Amazon just schooled the tablet market. The Fire, a $199, 7-inch color touch-screen tablet may be the first blockbuster Android tablet, though no one will care that it’s running the Android OS.
On the outside (and I do mean “outside” — Amazon wouldn’t let journalists touch or test drive the Fire), the all black device looks exactly like RIM’s PlayBook, which should not be surprising since it was reportedly built by the same manufacturer that built the PlayBook for RIM. It has a single button on one side of the device, stereo speakers on the other. It’s roughly 11.5 millimeters thick and does not include a camera. It’s also Wi-Fi only. No media slots and just 8GB of internal memory. You only have access to six of them, but Amazon reps stressed that you have unlimited storage in the cloud
Inside the Kindle Fire, a Texas Instruments dual core processor powers the Android 2.3 OS, though there’s almost no evidence that it’s in any way related to any other Android device.
The Fire’s interface bears no resemblance to any Android tablet (or phone) on the market. Its home screen looks like a bookshelf, with access to recently accessed content and Apps (books, movies and music) and another shelf to pin favorites or frequently used items. At the top of the screen is search and menu access to Newsstand (for magazines), books, music, movies, apps and docs.
The Kindle Fire, which ships Nov. 21, will arrive pre-registered and filled with access to all of your Amazon content, much of which may reside in the cloud. Unlike Apple’s iCloud service, there is no limit to the amount of content Amazon will store for you or how long they will store if for you. Perhaps this is because you’re simply accessing your content from Amazon’s vast cloud-library of ebooks, movies, TV shows and music. It’s not as if the cloud needs one copy of each piece of content per user.
You won’t, however, always be able to access your Amazon Cloud through the Fire. As previously noted, the tablet is Wi-Fi only. So Whispersync will work quietly in the background only when a connection is available. Leaving out free 3G access, which you’ll find in Amazon’s new Kindle Touch, is likely one way Amazon kept the Fire price down.
The Fire’s 7-inch screen supports 16 million colors and from our vantage point, the screen looked great and responsive. It supports multi-touch, but only up to two fingers. Battery life is up to eight hours.
There is no camera or external mic, so forget video chat of any kind. Still, that’s alright. This is really a content consumption device and Amazon has a ton of content. The $79-a-year Amazon Prime service, which offers free two-day shipping and unlimited streaming TV and video, comes as a free 30-day trial for every new Fire owner. There are no ports to connect the Fire to your HDTV, but if you have a device that supports Amazon Prime connected to your TV, you can switch from watching a movie on the Fire to your TV. Whispersync will ensure that the movie starts just where you left off. Obviously, we can’t test how well this works in the real world, but will report back as soon as review units arrive.
Amazon didn’t spend much time showing Android apps (there aren’t that many for tablets, anyway), but it did show off a new Amazon store app, which the company has completely redesigned for Android. We got a quick look at it and it seemed well organized. Amazon is also promising a native email client where you can manage multiple accounts, but none of the demo devices on display were actually running it.
The biggest innovation of all may be Amazon Silk, the company’s home-grown browser that uses the power of Amazon’s own cloud servers to offload Web page building duties. It can even, Amazon promised, prefetch the next page it thinks you’ll view. Our quick look at Silk offered no real hints of this speed prowess. Outwardly, it looks like your typically tab-based browser. It’s also notable that, with the Fire only on Wi-Fi, It may be hard to assess how much the browser improves a truly mobile, say, 3G browsing experience.
In general, the Amazon Fire is an attractive tablet at a killer price point with instant access to all of your stuff. It could be a no-brainer purchase for Amazon customers. Will it beat the Apple iPad? Unlikely. It’s smaller, has access to far fewer apps, can’t scale up on storage and isn’t intended to capture and manipulate personal media. On the other hand, it could be viewed as the best iPad alternative for those with simpler needs, like: reading books, watching TV and movies.
For Mashable’s Complete Amazon Kindle & Kindle Fire Coverage