The product introductions just keep rolling and each company is trying to out-do the previous announcements. Today was Amazons day in the sun, and they really jumped on the opportunity announcing not 1, but 3 new products to build off last years successful Kindle Fire.
Amazon Announces Family Lineup of New Kindle Fire HD’s0
About the Author
Editor in Chief of Techstify.com. I've been building Techstify out of passion both for technology trends, and innovations along with gaming. If I'm not working you'll find me here trying to keep up with all the latest and greatest in phones, games, and computing, or on Xbox Live. I'm a nerd, I'm a tech junkie, I'm a gamer.
Amazon Kindle Fire Update Coming Soon0
All first generation devices have bugs, glitches, and UI problems. The Amazon Kindle Fire is no different. Fortunately, the company is up to the challenge of providing fixes. In a New York Times article, an Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said, “In less than two weeks, we’re rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire”. Improvements will be made to the overall performance, multitouch navigation, and add the ability to edit recent items on the home screen. This will be the second update since its release one month ago. When I reviewed the Fire, I noted all the issues I came across but still found it to be a great budget friendly tablet. With Amazon’s willingness to listen to customer complaints and address them quickly, the Fire will not only continue to get better as a product but also it will gain the consumers’ trust.
Via: The New York Times.
About the Author
Amazon Kindle Fire Review0
Amazon’s greatly anticipated Kindle Fire was released with much fanfare on November 15. With this release, Amazon is trying to tap into the low-end tablet market, a market that is still up for grabs. To get to such an affordable price point ($199.00), Amazon has sacrificed a number of bells and whistles that tablet users have come to expect. Fortunately, they have done so without sacrificing user experience.
It is difficult to discuss any tablet without comparing it to Apple’s iPad, but the Kindle Fire stacks up well. To proclaim this product as an “iPad Killer” would be premature and, frankly, a disservice to what Amazon is trying to achieve with this release. The Fire is trying to fulfill a niche that more experienced consumer electronic companies have left, not for lack of effort, vacant.
So is Amazon’s first attempt at a budget-friendly tablet a success, failure, or something in between? I was able to spend some time one so you can find out below. There is also an unboxing gallery.
The hardware is ordinary. Actually, it looks eerily similar to the Blackberry Playbook, which gives credence to the reports that Amazon used the Playbook’s reference design. To say it is ordinary is not to say, it is not appealing. At 7.5 inches, .45 inches thick, and just under 1lb it is a sleek looking device. The Fire feels light in your hand so you will have no problem holding it in any position or period of time and the thickness provides a nice grip.
Along the sides you will notice that there is only one physical button, the power button, which also doubles as the screen lock. The only other ports are 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port for charging and connecting to a computer. While using the device I found myself wondering why there is no volume rocker. Since most apps are developed to utilize volume keys, you need to adjust the volume through the system settings, which requires multiple screen taps to reach. Even that process is not consistent because in the Amazon Video Player you just need to tap on the screen to bring up the video controls, which includes volume. The decision not to have hard keys for the volume was a curious to say the least.
The screen is a 7-inch 1024 x 600 IPS LCD Gorilla Glass screen. It might not be the best display on the market but I had not complaints. The colors look crisp and clear; they did not seem washed or faded. People may complain about pixel density or low resolution but, to me, at $199 it is a luxury I am willing to give up.
It may not be a beautifully crafted device that people will gawk over, but you will not be embarrassed to use it in public or have it sitting on your coffee table. There are many examples of companies putting a lot of time into the look and feel of a product only for the user experience to be lacking. I am okay with having an average looking device as long as it gives me the experience I expect.
The Fire only comes in one option, 8GB. If you like to have all your media on the hard drive, it may be an issue because only 6GB are actually available and the memory is not expanable. However, Amazon does store your media to the cloud so you can either stream it from there or bring it to the device for offline playing. Speaking of, there is no 3G option, only WiFi. So you should make sure you have any songs, books, or movies loaded onto the device before heading out.
You will notice there is no camera, front or rear-facing, which I did not find to be a significant setback. Even though I have the option to video chat, I never do. Also, I find taking pictures with a tablet to be awkward. There are two speakers at the bottom – or top depending on how you hold it. The sound quality is good however it sounds a bit low even at the highest setting. You would be fine playing a video or song for a couple people but if you tried to play something for a whole room it wouldn’t work out so well.
The big story is the custom version of Android the Fire is running. There is only the home screen, which is a bookshelf – did you expect anything else from Amazon? There are no other pages for you to tack widgets and apps to. On the home screen, the top half is your most recent music, movies, books, web pages, etc and the bottom half consists of your favorites, which you can rearrange like in Android or iOS. One thing I noticed was the most recent section scrolls left and right but the favorites scroll up and down; it was strange at first but only took a few minutes to get used to. From the home screen you can choose from music, movies, books, newsstand, apps, documents, and web. Each is another shelf which holds the specified media.
The OS is pretty basic and easy to pick up. At the top right you can tap for setting such as brightness, volume, sync, WiFi, and then there is an option for “more” where you will find the system settings. When inside an app you can tap at the bottom to reveal the app settings. On the top left it says your name. When you have notifications a number shows up next to your name indicting how many. The touch responsiveness was good but the more I used I noticed the screen being unresponsive or a lag after a tap. Also the scrolling did not feel natural; at times, it was too fast or there was a delay.
The Fire has a native email client. It is simple and clean. If you are looking for an integrated Gmail experience you will be disappointed. However, it is perfect for keeping up with new emails and sending quick messages. Typing on the Fire is quite good; the keyboard in landscape mode is easy to maneuver. The auto-correct and predictive text were far better than I expected. Typing in portrait was probably the best. I was shocked at how quickly I was able to type out an email and with limited mistakes. Even though the keys look small and close together, it was an easy experience. If you plan checking a movie time in the browser while writing an email you better save a draft because there is no real multi-tasking, the only thing you can do is listen to music in the background while running an app.
The integrated Amazon services is the other big story about the Fire. Amazon sells all the media you could want on your device. As you would expect, you have access to that media from the Fire for easy purchase. When you buy any song, movie, app, or book it is all stored in the cloud so you can delete and bring it back to the device as you please.
Less well known are the cloud and streaming services that Amazon provides.
Once you log in with your Amazon account the devices propagates music previously purchased through them. They are listed under the “Cloud” tab meaning either you can stream the media from the cloud or choose to download it to the Fire’s hard drive. If you have media from other sources, you can upload it to a free 5GB cloud storage – more memory is available at a yearly charge – or sync it via computer. Streaming music from the Cloud Player was fast and sound quality was good. Downloading it to the device was quick and painless.
This was probably one of the more disappointing features. There is a tab on the Fire for your documents. I was under the impression it would sync files from your Amazon Cloud Drive. Unfortunately, that was not the case. At this point, you can only upload the files directly from your computer. There is a feature where you can email documents to a personalized Kindle email address and they will show up on the Fire, but strangely not in the cloud drive. I could not get it work right away. We figured out that the email you use to send the documents needs to be added to an approved list on the website. These documents can only be viewed; there are no editing capabilities.
Instant Video with Prime
If you have an Amazon Prime account you can choose from thousands of TV shows and movies to stream for free. The streaming was fast and the quality was good. When I scrubbed to the middle of a movie, it loaded it at an impressive speed. If you start a movie on your Fire, you can pick up where you left off on your computer. I would assume works with other devices that run Instant Video as well (i.e. Roku or a linked Xbox 360) but I did not get to test it.
The Kindle features are what you would expect from a company that dominates the e-reader market. Downloading a book is quick and easy. Swiping between pages is intuitive without any lag. It also has a ton of customization to make the reading experience best for you. You can change font type, size, color, background color, or invert font color.
Amazon has been proudly boasting about it’s Silk browser which is suppose to be faster by pre-loading pages in the background and anticipate your clicks through a large data pool and algorithms. I tested the Fire’s browser against the iPad 2’s. More often than not, the iPad loaded faster, not by much though. I did notice that the Fire’s browser loads everything at once. So instead of having parts of the page load in front of you, the page would go from blank to completed. The Silk browser will only get better the more people use it. However, I do not think it will be mind-blowingly faster than any other browser out there.
This is probably the most important section because no matter how good a device is it is inevitable made or broken by its app selection. The Fire is able to run any Android app found in the Amazon Appstore. There do not seem to be any apps made specially made for the Fire yet but I have to say the apps that are made for smart-phones look good on the Fire. They do not look stretched or pixelated. The Fire comes pre-loaded with a few apps: Audible, Facebook, Pulse, QuickOffice, Netflix, IMDB.
The Facebook app was probably the most disappointing. Since it came preloaded, I expected an actually app; instead, the icon opens the browser and takes you to the website. The Netflix app is the newest version for Android tablets. The layout and functionality is great; much better than the one currently for the iPad – which is scheduled to be updated as well in a few weeks. The app does allow for streaming and it works well. Load times are fast and scrubbing to different sections didn’t take long. The picture quality was a bit fuzzy when compared to the iPad or Amazon Instant Video. That maybe on Netflix rather than a problem with the Fire’s screen. When I saw QuickOffice preloaded I was excited that the Fire could be used as a productivity device. I was quickly saddened to learn it only allows the viewing of documents. After some digging, we found out the preloaded app was the basic version and that there is a Pro version in the appstore but I didn’t get to test it.
Even though the Amazon Appstore does not have Fire specific apps and is much smaller than the Android Market or the Apple Appstore, the fact that the smart-phone apps work well on the device buys Amazon some time to build out a true Fire Appstore.
Is the Amazon Kindle Fire a complete or polished product? No. In fact, it suffers from many of the same symptoms all first generation devices do. There are quirky aspects to the user experience, the software has some glitches, and not everything works they way you would expect it. It doesn’t have the full range of features or app selection of its competitors. Anyone can give you many reasons why the Fire just doesn’t cut it. I will give you one for why it is worth taking a closer look at.
The Fire is the best budget-friendly tablet on the market. For $199 you get an e-reader, a video player, a music player, a web browser, and more in compact 7-inch form factor. The fact that the Fire is a first generation device means the experience will only get better, especially with integrating Amazon’s services. Don’t let people tell you it’s not as good as an iPad because the Fire is not trying to be. The Fire allows people to have a recreational device to use throughout the day without having to justify its cost. Consider the Amazon Kindle Fire your introduction to life with a tablet. It is as if Amazon is saying “welcome to the club”.
Please leave any comments below or join the conversation in the forum. You can reach me on Twitter @mobilenaman
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The Fire Effect0
Apple seems to be playing it cool when it comes to the Amazon Kindle Fire. After meeting with a couple Apple chief officers, Barclays Group analyst Ben Reitzes, stated the following:
While the pricing at $199 looks disruptive for what seems to be the iPad’s most important rising challenge, the Amazon Fire – it is important to note that it could fuel further fragmentation in the tablet market—given it represents yet another platform. While compatible with Android, the Apps work with Amazon products. The more fragmentation, the better, says Apple, since that could drive more consumers to the stable Apple platform.
It’s a valid point; since the Fire is running a very custom version of Android it will not be compatible with any tablet apps created for Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich. They will be forced to run apps made for a smart phone. Will developers spend the time and resources to make custom apps that will run on one device? In my opinion they will go where the money is, so if the Fire has strong numbers that carry it beyond the holiday season into early next year, then yes it is very likely you will see apps made just for the Fire. Amazon is reportedly already working with companies like Netflix, Facebook, Pandora, but the extent of their relationship has yet to be seen. Apple is relying on a lack of the full Google Android experience driving people towards the iPad. While that is a possibility, the Fire will challenge the iPad unlike any other device.
The first thing that comes to mind is the price. We have seen how price can really drive sales, look at how quickly the $99 / $150 HP TouchPads flew off shelves. Coming in at $199, the Fire is less than half the cost of the cheapest iPad 2. However the iPad is made for more than just media consumption but also media creation. You can create music, movies, and business documents all on the fly. Yes, media creation is great when you do not feel like lugging your laptop around or are doing simple edits; however, tablets are not laptop replacements, yet. As for the Fire … well you can check your email, I think. But for $200 is that such a big deal considering that it is a device that may never leave the sofa? This is where the Fire is different than other competitors; it is challenging only the iPad’s media consumption features and Amazon is one of the few companies that can actually compete with Apple’s media marketplace. Amazon’s book, music, and magazine library is just as large if not larger than Apple’s. With the Amazon Cloud Player, Cloud Drive, and Whisper Sync you will be able to store your music, videos, documents in the cloud and keep all your bookmarks and notes synced across devices. It should also be noted that I strongly believe the 10-inch form factor utilized by the iPad is too large and can be hard to hold for an extended period of time (i.e. reading a book or watching a movie). The 7-inch form factor is much easier to hold and better for on-screen typing.
So maybe the Fire is not an iPad killer because it only competes on the media consumption features however it will be something Apple has to deal with in the entry level or low-end tablet market. The Fire will be great for people who do not plan on using their tablet over their laptop on the go and for people who see it as a device for their living room. Stay tuned for a full review and unboxing of the Amazon Kindle Fire.
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More Amazon Prime Perks0
An Amazon Prime membership just got more appealing. On Wednesday, Amazon announced the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. If you own a Kindle, any generation including the newly announcement Kindle Fire, and have an Amazon Prime membership, you will be able to choose from thousands of books that are eligible to be borrowed. That includes over 100 current and past New York Times Best Sellers. You can borrow one book at a time with no due date but only one book a month. In Amazon-fashion, all your notes, bookmarks and highlights, will be saved if you decide to re-borrow or purchase the book at a later time. Add this to the free 2-day shipping and unlimited instant streaming of movies and TV shows, the $79 yearly membership is becoming even more of a value. Even though, their TV and movie library is not as vast as Netflix or Hulu, Amazon Prime is, almost, now a most have for shopaholics and bookworms. The streaming library is always growing and soon Amazon Prime will become a complete steal.