Your tech quiz of the day! Amazon’s Kindle Fire is:
- The hottest device for the holidays
- An Edsel
- All of the Above
Last month, Amazon launched the Kindle Fire after much hype and fanfare. Reviews of the Fire have ranged from Fire’s a tablet for everyone to The Kindle Fire is the New Edsel. Which opinion should you believe? Is the Fire the greatest device since the iPad or the worst device since Audrey?
To know whether the Kindle Fire is any good or not, it’s helpful to know what the Kindle Fire is not.
- It’s not an iPad
- It’s not an ereader
That should help clear things right up!
So what is the Kindle Fire? It’s a very inexpensive tablet that offers a lot more than its price suggests but, and I repeat, it isn’t an iPad.
The Fire is a content consumption device, not a content creation device. If you want to enjoy content from the Internet and content that Amazon has to offer, then the Kindle Fire should be at the top of your holiday shopping list. With the Fire, you can enjoy:
- Kindle books
- Amazon Instant Video
- Apps sold in the Amazon Appstore
- Amazon MP3 Music
- The Internet via the Silk Browser
While that list may seem limited, it actually offers quite a bit. The Kindle ebook collection numbers in the millions.
Amazon Instant Video has over 100,000 movies and tv shows, many of them free with an Amazon Prime membership, others available for rent or purchase. You can either stream or download the videos for when you don’t have Wi-Fi available (such as a plane ride).
Amazon’s Appstore has thousands of Android apps which, unlike apps in the Android Market, have been tested for quality. Major apps such as Angry Birds, Netflix and Pandora are available in Amazon’s Appstore. Amazon gives away a free app each day, often high quality apps that you would want to purchase even if they weren’t free.
Amazon MP3 Store has over 17 million songs and gives you 5 GB of free storage for your songs (or other data files) in Amazon Cloud. Unlimited Amazon content is stored free of charge.
The Fire’s screen size is nestled comfortably between a smartphone and an iPad. For those looking to have a truly portable tablet that can fit into a pocket or small purse, the Fire is an ideal size. Men who don’t carry a murse will especially appreciate the ability to tuck the Fire into their jeans pocket.
The screen is clear, sharp and anti-reflective, making it easy to read or watch videos on the device.
The Fire is $199, making it the least expensive full-powered tablet on the market. If you’re interested in getting a tablet as a present for your children, this price makes it more affordable and less upsetting if ill befalls the device. At this price you can buy two and a half Fires for the price of one new iPad 2.
Whispersync has always been a favorite feature of mine for Kindle ebooks. This feature allows you to put down an ebook on one device and pick up reading the ebook on another device exactly where you left off. With Whispersync on the Fire, you can use it not only for ebooks but for Instant Videos as well. You can begin watching a movie on the Fire, pause it, then continue watching it from the same place on your computer, or TV through your Roku.
Ease of Navigation
The Fire’s operating system is very intuitive, with tabs at the top and the Home button consistently in the bottom left corner of the screen. You can easily navigate from place to place without getting lost.
Amazon made much of the Silk Browser when the Fire was first announced. Perhaps they over-hyped the speed a bit much, but some pages, such as Wikipedia, do load instantly. Other pages don’t seem to have any advantage on loading times over other devices.
Although the app selection in the Amazon Appstore is not as extensive as the Android Market or Apple’s iTunes App Store, many sites such as Facebook and YouTube can be access by using the Fire’s browser.
As one Wonder of Tech reader put it, “The Internet is the only app I need.”
All of those apps you’ve purchased or want to purchase at the Android Market won’t work on the Fire. Some major apps, such as Spotify and Facebook, aren’t available on the Fire (though Facebook can be accessed through the Internet browser).
Although some may prefer the portability of the Fire, the screen is much smaller than an iPad. The actual screen size is 6″ x 3 5/8″, smaller than a greeting card envelope. Content such as some magazines can be difficult to read on the smaller screen.
The only external button is a power button at the bottom of the screen. While the design is sleek, form over function seems to have ruled the day. Because of its symmetry, you have to look to see which side is up. That doesn’t matter when you’re viewing the screen because images rotate, but it does matter when you’re trying to find the power button.
Much has been made of a lack of volume buttons. That design feature doesn’t bother me as I imagine most people will be mostly using earbuds to listen to audio coming from the device. Just make sure you get earbuds with volume control buttons and you’ll be all set. If you’re not using earbuds, the issue of missing volume controls becomes more of a problem. You can listen to music while playing a game on the Fire, but changing the music volume takes more steps than is ideal.
While the Fire seems to be an ideal gift for parents who want their kids to stop stealing their iPads to play Angry Birds, parental controls currently are lacking on the device. If a Fire is registered to your Amazon account, the device has full access to your Amazon content. That means if you happen to own movies or ebooks that you would rather your child not see, you’re out of luck. That also means your child can buy anything on the Amazon site and charge it to your credit card without entering a password.
While that news might strike fear in your heart, on Monday Amazon promised an update to the software within two weeks (translation: before Christmas). So if you’re giving a Kindle Fire to your child on Christmas, parental controls should be in place by then.
The Kindle Fire provides a rich tablet experience for a very small price. The device isn’t perfect, but it offers quite a bit of bang for the buck. If you want more, buy an iPad. If the Fire can do most of what you want a tablet to do, the screen size is an advantage to you, and you want to save money, the Fire will make you very happy.
Have you had a chance to try the Kindle Fire? Does the device have all of the features you want in a tablet? Do you see the smaller screen size as an advantage or a disadvantage? Let us know in the Comments section below!
* Fire image by Carol von Canon