Just over a month ago we took a look at how the Kindle Fire stacked up against the iPad, last week saw the actual release of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. I was pretty hopeful about this one, the least the iPad deserves is some genuine competition…
The reviews cames flooding in, everyone trying to assess the potential while simultaneously rattling off a review after a single day of use. It’s not that first impressions aren’t important, they are, but I’m more interested in how the Kindle Fire will look once the dust has settled – there’ll inevitably be a Kindle Fire 2, what does this new device from Amazon mean for the iPad?
While there’s no way to know, yet, how strongly the Fire has sold (and will sell), the first impression given by the myriad tech pundits is that the Kindle Fire is a disappointment. And that’s a shame.
Most of the common criticisms emanate from the poor user experience, Amazon appears to have shipped a product that just isn’t that good. A few of the key gripes (these noted specifically by Marco Arment) include how:
Almost the entire interface is sluggish, jerky, and unresponsive.
The headphone jack is on the bottom, so you can’t plug in headphones and rest it on anything while reading in portrait orientation. You can flip it upside down for the native reading interface, but many custom apps, like Conde Nast’s The New Yorker app, don’t support portrait-upside-down orientation.
The page-turn animation, a simple full-screen slide, is distracting, too long, and jerky.
The “Page View” (for magazines) is unusable. It’s literally just a big image of the magazine pages, like someone scanned them in.
It really needs hardware volume-control buttons. A very common action that should be a simple button-press became an ordeal.
You can really feel with every interaction that the Fire is not fast enough to be a good game platform.
His article is worth a read if you’re interested in what the Kindle Fire is like, but be warned, it comes down pretty heavily on the device…
This really is a shame for a device that I hoped would help transform the iPad market into a tablet market, and help create an even greater audience for the iPad. The lower cost of entry for a Kindle Fire could give people a taste of what it’s like to own a tablet, and perhaps allow them to see where and iPad would fit into their lives. It appears that the Kindle Fire may be in for a shaky start, although that too might help the iPad…
It really is a little disingenuous to directly compare the Kindle Fire to the iPad, as Nathaniel Mott mentioned in his article last month:
Amazon seeks to hit the market that is too wary to buy an iPad based on its price and to also appeal to current iPad owners that may want a second device based on portability and the extensive Amazon store.
The idea isn’t to tackle the iPad head on but create a niche for itself, and it may well succeed. So if we can’t do a direct comparison, or a feature comparison, how can we compare these two devices?
By looking at whether they achieve what they set out to achieve.
On Its Own Terms
The best way to asses a device like the Kindle Fire is by looking at whether it’s a success on its own terms. The Kindle Fire sets itself up to be a multimedia Kindle, that provides a great reading experience while simultaneously allowing you to access video content, audio content, and the web. All in a device that’s bound to the Amazon ecosystem and easy to pick up and use.
The fact that its selection of native apps is extremely limited simply can’t count against it, the Kindle Fire isn’t aiming to be a direct competitor to the iPad! The fact that its user interface appears to be sluggish and relatively poorly thought out, however, certainly counts against the Kindle Fire – it’s cheaper, sure, but that doesn’t excuse poor design and a lack of attention to the needs of the end user.
The suggestion that the Kindle Fire lacks in the reading department also hurts, this is something that the Kindle excelled at and highlights the compromises that have been made to get the Fire in on budget and time. It’s also highly disappointing that the much touted Silk browser appears to be a lame duck, effortless access to the web is an absolute necessity in a device like this!
While there have been some positive things said about how the Kindle Fire handles movies, and the expanse of the Amazon ecosystem, these features alone can’t redeem the device.
It simply doesn’t succeed on its own terms.
I have high hopes that the Kindle Fire 2 (I wonder what the odds would be on Amazon using that name), the second iterations of new devices are often a significant improvement. Just look at the difference between the iPad and the iPad 2, the tweaks and changes have given it more focus and advanced the original in countless ways.
It is, however, a shame that Amazon didn’t hit closer to the mark with the Kindle Fire – as a line of devices it may well succeed in the long run, but it’s not got a particularly strong start…
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below!