Not as impressive as either the Kindle or the iPad.
I managed to get the Kindle Fire last week and I thought I’d write some quick initial impressions for it. Let me start by mentioning that I have an iPad 2 (that I passed to my wife once her MacBook Air broke down), a 7″ PlayBook that I haven’t touched in months, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 that I primarily use before I go to sleep and an HP TouchPad that I picked up during the fire-sale and use in the TV Room. Other than that, I love my third generation 7″ Kindle that travels with me to my press trips and bathrooms.
I did not post all that for bragging rights but just so you know that I have had some experience with Tablets. I’ve also played with tons of Android tablets- from the 7″ Tab to the 10.1″ ASUS Transformer, however, I knew that the Kindle Fire will be a one-of-a-kind device even though it is based on the older, non-tablet version of the Android OS. Amazon has redone the UI for Kindle Fire making it look completely different than any other tablet and has tied it closely to its services- of which there are plenty.
Taking it out of the box, I immediately disliked the Kindle Fire. The word “Kindle” reminds me of my ebook reader that I love for three things- it’s incredibly thin and light to hold and carry, it has a mighty impressive battery life and the e-ink technology makes books look better on the screen and is much easier on my eyes than a back-lit device.
Unfortunately, the Kindle Fire is neither of these. It’s a bit too thick and heavy to comfortably hold it in one hand (412 grams vs 247 grams) and lasts a few hours compared to the days that the Kindle lasts. And coming to the screen, I started remembering how Amazon made fun of the original iPad about it’s readability outdoors which has come back to bit them with the Kindle Fire.
So I thought I’d stop looking at the Kindle Fire as an ebook reader and use it more as a tablet. Sadly, this didn’t work out too well either when I tried configuring my Gmail account (I use Google Apps) and Google Talk for IMs. The Kindle has an incredibly old version of the email app bundled with antique Android devices and not the slick GMail app found in pretty much all current tablets based on Android. In fact, it doesn’t have any Google services.
Not necessarily being able to use it as a full tablet or an optimal ebook reader, I was left a little confused on where the Kindle Fire stands. Sure, you can stream videos to it using Amazon, buy music and apps for it from the Amazon and browse the web using the Silk browser (which doesn’t support Arabic as of yet.) But then pretty much any tablet can do that using a combination of different applications. Where the Kindle Fire stands out is putting all these things together in a decent interface at a decent price point.
At $199, it almost becomes an impulse buy and I can see lots of people picking one up- but I’m not sure how many people will stay with it. The iPad is, without doubt, a better tablet and the regular Kindle is, without doubt, a better ebook reader. The Kindle Fire on the hand, is a bit doubtful as an all-in-one device. But I’m not giving up on it. Because it will sell really well due to it’s low price thus translating into a large user base, it will find it’s place. Eventually.