Joe wikert

I don’t regret spending the $200 I paid Amazon for my Kindle Fire. I tried it out and decided it wasn’t for me, so I gave it to my daughter instead. Even though I no longer use the Fire I wanted to share the things I learned about the device and myself over the past several weeks. Let’s start off with the good side of things.

Kindle Fire Pros

  • Form factor — I prefer the Fire’s size to the iPad’s. It’s nice being able to wrap your hand around the entire device and the lighter weight is a big plus for the Fire. Of course, it’s the same form factor as RIM’s Playbook, and given how poorly that device has performed it’s clear you need more than just a great form factor.
  • Meets the needs of typical consumer — The Fire wasn’t for me but my daughter really likes it. That’s why you see so many good and bad reviews of it. Consumers who want a cheap tablet are OK without all the bells and whistles of the iPad, for example. Early adopters, or those who want to push the technology to the limit, are disappointed though. More on the early adopter in a moment…
  • Connection to Amazon content — There’s no question Amazon is using the razors and blades economic model here and the Fire is clearly the razor they’re willing to sell at little to no profit. Connectivity to Amazon’s ebooks, video and audio content is second to none with the Fire. And tying in the Prime membership program will only lead to more Amazon products being sold.

That’s it as far as pluses go. Now let’s talk about the minuses.

Kindle Fire Cons

  • Connection to Amazon content — As easy as it is for Fire users to access Amazon content it’s just that difficult to access anyone else’s. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Fire it’s that my next tablet will not be locked in to one provider’s content. That probably means I won’t be buying from the typical content providers, of course. I don’t mind paying more for that capability, btw. So if Samsung comes up with a terrific tablet that meets all my needs, and it’s $100 or so more than the Fire, I’m in.
  • Awful for the early adopter/tinkerer — As noted above, the Fire is pretty good for the typical consumer. But if you’re buying it to root and open it up you’ll be disappointed. Even if you go through the rooting process you’ll quickly find some of the apps in the Android Market simply won’t run on it (e.g., NHL Gamecenter App, the swipe keyboard, etc.) And if you do root it, watch out for those unsolicited auto-updates…
  • Auto-updates — This one’s ridiculous. How in the world can Amazon think that forcing OS updates on every Fire owner is the right thing to do? Amazon, take a page out of the Apple book and let your customers decide when and if they want the update. I couldn’t help but feel the auto-update was intended more to penalize rooters than to fix problems and offer more functionality. It also reminded me of the unfortunate “1984” debacle Amazon brought upon themselves a few years ago. Really stupid.
  • “Silk” browser — This has to be the biggest embarassment of all for Amazon. Remember how excited Bezos was when he demo’d the Fire’s lightning-fast browser at the press event last year? It turns out the browser isn’t that fast after all. In fact, in my totally unscientific side-by-side testing, the Fire almost always loaded pages slower than both my iPad and my RIM Playbook. Even with all these other issues I figured the Fire would offer a browsing experience that’s second to none. The results were considerably weaker than promised. I’m disappointed that Amazon hasn’t come out and admitted their failure here. It’s remarkable that they still prominently feature the Silk browser on the Fire’s product page. They seem to be in denial about it as they haven’t even hinted it will be fixed in a future software update. As much as I criticize Apple, this is something Steve Jobs never would have let happen.
  • Missing a “killer” app — This is the reason why I had to keep my iPad handy throughout my Fire use and am stuck (for the time being) on iOS. Zite is my go-to app. I use it every single day. It’s outstanding. It’s a free app but I’d gladly pay as much as $10 or $15 for it, especially now that I’m totally addicted to it. There’s no Android version of Zite…yet. I can’t even consider another Android tablet till Zite is available. Flipboard is a close second and it too doesn’t exist in the Android world. Amazon should have invested some money with the developers of apps like Zite and Flipboard to make sure they were available when the Fire launched. Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice if a Fire-specific app or two came out that made the device irresistable? I’d love to be talking about a Fire or Android app that’s unbeatable but not available on iOS. I can’t think of a single one.

I realize I’m a fairly unique user and that plenty of Fire owners are perfectly happy with their purchase. That’s great, but I’d also love to see Amazon step up, act like the market leader they’re trying to be and address these shortcomings.

I’m convinced that my next tablet will be an Android-based one. The only Android tablet I’ll consider though is one that gives me access to all types of content, not just content from the company who sells the hardware. Heck, as closed as they are, even Apple lets you install e-reader apps from Amazon, B&N, etc. One of the reasons they can do that is they’re confident they’ve got a terrific piece of hardware and you’ll want to buy it over the competition. They also charge a premium for it. I’ve learned it’s worth paying a premium, as long as it’s not ridiculously high, for the ability to choose from multiple content providers.

So while my next tablet won’t be the cheapest on the market, I won’t make the same mistake twice and limit myself to one source of content for it.

[Via Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 blog]


  1. There’s little need to worry. Strange as it sounds to risk-adversive me, the success of the iPad and Kindle Fire is inspiring other companies to jump into the tablet market. Just yesterday, one company rep showed me one that’ll be out in a few weeks: Honeycomb Android, an 8″ screen, and even waterproof, I assume for use in the tub. Some are marketing via cellular companies and even packaging a smartphone and tablet combination. Lots of effort, but I suspect there’ll only be a few survivors.

    I thought about getting a Fire but decided not to. Partly, it’s because of Amazon’s schemes to bully their way to utter dominance of the ebook market. That’s also why, although I love my Kindle 3, I won’t be replacing it any time soon. Don’t encourage the beast.

    But mostly it’s because Amazon just doesn’t ‘get’ apps and their value. Their devices really are razors to sell their razor blades. Kindle ePaper devices have been out several years, but I yet to see one productivity app for them that’s worth the bother of downloading, even at a free or 99 cent price. The Fire will be a bit better but, like I said, I seen no evidence Amazon sees or cares about third-party apps. A lot of owners will be stuck with side-loading apps that don’t work very well. The iPad’s great strength are several thousand marvelous, well-behaved apps for almost anything you might want to do. And with a 70% market share, I can be certain that developers will support those apps.

    Of course, Apple has a similar problem with ebooks. In some ways, it’s the mirror image of Amazon, weak where Amazon is (too) strong. Unless you’re a large company with the resources to generate pricey interactive content, Apple’s iBookstore is a disappointment. If I were an ebook buyer, I wouldn’t want to get an ebook I can only read on iDevices. Maybe, just maybe, at this end-of-January event Apple will demonstrate that it wants to get serious about ebook publishing and give Amazon some serious competition. I hope so.

    In the end, I’ve concluded that, for now, my iPhone 3GS does all the on-the-go action I need from a tablet with less bother. I may re-evaluate that when the iDevice version of that great writer’s tool, Scrivener, comes out later this year. By then the iPad 3 should be out and iPad 2s discounted to a price not far above that of a Kindle Fire.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

  2. Mostly what I am using my Fire for is to read in dim light in bed at night, and for this it is perfect. However, since I use something to prop it on anyway, the Kindle app on my iPad works as well, except for the additional size. Since I’m already a Prime member, I can watch videos on it, but do I really want to? The low volume of the speakers makes wearing headphones/earbuds obligatory, so that is somewhat of an annoyance. I have a Roku box so can see Amazon video on my tv; thus the only time video is useful on the Fire is when I’m somewhere in the house where there is no tv.

    If I had known then what I do now, I would not have bought the Fire. Now I know that a 7″ tablet does not work for me. I can already get mail on my iPad and phone so don’t need it on another portable device. From the comments on the Kindle forum, many are having a hard time reading their mail on the Fire since they have no control over the font. The games I play are mostly solitaire or Mahjong and those I have tried on the Fire create eye strain which is not the case on the iPad so for a full-fledged tablet, that is the one I will stick with. Many are happy with their Fires, and I am glad that it works for them as a tablet, but for me it is just a backlit Kindle which I only use at night. The Kindle Touch is a joy when I have light available.

  3. I think it all depends on what you look for – personally I would not take for use a 10” tablet like the iPad even for free as I have no use for it, clumsy and heavy for use un-propped or one handed.

    On the other hand I bought the Nook Color in 2010 in the first week of sale as it was my dream device – color reader, 7″ so usable one handed with good (now excellent since the new software update) pdf capabilities and useful adds-on like wi-fi for finding stuff on the go etc

    When the Fire came out I thought of switching for the amazon ecosystem (I am a prime member too) and when my sister-in-law wanted a tablet for the holidays we looked around and compared the fire with the nook Color and the nook tablet and to be honest as a machine – the Nook tablet just blows both Fire and Nook Color out of the water in pretty much anything except the stupid storage limitation that requires a cheap sd card. The Nook tablet is just so much faster and responsive – which does not really count for usual epubs but it shows in the scientific pdf’s for which I heavily use the NC in addition to regular reading- that i was very tempted to get one for myself despite being otherwise pretty identical (same size but lighter though) with my NC.

    On the other hand the Fire ecosystem is just unbeatable. Amazon wants to leverage their awesome ecosystem so they make mediocre machines from the Kindle classic to the Fire, but sadly the competition which made much better machines (the Sony reader was the best eink and now the nook tablet is the best 7″ tablet) just sucks big time at content…

    You do your stuff get a Nook tablet, you want to buy Amazon content sadly you have to do with a mediocre machine…

  4. I suppose it depends on what you actually want your device for.

    I want to actually work on mine. I want to write and compose and create as well as consumer video and audio.

    I chose the iPad and having handled the Fire over Christmas I found it deeply disappointing and a very poor device for my uses.

    It is too small to create and compose with the same level of satisfaction as on the iPad. The screen size of the iPad shows video and photos in such a superior way I find it hard to believe anyone would actually ‘chose’ a Fire over an iPad except on the basis of their inability to afford one.

    The Fire is slow and limited in functionality, which is reflected by it’s price I guess. As a comparison to an iPad it falls down in almost every single dimension and all of the so called advantages of the Fire are basically arguments to buy an iPhone which is also far superior in almost every respect.

    My iPad is a magical device. Whether sitting up in bed in the evening or at business meetings or on the underground, it does it all.

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