A while back I wrote about why I got my Amazon Kindle Fire, and in that post I promised you that I’d write about my thoughts about owning the Kindle. And since I’d rather rub shredded fiberglass in my eyes than break a promise to you fine people, here are my thoughts on owning an Amazon Kindle
- First, I want to say that I also am an Amazon Prime customer, so what I talk about below may include benefits of being in Amazon Prime. Those benefits are actually quite numerous considering the $79 annual price tag. If you are at all involved with Amazon, I’d give the Prime membership a good look. You can save a lot of postage – and a lot of time and gas – with Amazon Prime. “Gas, you say? How?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s an example: I don’t drive to the Pet Store anymore, because I just have Amazon ship me – at no charge and with no sales tax – my dog food. And cat food . And that is just the beginning of what Prime offers. I’ll leave it now to say that it’s a pathetically good deal if you have even the remotest notion of buying things from Amazon, and point out some more specific things as I go along.
- The second point to make is that at $200, the Kindle Fire is pretty much a loss leader for Amazon. I don’t know for sure what it costs to make the Kindle Fire, but I’m guessing that Amazon is selling them at a loss or very close to it. And the reason is that the Fire is, in Amazon’s eyes, merely an Amazon content delivery device. They want to get this device – a Kindle – into your hands. At $200, it’s an attractive tablet that runs Android apps, had a dual core processor, a color screen and has all the advantages of a Kindle. Sure, any tablet can run Kindle software, but as a Kindle, I can do things like borrow a free book a month from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (another Prime perk….) as well as watch Amazon Video (another Prime benefit…) on the device. I can store all my Kindle content (another Prime benefit….) with unlimited space on the cloud, including magazines, books, and music.
- The Kindle Fire is pretty impressive hardware. It is a dual core processor, and a very nice seven inch IPS screen. I haven’t really ever thought that it was slow because of processor power. It seems plenty powerful to me.
- Things I like to do with a tablet (and that don’t really matter that it’s a Kindle Fire….)
- Read Twitter. I’ve taken twitter off my phone because now I can….
- …actually read the web article on a link from Twitter instead of putting it in Instapaper because my phone makes it too hard to read the link.
- Watch movies and TV in bed with a nice, crisp seven inch screen. The Fire is really easy to hold however I like.
- Play games. The screen is big enough to actually see the cool graphics on some cool games. I’ve taken all games off my phone, and the Fire has become a nice little tool for wasting some time.
- Things I like to do with my Kindle fire (because it is a Kindle…)
- Nice: One thing I like is the “Lock screen” feature which locks in screen orientation. Sometimes you want to lie on your side and still read in portrait mode even though you are holding the device in landscape mode. I like that. I suppose that other tablets have that – I don’t know – but I do like it’s easy access.
- Nice: Amazon's Android AppStore gives away a paid app every day. Mostly it is cheesy games, but every once and a while you can get a nice paid app. While not the Android Market, you can get many of the apps you want from the Amazon AppStore, including things like NetFlix, Pandora, Evernote, etc.
- No Google apps, though. I guess I’m not 100% clear while Amazon blocks Google apps. I guess they view them as a competitor. I sure would like to be able to run Google Mail and Google Calendar on it. I also prefer Google Music, but Amazon’s music is workable. It is a bummer not to have the Google/Tablet connection.
- To add insult to injury regarding the above note, there really isn’t even a decent third-party calendar app in Amazon’s store. Alas.
- Bummer: The device has no camera, no microphone, and no GPS. This is okay, because the GPS on my phone works much better when I’m driving. The camera on my phone is as good as any they’d put on the tablet. I pretty much have my phone with me all the time, so those missing features in the Fire aren’t a problem.
- Bummer: The Kindle Fire runs Android, but it is a very customized and restricted version of Android. As a result, the device has no Google apps, including no access to the Google Market. However, if you want, you can root it (though if you do, you lose the ability to watch free Amazon Prime videos). You can then sideload the Google apps. You can sideload apps without root access, but it is a bit of a crap shoot whether any given app will work. (Here’s a good open letter to Jeff Bezos on this topic, the general sentiment of which I support. I don’t’ regret my Kindle purchase, but it would be a really, really awesome tool if I had the Google stuff on it.)
- A Bit Strange: There is only one physical button on the whole device: the power switch on the bottom. This means no volume rockers, which Android users are kind of used to, I guess. It hasn’t bothered me too much, but I know that it is something that bothers other users.
- Bummer: Amazon advertises their custom Android Silk browser as “lightening fast”, but my experience has been, uhm, different.
- Nice to Know: I have kept my device “Kindle-ized”, but if I wanted to, there are Android ROM’s available for the Kindle Fire if I wanted to move the device to be a “pure” tablet. But again, I’d lose the advantages in Amazon Prime of the device being a Kindle.
Final verdict: I’m happy with my Kindle Fire – I like using and having a tablet – but I’m going to save up an buy a “real” tablet in the fall. I’m interested in the Google Nexus Tablet – or at least in concept. I like having a Nexus phone, and I’d like to have the same thing in a tablet.