The New York Times came out with an article today making the Kindle Fire out to be a big loser, citing a few experts, customer complaints and how it doesn’t measure up to the iPad. It never really talks much about the Kindle as a Kindle replacement, and that’s where the story misses the Kindle’s real advantage.
The Tablet For Books
I’ve used an older Kindle since earlier this year, what would now be called the Kindle Keyboard. When I first got it, I was disappointed. I kept wanting to touch the screen and do things. No can do. I wanted to read with it at night, which required an external light! To enter text, I had to use a clunky keyboard like something out of 1995.
What I wanted was a small tablet, about the size of a book, that allowed me to read my books and perhaps do other tablet-like things. Steve Jobs was wrong. When it comes to reading books, holding a small tablet is just right.
Reviewing various options, I settled on the Nook Color. Since it was, as I assumed, an Android device, I figured it was perfect. A cheap tablet, in an easy-to-hold form factor and able to run the Kindle app for Android.
I discovered that the Nook doesn’t run the Kindle app. That despite using Android, the Nook offered in its own Nook app marketplace that I found it an embarrassment to Android to call it an Android device.
I looked around at a few other small tablets, but the cost of them was fairly high — and I’d already gotten a nice case for my Kindle Keyboard with an integrated light. My ebook situation seemed sorted out.
Then the new Kindles were announced.
Kindle Fire: Book Reader+
I’ve been testing two of them, the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. I may do a longer write-up in the near future. But the Kindle Touch quickly got dismissed by me. The touch screen was sluggish. Entering text with my old Kindle Keyboard was actually faster.
The Kindle Fire originally disappointed me. While it had the form factor I wanted, it was heavier than I wanted to hold. I’d also grown to love the epaper format of the regular Kindles. But for the past two weeks, the Kindle Fire has grown to push aside my use of the other Kindles.
Why? For one, the screen is nice and being backlit, I don’t have to purchase a light to read at night. Consider that for the cheapest basic Kindle for $80, you’re going to spend another $60 for a case that integrates a light, if you want to read it at night. That’s $140 right there — getting pretty close to the Kindle Fire’s $200 price and gaining so much more.
Sure, you can clip on a light (these run from around $10 to $20), but that’s pretty awkward. Even then, you’re still into your device for $100. Paying half-as-much again gets you a fully-functional tablet.
iPad Has Some Of Same Flaws
The Kindle Fire is not as slick or nice as the iPad. But I’ve used the iPad plenty. The Kindle Fire, for a device that costs $300 less than the iPad, it does really well. To visit the sins the New York Times article lists:
- No external volume control: Yes, that’s a pain, but for a cheap tablet, it’s not a killer mistake.
- Easy to turn off: Yes, and so’s the iPad depending on how you hold it. I’ve rotated my Kindle Fire so the power switch is at the top. Problem solved.
- No privacy: Yes, and the iPad has exactly the same problem, since there’s no concept of multiple users. I wrote about this more in Why Do Amazon & Apple Hate Families?
- Touch screen hesitant: Not that I’ve found, and certainly not for the tasks I’ve used it for: to read, to listen to music, to watch videos and do the occasional web browsing or email.
- The screen’s too small for web site: And yet, people viewing web sites through even smaller phone screens all the time.
The Amazon Media Device
The genius of the Kindle is that it integrates so well with Amazon, so that if you’re a regular Amazon media consumer, this is a no brainer device.
It’s rare that I cannot find a song or movie that Apple’s iTunes sells that Amazon itself doesn’t also offer. I’ve purchased all my music from Amazon for years. They’ve hooked me on books despite the fact that I dislike how those books can’t easily be transferred to other devices or lent.
The Kindle Fire puts this library that I’ve been building up over time right into my tablet. After I first started using it, I wondered if Amazon might bring out its own phone, to keep me even more closely connected with my content.
The Netbook Of Tablets?
The Kindle Fire doesn’t replace my iPad, but it sure has replaced my Kindle Keyboard. That’s the killer factor here. I think the Kindle Fire will pull more and more Kindle users into the tablet world, where for just a little more money, they get books and more — and for a lot less than buying an iPad.
As I tweeted after first starting to use it: “Maybe Kindle Fire is the netbook of iPads?”
For those considering an iPad but who can’t afford one, the Fire — with a free paid app offered each day — might be the cheapest and most dependable Android tablets out there for a recognized brand. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 runs $100 more, putting you even closer to the iPad price point and iPad expectations.
No Social Sharing & It’s Not Android
For me, one big disappointment with the Kindle Fire has been the inability for me to socially share notes to my Kindle profile from the device as I can with the non-Android Kindles. For some reason, Amazon has disabled this feature, perhaps because its social sharing service is kind of a mess.
But the bigger disappointment with the Kindle Fire has been the same as with the Nook. It’s not Android.
The Gmail app from Google isn’t offered. The Google Search app isn’t offered (though a Yahoo app is). The Twitter official app isn’t offered.
Try to download the Minecraft app from the Android Store, and you get redirected back to Amazon’s own store. Heck, try to download anything from the Android Store, and the Kindle Fire intercepts your click and keeps you away.
The Fire & Google
The Kindle Fire is perhaps one of the best gifts to Google and a big threat.
It’s a great gift because in a climate when US senators think Google controls everything about Android, the Kindle Fire proves that Android can be used to lock Google out of its own platform. No need for anti-trust actions, thank you very much. But that same gift also proves the threat.
For related discussions about this across the web, see here on Techmeme. See also some of our related stories below:
- comScore: the iPad Owns 97 Percent of US Tablet Traffic
- Is Chromebook Google’s True iPad Competitor?
- Internet-To-TV Players Compared: Roku, Apple TV, Boxee & Google TV