Major tech companies sometimes have a surprising habit of rolling out sub-optimal products in what are supposed to be their core competence areas. For example, Google’s Chrome browser for Android gets some indifferent assessments at times over issues like speed and cache bloat, and this is Google’s own flagship browser running on its own OS. And think of Microsoft’s terrible record in pushing out new versions of Windows that have been panned by the marketplace, and required revisions, rethinks, and still newer versions.
Which brings me to some recurrent frustrations over the Amazon Kindle app. For the longest time, this core Amazon offering has been … keeping me waiting the longest time to actually read stuff with it. And given that Amazon’s own Kindle runs a more or less modified version of the basic Android OS, and that the Google Play Store currently puts the Amazon Kindle app in the 100-500 million installs range (at version 4.12 too), you’d think that this was the one thing they ought to get right, right?
Well, to make sure my aggravation wasn’t just false impressions, I timed loading on two of my devices for the Amazon Kindle app, versus my preferred app for EPUB, FBReader, with both apps force stopped before restarting and cache cleared. (And these figures are approximate, based on stopwatch timing, but pretty close to the mark.) On my smartphone, a Navon Mizu M500 running the MediaTek MT 6589 quad-core chip at 1.2 Ghz, the Amazon Kindle app took around 16 seconds to open to the current book. FBReader, meanwhile, took only 2 seconds. On my Google Nexus 7 2012 version, the difference was even more marked. The Amazon Kindle app took around 30 seconds to open – compared to just 3 seconds for FBReader.
I can’t imagine that the FBReader has been specially coded for lightning-fast opening times, so what is going on with the Amazon Kindle app? Both apps have pretty big libraries on both devices, so there shouldn’t be an issue there. And FBReader offers far more styling and personalization options than the Amazon Kindle app, as well as plug-ins, so it can’t be feature bloat either. Is this simply cruddy coding work by the Amazon programmers? I’d love to know. And I do wonder if anyone would use the Amazon Kindle app at all if it wasn’t for the Amazon bookstore behind it..