Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ways in which the Kindle Fire fix them

There are plenty of negative reviews out there about the new Kindle Fire. In my opinion many of those reviews unfairly try to draw comparisons between Amazon's device and the iPad. Here I look at the unit irrespective of what comes out of Cupertino. I'm not interested in bashing Amazon or their product(s). Nor am I attempting to be apologetic for their failings.

100% Grade-A Fail 

  1. Power button
    1. It's inconveniently located (at the bottom of the device)
    2. Resting the device on a table for reading is impractical as the power is constantly activated (unless you use a case or hold the device upside down)
  2. Speakers
    1. Low quality
    2. Low volume
  3. Volume Control
    1. There is no hardware access to the volume settings (no slider or rocker). When playing a video or using an app you have to:
      1. Activate the menu system (not required in all cases)
      2. Tap on the setting icon at the top of the device
      3. Slide the Volume slider to the desired value
      4. Hope that your application isn't paused during this process because otherwise you'll be repeating steps 2 and 3 until you get it just right.
  4. Multiple-Account support
    1. one account <--> one device works in some (read: many) contexts. But with device like this it just makes sense to support multiple accounts (and by accounts I mean specifically Amazon accounts) 
  5. Performance
    1. Silk
      1. It's not fast (admittedly this may change overtime as they mine behavior from the millions of users they have)
    2. Touch Response and Processing
      1. Sometimes the device doesn't register touches
      2. Sometimes the touches seem to register instantly other times they seem to register quite a while after the touch event
      3. Sometimes (read: frequently) a 'tap' is registered as a swipe (and vice versa) 
  6. Specs
    1. RAM
      1. only 512 (it does make a difference especially with bloated Dalvik apps)
    2. Storage
      1. Dear Amazon, in an effort to make your devices more affordable please feel free to either keep the internal capacity to something under 8GB or exclude things like SD-Card slots. DO NOT DO BOTH!!!

Fail Lite
  1. Content Offerings
    1. News Stand - Magazines are poorly formatted for the device. The content is neither rich nor interactive
    2. Apps - A sparse subset of the apps in the Amazon App Store are available for the Fire. Few compelling titles exist (evidenced by the fact that the daily free title is consistently #1 in the store). Finding titles that might appeal to a user based on their age is very difficult. The categories they have are pretty broad and not very helpful .
    3. Docs - The built in PDF reader is one step above worthless. It works great if your PDF was formatted specifically for a 1024x600 display, otherwise you'll find that resizing and panning are slow and often cause you drum your fingers on the table top as you wait for the rendering engine to redraw the text you're trying to read.
  2. Keyboard - The built-in keyboard is mediocre. The least they could do is allow LastPass integration so that you can use LastPass to fill in your account credentials from time to time.

Even So...
I'm not displeased with my purchase. My original intention was to get the device for myself, do some development on/for it and get them for my nieces and nephews. I do not think that the Kindle Fire is as kid friendly as is the Nook Color/Tablet. Touchy Books are oddly formatted on the Fire but look great on the Nook offerings. Finding age appropriate material is much more difficult on the Fire than on the Nook. This causes quite the quandary as Amazon has a much better ecosystem for a device like this, they just lack the polish. Were I buying based only on the device offerings as they exist today, I'd probably get the young ones Nook Tablets. I think, though, that is more of an investment in a platform and I feel Amazon has all the right ingredients to make the best platform. Barnes and Noble just doesn't have the same synergy across Music, Movies, Books, Apps, etc... 


  1. I bought a Kindle Fire for reading books. I read about 3 hours each night before sleeping. My bed is covered with books.

    I have realized almost every issue you have enumerated.

    Today, the device locked-up.
    Thankfully, the web offered the “20 second hold” of the start button "hardware reset".
    Now I am back: up and running.

    I am going to have to spend some more time with the device before considering it poorly.
    For $200.00, I think I will give it a run for the money... I am envisioning the sharing of books. Too often I tell someone about something I read in a book; they may or not follow-up on the reference.

    If I offer the reference by way of sharing the book, they can read for themselves...

  2. Walt, that's quite a bit of reading you manage to squeeze in each night. Have you used other 'e-readers' like the Nook (original, II, Color, or Tablet), Kobo, iPad, other Kindles etc?

    At twice the price and with half the screen real estate, I'm more pleased with my purchase of the Kindle Fire than I am with my purchase of the HP TouchPad (and I actually like WebOS). I do feel that there is significant value in the unit.

    Do you know many other people who have Kindle Fires? Have you heard from them about their experiences with it?