store?
At a $200 price point you get what you pay for.
The Kindle fire is an average product for an average person.
Not an average person? Then buy an Apple iPad.
Kindle Tear down, pricing, and positioning in the market( “It’s all about the content…”)