Kindle Fire … not for me

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I’ve carried both an iPad (1st generation) and an Amazon Kindle (3rd generation).  I really like both.  The iPad was like a mini-laptop and the Kindle was great to travel with, especially with its amazing battery life.

About 6 months ago my first generation iPad was stolen.  The plan was to wait for the iPad 3, but along comes the Amazon Kindle Fire in September at a paltry $200.

I couldn’t wait, the Fire looked like it would be the perfect replacement for the iPad: smaller, many of the same apps, integrated with my Amazon Prime account for movies and more, the list goes on and on.

On November 16th I received the notification from UPS that it was at my house.  2 hours later I unwrapped and had it in my hands.

My first reaction: the device was beautiful and simple, albeit the screen size was smaller than I hoped it would be. Something in-between an iPhone and iPad. Setup was a breeze once I got my WEP key entered in the device configured itself and with a few clicks was linked to my Amazon account.

Thinks started to go downhill rather quickly after that. I found the navigation to be clunky. The bookshelf metaphor is everywhere and carousel navigation, while great in concept, isn’t as effective when you have 200+ books.  I also didn’t like how it mixed apps, books, and other content together.

No support for corporate email? Yeah, we’re still on an Exchange server and while setting up Gmail was a breeze, I had to go spend $10 on an app to get email.  Thankfully they had a 30 day trial.

There were three items that cemented my decision to return it:

1. Battery life – The Kindle Fire absolutely burns through the battery.  I did a little more research and learned that the stated battery life is 7 hours.  About 2 hours less than what the iPad claims.  I travel … a lot.  The last thing I want it to lug around another proprietary charger.

2. User Experience – I realized just how much I missed the home button on the iPad/iPhone.  It’s like a little life preserver, no matter where you are you know you can click that button.  On the Kindle it’s on the left and it comes in and out of the UX.

3. Hardware design – I’m in the middle of Charles Stross, Accelerando (great hardcore science fiction) and tried reading on the Fire for about 10 minutes.  The device kept shutting off?!?  Why… the power button is on the bottom of the device and the weight of the Fire is enough to push the button when resting on something.  Really?

Wired sums it up well for me: “iPad killer? No, the Kindle Fire is not.”

Back to waiting for the iPad 3.


5 Comments

  1. tough break, I’m pretty happy w/my ipad2 but will probably not be seeing an ipad 3 in my future since I just couldn’t wait that long. There are definitely UX improvements that could be made for the ipad. I had a similar experience to yours in giving the Galaxy tab a test drive and it drove itself right back to Best Buy and magically turned into an iPad 2.

  2. Good to know – we’re looking at getting some for our daughters for Christmas.

    One nit on Point 1 – Kindles have always used standard micro USB connections. If you’ve got all iStuff, I’d agree that it’s another thing to hassle with, micro USB is not at all proprietary. In fact, after the EU required that all phones support micro USB, Apple started selling a dongle to comply – http://www.gizmag.com/apple-iphone-micro-usb-adapter/20094/

  3. “the Fire looked like it would be the perfect replacement for the iPad” seriously? after knowing how much the kindle would cost?

  4. @tony — yes, I expected it to be at least competitive. My opinion was that it didn’t have the features of the Kindle that I loved and it didn’t have the features of the iPad that I loved. As one of my other friends put it, it felt like a big compromise.

  5. I am going through a similar experience. I’ve only had my Kindle Fire for a week now. Within a day or two of adding a few apps, it became clear to me that the Kindle Fire would only be a reading machine. While, on the plus side, it allows you to read in low light environments with the backlight, it will suffer from the same problems as the iPad outdoors, and your comments about the battery life are warning me away from keeping it. I also wanted it for videos while traveling, but a small amount of storage is killing that idea, also.
    Too bad.

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