Thoughts on the Kindle Fire Tablet

After some debate, I’ve finally decided to put down my pre-order for Amazon’s introductory device into the tablet market. As with with the Kindle 3 e-reader, I would like to explain about my decision as to why I decided to purchase this device prior to writing the full review. This gives me a chance to reflect on many issues that might help you if you’re still on the fence about whether to get this tablet or not. The Kindle Fire, just as with any other electronic devices out there today, is not meant for everyone. This is not rocket science yet I read many interesting forum posts regarding this subject matter. Here, I’m going to try and break things down a bit and explain my personal reasons and opinions for making the jump into the Kindle Fire world.

The Kindle Fire and iPad comparison is inevitable and will definitely come up in any Kindle Fire preview/review that you will read from now on. It’s a known fact that the iPad dominates the tablet world. Android based tablets are however, gaining in sales very quickly! In my opinion, it’s definitely healthy to compare the two but ultimately, any unbiased customer should realize that they are two completely separate devices and both are aimed towards different audiences. Again, I’m only stating the obvious and anyone who can’t understand that should get help! Therefore, don’t be alarmed if I make many comparisons between the Kindle Fire and iPad throughout this article.

 

You can find more information about the Kindle Fire from their official homepage.

Pricing and the Amazon Factor

One of the ultimate selling points of the Kindle Fire is the attractive price. At just $199, you can have your own 7″ tablet from one of the biggest companies in the world. The lowest iPad model goes for $499. That’s a huge price difference if you ask me. Amazon is actually losing money (not sure exactly how much) for each Kindle Fire sold but they have confidence in quickly earning that profit back. You see, the Kindle Fire closely ties together with the Amazon economy as a whole, especially where digital content is concerned. Amazon has their own digital movie rental/download store, music store, eBook store and even their own app store. Your Kindle Fire allows you to consume these media easily through your Kindle Fire. Therefore if you buy a Kindle Fire, Amazon is also willing to bet that you will purchase even more digital content from them because that’s what the tablet is mainly for.

Amazon I truly believe is one of the first major company that can actually go head to head with Apple. Sure, there are many other tablets out there that has a lower price point than the iPad but why do many of them don’t succeed? To me, it just seems that those tablets are just that: another tablet in the over crowded market. There’s really no blazing economy like that of Amazon to back up those tablets. iPad succeeds because it also has a giant economy with their app store and other great services that tie in to the tablet. Amazon can afford to sell the Fire at a lost because  they are not relying solely on making their profits through the hardware like how other tablet manufacturers are forced to do. If you really think about it, it sorta feels unfair. Who else besides Amazon and Apple that have a bustling economy for tablets? Google I’m sure tries very hard but I don’t think they will be a factor any time soon. If Amazon for example loses about $30-$50 per device sold, they can easily make it up (plus a big profit) during the lifetime of that device in the user’s hand because during that time, he/she would most likely purchase digital content from Amazon which in turn helps recover the initial lost. I’m no business entrepreneur but I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.

Amazon understands that not everyone can afford a $500 tablet! By cutting out some features (ok, a lot), they can capture this crowd. Personally, I admit that the $199 price tag is one of the biggest reason why I got the Fire tablet. That along with the fact that I am already sucked into the Amazon economy and I got a tablet that works for me.

Amazon EconomyScreen Size

The Fire comes in a 7 inch screen form factor and I think it’s the perfect size for my personal use. I’ve tried using both the 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab and the 10 inch iPad 2. I found that the former is much, much more comfortable to handle. The iPad just felt a little too big and uncomfortable, especially when reading eBooks. The 7 inch screen of the Samsung Galaxy was just perfect for reading because that is what I’ll be using the Fire tablet mainly for. I was extremely sad to sell my Kindle Keyboard because of the e-ink display but I wanted a device that can do more than just allow me to read comfortably. I wanted to be able to browse the web from time to time, watch a movie on the couch and play a game or two whenever I needed a reading break. If you want to watch a lot of movies on your tablet device, the smaller screen might put some people away but I have no issues with it. In fact, I actually prefer to watch movies on the smaller screen. I guess I’m just weird like that. Ever since I got glued in front of the computer when I was kid playing video games, I actually hated the idea of now playing on my big screen HDTV when I got my Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. I eventually hooked up my Xbox to my 21 inch monitor but I couldn’t do the same for my Playstation because the monitor was not HDCP compliant.  Sometimes bigger is not always better, at least in my opinion. Many of my friends thought me weird for stepping down in size instead of up but they just don’t understand me enough!

Kindle Fire Screen

Storage

This is a huge gripe for some. The Kindle Fire only comes with 8GB of on-board storage. Yes, I also agree that a little more would have been sweet but here is the kicker: any digital content you purchase from Amazon (movies, music and books) can be stored on Amazon’s cloud servers for free! You can access them anytime with a Wi-fi connection and you can even choose to download them directly onto your device (if applicable). Any other personal content and media that you store on the Kindle Fire itself counts towards the 8GB. Amazon also offers you the ability to purchase additional cloud storage for your personal media. I believe the cost starts at $20 per year for 20GB of cloud storage. I was a little disappointed that Amazon didn’t include a micro-SD expansion slot and this further proves the point that Amazon wants you to purchase digital content from them only!

Personally, I can definitely do with the 8GB of personal storage. I definitely can’t load my entire personal music library onto there but then again, I don’t really want to. I still believe that a tablet cannot replace a traditional laptop/desktop just yet. Rather, I consider it a good companion instead. With little storage space, I now have to be more selective in what I store on my Kindle Fire. Once again, due to me using this tablet as a e-reading device first, 8GB is still plenty enough to store my PDF documents and eBooks. The rest of the storage will mainly go to apps, personal movies and music.

Kindle Fire Storage

Lack of Features I Don’t Care About

OK, so for just $199, just what are some of the features missing from the Fire tablet? Well, there’s the lack of a 3G network capabilities, Bluetooth, built-in microphone, and camera. I’m being completely honest with you right now in saying that I don’t care for any of those. Am I being a fanboy when I say that? Absolutely not and here is why:

3G – I do not, I repeat, I absolutely do not want to pay on top of my already very expensive phone bill yet another data connection that I rarely use. I am one of those rare techies that do not need a constant 3G connection to remind myself of how important I am. In those instances where I do need a 3G connection, I mainly use it to only check my email and do some occasional radio streaming. With the Kindle Fire, I will be mostly using the device at home and so I have a constant Wi-fi signal. Yes, having a 3G data connection is definitely better than no connection but I just can’t see myself paying for yet another data plan. This is one of the main reason why I got the Wi-fi only Kindle reader. Although the 3G connection was provided free of charge from Amazon, the device itself was a little more expensive and so why pay for something I’m not going to use? I’m sure Amazon will provide a 3G version of the Kindle Fire in the future if the demands of this tablet skyrockets.

Bluetooth – One of the main purposes of having Bluetooth capabilities on a tablet for many is due to Skype. The Skype app definitely adds a huge benefit in allowing a tablet to make phone calls such as in the case with the iPad. I was a little sad at first when I learned of this but then I realized that I hardly even use Skype to begin with! Yes, it is nice to have calling capabilities on the Kindle Fire but I don’t see it as that important. I mean that’s why I have my expensive iPhone, right?

Built-in Microphone – Not having this feature means not being able to communicate with your Kindle Fire. That means no speech-to-text. Well, once again, this is not something that’s going to keep me up at night. I hardly even use speech-to-text that much anyways because it’s not accurate. By the time you correct your errors, you might as well just have typed the damn thing out instead. Of course, your miles may vary.

Camera – Here we go. This is considered one of the biggest missing feature of the tablet. Do you already have an idea of what I’m going to say next? *sigh* Yes, you’re right. I hardly care for a camera on my tablet because I don’t use it and neither do many other people who just wants a tablet to consume their media! Going by the price tag, even if Amazon did include a camera, I doubt it would be a very good one.

As you can probably tell by now, my main use of the Kindle Fire is to consume digital media. Of course, I was a little sad when I learned of all the missing features but then I looked at the $199 price tag and that immediately put a huge smile on my face once again. It’s very simple folks. If you cannot live without these features, the Kindle Fire is clearly not meant for you!

Amazon’s App Store

I admit that this is one of my biggest concerns at the moment regarding the Kindle Fire. You see, the tablet’s underlying structure is built upon the Android operating system. Amazon themselves don’t want to admit this openly but everyone pretty much knows this already. Initially, people like me got excited because as with most other Android based tablets, consumers get access to Android’s Marketplace which is the equivalent to Apple’s App Store. Sad to say it, this is not going to happen on the Kindle Fire. Instead, Amazon will force users to use their own app marketplace instead. You see, the biggest disadvantage of doing this is due to the many missing apps in the store. You have some of the more popular one’s such as Angry Birds and Pandora but many, many more are missing. In fact, I couldn’t even find the Facebook and Dropbox app! This obviously is a huge drawback because without awesome apps, the tablet loses a lot of appeal and potential.

The good news is that not all hope is lost. Once Amazon sees the demand for the Kindle Fire continue to grow, they will refine their app store and include many more popular one’s on there. At least this is what I’m hoping for. There’s just no way customers will be satisfied with Amazon’s app economy with the way things are now. No way. I have a lot of faith in Amazon because they rarely disappoint me and so I still decided to go with the Kindle Fire even though I’m worried about this issue.

Kindle Fire Apps

Prime Membership Trial

Included with every Kindle Fire purchase is a free one month membership of Amazon prime. For just an amazing price of $79 a year (much less if you are a full time student), you get free tw0-day shipping on many qualified items! I live in Hawaii so unfortunately, this offer doesn’t apply to us.

Where the Kindle Fire is concerned, being a Prime member also allows you access to over 10,000 movies and TV shows, all for free which does apply to me! I rarely go to the theaters anymore because they are just expensive and quite frankly, a lot of the new movies suck big time. Although Amazon’s library includes many old movies and shows, it actually gives me a chance to enjoy them as surely they can’t get any worst than the crap they put out today right? Plus with the Fire, I can now stream these movies comfortably on my couch or on my bed at night. Think of the library as Netflix’s streaming library. They have a lot of old stuff but once in a while, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a hidden gem. I doubt many people will sign-up for the Prime membership just to have access to this video library from Amazon but you can’t deny that it’s a huge bonus.

Please keep in mind that the Kindle Fire is geared towards Amazon’s own services first, unlike other traditional tablets. Amazon wants you to purchase content from them and from them only. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the Netflix app never make its way to the Amazon app store. Although it makes more sense for me to pay a little more per year to get Netflix’s streaming service instead of Amazon Prime, I would have no way to access the streams via the Kindle Fire.

UPDATE 11/09: Amazon just issued a press release today saying that big name services such as Netflix, Pandora, Twitter and Rhapsody will indeed make their way to the Kindle Fire, day one! This is huge!

UPDATE 11/11: Amazon just announced that Hulu Plus and ESPN Scorecenter will also be available when you get your Kindle Fire! Having both Netflix and Hulu Plus services on the Fire takes away most competitive advantage of the Nook Tablet.

Kindle Fire Prime MembershipIn the End…

I can hardly wait until my Kindle Fire arrives in the mail. Finally a tablet arrives in which many people will be able to afford. This isn’t just any ol’ third party tablet. It is backed up by one of today’s biggest company. Therefore, I don’t have to be afraid of the device becoming obsolete anytime soon. Like with many other devices, the entire experience is so much more than just the hardware itself. If you’re already bought in to the Amazon’s incredible ecosystem, the Kindle Fire makes perfect sense. If you are looking for a jack-of-all-trades tablet, you should definitely stay away. The $199 price tag makes this a perfect tablet for me because it can do the things I want it to do. Why pay more for things you’ll rarely use? When I’m not consuming an insane amount of eBooks and PDF documents, I can take a break and play some games and check my email while listening to my music collection. When I’m feeling brave at night, I’ll pick a random movie from Amazon’s Prime library and watch it on my couch or bed while all the time praying that the movie won’t disappoint me.

What do I think about the Kindle Fire at the moment? I think it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s definitely no iPad killer as many people immediately claim whenever a new tablet arrives in the market. However, do we really care any more? Does a device really have to beat another just so you can enjoy it? At first, many considered the tablet to be just another fad and that eventually, users will get tired of it. Well, that didn’t prove true at all. You’ll still have to pry my laptop away from my dead hands before I’ll let it go but you just can’t deny how beneficial a tablet can be. Initially, I didn’t care too much for tablets because I didn’t really give it a chance. As time went by, it really is the perfect device to consume all your digital media and content without having to lug your laptop around.

I want to conclude this article by saying this:

If you have no interest at all in any of Amazon’s plethora of digital services, the Kindle Fire will not be a tablet that you would likely want to purchase.

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