The Kindle Fire, long use review

With the iPad 3 (that’s what I’m calling it) out about town and other tablets hitting the streets, I’ve been asked quite a few times what I think of my Kindle Fire and am I still happy with the original iPad.

As far as the iPad goes, I’ve never had a complaint. The software selection is amazing, the prices are usually very good (if not, wait for a sale and ask yourself if that app isn’t really worth the price of a Starbuck’s coffe), the crashes have been extremely rare, the updates haven’t caused me any problems and I’ve never regretted having one. I think the iPad is a fantastic accessory and jumping to the iPad 3 would be wonderful, but I simply can’t justify the price. I don’t feel the original is slow, I’m very happy with the graphics and reading capabilities and keep it with me all the time. Do I think the iPad 3 is worth it? If you don’t have a tablet, absolutely. If you want to hand over you original iPad to one of your kids or your spouse so you can upgrade, absolutely. But to upgrade because the iPad isn’t cutting it anymore? Well, I’m not in that boat.

So what about the Kindle Fire? How does it compare? Well, I’ve always said from the beginning it wasn’t an iPad killer. I bought mine the first day of pre-order sight unseen. I figured a tablet coming from the power and might of Amazon would be a pretty safe bet.

Unfortunately, the Kindle hasn’t lived up to expectations. To call it a tablet is giving it more credit than it deserves. To put it bluntly, the screen is just too damn small. I feel the screen is too small for reading, it’s too small for playing games and watching movies doesn’t have the same feel as watching something on the iPad. You hold the iPad with both hands and it feels natural. Or you rest it with one and that feels pretty natural as well. The Kindle is too narrow to hold with both hands and because of the dense weight of the device they get tired pretty quickly. It’s an awkward grip, that’s for sure. You really can’t rest it against anything either, there’s not enough width.

The Amazon Android Store has been an incredible disappointment. When I first looked at it, I was pretty impressed by the selection. It’s nowhere near as good as iTunes, but some of the apps I really wanted, like Audiobooks were up there. But just because the Kindle is an Android device doesn’t mean you get to download Android apps. Oh no. Amazon has locked that down and you can only down apps that have been deemed "Kindle Fire Compatible". And the number of apps that falls into that category is incredible small. So small in fact, that if your want is to live the life of a carefree Android user, this is NOT the device for you. It feels like 95% of the apps in the app store are forbidden and won’t load. And don’t think you’re going to go to the Google Play Store and download apps from there, Amazon has done a damn good job of locking you out of that market. They don’t offer it, but you can’t go down the road and try you’re luck there. People say iTunes is a closed proprietary system, but Amazon is far worse.

So was the Kindle a waste of money? Do I regret the purchase? No, it’s not a bad thing, and for $200 it makes a decent MP3 player. But in my world, that’s about all it can do. It doesn’t cut it as a tablet, it’s not a very practical or diverse game console, the movie selection is decent, but you can get better on Netflix and see them on a bigger screen with the iPad, and as far as a reader goes, I think it’s just too small. And that’s the odd thing. It’s too big to strictly be an MP3 player, but too small to be a companion appliance. Ah sad middle ground indeed.

Now if Amazon makes a real tablet the size of the iPad, opens up their market to offer a full suite of applications and games or let’s you download any game or app you want, they just may have something. The Kindle Fire is a neat idea, but I don’t really think you can call this thing a tablet. Even though it costs more, the iPad is the far superior device and is far more practical in the long run.

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