I got my Kindle Fire last night and wanted to post some initial impressions of the device.
First of all, I love it. Great form factor, feels very solidly built, great display, does all that I need it to do. I could not put it down for more than 2 seconds last night. Take that as a 95% awesome. The rest of the stuff I say here will be in that 5% maybe not so awesome category, so read it with that in mind.
Two big caveats with this device.
One, do not buy a Kindle Fire expecting to get an Android tablet. I would not call this device an Android tablet. If you want or need an Android tablet, go out and buy an Android tablet. This is a Kindle tablet that happens to use a version of Android as its operating system. If you can’t let go of that expectation, you will have a hard time with this device.
Second, the Fire is every bit as tied to the Amazon ecosphere as the iPad is tied to the Apple ecosphere. Pretty much every top level navigation leads to an Amazon service – Kindle books, Kindle cloud music and mp3 store, Amazon video portal, Audible audio books, etc. I’m a fan of all those services. If you are too, you will be in heaven. If you’re not, you’re going to feel like you wandered into the wrong party. Of course, I’m sure what Amazon is hoping for is that people will become fans of those services when they get the device. And that’s probably a pretty good bet. When you click on the Videos tab and see thousands of movies and tv shows you can watch for “free” if you have a Prime membership, you’re going to be awfully tempted to fork over $79 a year for that.
There are a few things that detract slightly from the awesomeness of the device, in my eyes. A lot of it has to do with it not being a real
For one, there’s no standard home / launcher screen like you have in other Android devices. Instead you have a bookshelf metaphor. The top shelf is huge and holds the “carousel”. This is a history of all the books you’ve read, apps you’ve used, web pages you’ve looked at. Problem is, at this point it’s permanent. You read the latest teen vampire romance novel, it’s cover is going to be loud and large the next time you turn on your Fire. Guilty music addiction? Be careful, or everyone’s going to know that the last thing you listened to was Celine Dion. Same goes for web pages. Enough said. I’m sure eventually Amazon will allow us to edit those, or someone will figure out where that history is stored and how to edit it.
Lack of standard home / launch also means no widgets. Under the carousel, you can save other “favorites”, which can be apps, books, web pages, etc. But widgets have no place on this device.
There is only a single hardware user control on the device – a power button. All your standard Android controls – menu, back button, home button, search, are in a bottom bar that can sometimes be collapsed to give an app more screen space. Likewise, the volume controls are all in software, accessible through another settings menu in the top status bar. This is very much in line with the original Kindle philosophy, which is to make the device disappear when you are viewing content. I don’t hate it, but if you’re doing a lot of navigating and jumping around from app to app, it is noticeably slower.
Amazon’s app store is pretty good. Unfortunately, you don’t get the full app store on the Fire. Due to various hardware limitations and the fact that it’s built on a forked version of an earlier Android build, it looks like the Fire needs specifically built Fire apps. Sideloading is possible, but I’ve seen reports that this is a hit and miss situation, with some sideloaded apps working fine, and others crashing. Again, you have to think that this is not an Android tablet, but a Kindle fire and the apps it runs are not Android apps but Kindle apps.
Finally, in what I consider possibly the biggest oversight, there is no external storage on this device. It has 8GB internal storage, of which 6 something is available. For me, that’s just about the point where you can store a decent amount of things, but you DO have to pay attention to what’s on there and remove things you don’t think you’re going to need for a while.
Of course there’s lots of other things that people will complain about. No 3G, no camera or microphone, etc. I don’t miss any of those things and don’t really expect them on a device in this price range. And anyone arguing about whether this is or is not an “iPad Killer”, just shut up. You’re an idiot.
So it’s got some imperfections, but again, in my mind all the bad points fall into that 5% not awesome space. If you can accept it for what it is, and you like Amazon services, it’s an amazing device, especially considering the $199 price tag.