When I opened the packaging, I was reminded of the experience of opening an iPad box. Just the unit and a charging cable, all someone would need if the interface is designed properly. Like the iPad, you can play around with it for 5 minutes and figure out how entire experience operates without an instruction manual. As soon as it booted up, it knew I was its owner and my Amazon.com account was already tied to it. It had to install an update before it could get started, whch I thought was weird since it just came out 2 days ago.
The unit itself is sleek with only one button on the entire device, which is the power button. To adjust the volume while watching a movie you have to touch screen and then options to pause, adjust volume, or exit appear. The speed is pretty quick, much faster than a Nook Color. It has a soft backing which has some grip to it on smooth desktops and it’s almost the exact size as a Galaxy Tab 7. The only thing I don’t care for is the power cord connection to the device. It rocks back and forth when it’s inserted and feels like it might snap off at any moment. Its the same size plug as an HTC Thunderbolt so some Android smartphone users can always use one of their existing chargers. The power cord is also pretty short, so it’s hard to find a spot in the house where you can use the device while it’s charging.
The Cloud system that stores all of your digital Amazon.com purchases is nice and since the physical memory storage is so small on the Fire, I can only assume they prefer you use the Cloud service. Devices like the Nook Color and Nook Tablet utilize a microSD card, which hackers exploit to root the devices to install uncensored versions of the Android OS and Marketplace. Opting out of a microSD slot means users will have to use Amazon’s App Store and Marketplace, which will compensate for the money lost on each Kindle Fire sold. The downside of limited storage and reliance of the Cloud is that you’ll have to choose carefully what books, movies, TV shows, music, pictures and apps you actually save to the device if for some reason you’re not near a wi-fi hotspot. The good part is that wherever you have a wireless internet connection, you have access to all of your Amazon.com digital purchases.
One thing about the Kindle that I’m pleasantly surprised about is the fact that you can go into settings and allow app installs from unknown sources. This is huge for developers because you can test your .apk files on the Kindle Fire before you submit them to Amazon for approval. I tested this with the app “Mosby’s CEN Exam Prep” that I developed for MC Strategies for Android phones. Interestingly enough, when I spoke to someone from Amazon tech support they said the CameraRoll function won’t be supported and must be removed from the coding or the app won’t work. This actually didn’t cause any issues on the app I tested, and CameraRoll coding is fine to use if you’re using it for screenshots and not accessing a physical camera, since the Fire doesn’t have one.
Even though the Kindle Fire is very much a limited system and you can only download apps that have been approved by them, the fact that you can install your own .apk files shows their not totally closed off. A device such as the Nook Color doesn’t even understand what an .apk file is even though it too, runs on Android. For $200 it’s a solid eReader that comes with plenty of extras. People have a tendency to try to compare it to an iPad, which it is not. A $200 tablet made for accessing your Amazon.com media is not going to be able to compete with a $500 device that some people use as a laptop replacement. However, for what it is, the Amazon Kindle Fire is well worth the money.
Kindle Fire vs. Nook Color: The Kindle Fire is faster, has better quality apps, and let’s you install your own .apk files. However, since the Nook Color supports microSD cards, you can root Froyo or Honeycomb onto it. Of course, the Nook Color wasn’t built to run rooted versions of Honeycomb and Froyo, so they’re a bit slow and unstable. Also, the Fire was made to compete with the more powerful Nook Tablet, not the older Nook Color, so the comparison is a bit unfair. In a side by side comparison, the Kindle Fire wins this battle though.
Kindle Fire vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7: This is purely a competition of features vs. cost. Both units have similar processing power, the same screen resolution and are almost exactly the same size. However, the Tab is a fully-functional Android tablet with access to an uncensored Marketplace and the features that everyone seems to love, front and back cameras. Plus, you can sign up for 3G access through Sprint or Verizon if you don’t want to always have to be near a wi-fi hotspot. This of course comes at a price. Over twice the price in fact. The Galaxy Tab will run you a little over $400 at Best Buy sans 3G contract. Verizon will give you the device for less, if you’re willing to sign up for 2 years of monthly data plan fees, which ends up costing more in the long run. So for features Galaxy Tab wins, for price Kindle Fire wins hands down.
Kindle Fire vs. iPad: This isn’t really a fair comparison because the Kindle Fire isn’t really meant to be an iPad competitor, especially an iPad 2 competitor. Again, it’s a features vs. cost compensation you’ll have to make. Tons of apps, the backing of Apple, plenty of accessories, front and back cameras, and microphone at a starting price of $500 or a solid Amazon tablet with plenty of extras for $200. If you can afford it, the iPad will give you many more features, but if you don’t believe in spending the cost of a new computer on a tablet, then pick up the Fire.