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Kindle Fire: Day 2

November 17, 2011

I’ve now had my Kindle Fire that I ordered back in September for 2 full days now. And while I’ll confess that I haven’t had tons of time to play with it (I’m finishing a library book before shifting over to read a full book on it), I’ve now played with it enough to form a few initial opinions.

First, I think the Kindle Fire is a subtly different type of tablet than the iPad or current Android tablets. Those tablets are designed first and foremost to run applications, some of which happen to allow you to access content. You can buy content from those devices as well, but the buying experience isn’t tightly integrated with the experience of reading / watching / listening to the content, so it feels slightly awkward. I would say the Kindle Fire, by contrast, is first and foremost a content device that also happens to run some applications. You can see this from the high-level structure of the experience: it’s around moving between content types (Books, Video, Newsstand), and Apps are just another type of content. I think that’s going to make a big difference in how people use the Kindle Fire vs. other tablets as well as the types of people that are attracted to it. Personally I’m happy with the emphasis, since I primarily got it to read books and to watch movies when traveling (when I’d sometimes prefer something a bit lighter than my iPad to tote around when I’m already carrying my laptop).

Second, the Kindle Fire makes it very easy to purchase additional content. Of course, that has upsides and downsides. On the upside, it’s easy to purchase content. On the downside, it’s easy to purchase content. I have to see the tight integration to Amazon’s stores (Kindle books, Amazon MP3 / Cloud Player, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon App Marketplace) as a big win for Amazon’s ecosystem: I suspect people will be buying content early and often. I can also see the Kindle Fire driving Amazon Prime memberships, since you get free streaming videos with your membership (in addition to all the other usual benefits).

Third, the Kindle Fire actually does a better job of other tablets of making it easy to determine what content you have available on the device and what data you have in Amazon’s cloud (and to move content on and off the device). Apple’s iCloud integration and Google’s cloud integration aren’t nearly so smooth.

Fourth, I have to confess that I find Amazon’s choices around the physical buttons for the Kindle Fire a little strange. There aren’t any physical volume up or down buttons; you need to access the Volume settings in the interface to change the volume. That’s a little awkward. The one physical button the Fire has is the power button, which is slightly awkwardly placed: it’s on the bottom, so I have a slight tendency to brush it when holding the Fire to read (I tend to brace my pinky along the bottom to avoid the need to squeeze the frame particularly hard to avoid the tablet slipping). Of course, since tablet’s don’t actually have a canonical up direction I could just rotate the tablet 180 degrees… (but then the “Kindle on the back would be upside down!)

Last, I’m still not sure about the design of the default home screen. The carousel is fun to zip through, but because it includes everything you do sorted from most recent to oldest, I tend to have things showing up in the carousel (web pages, songs, apps) that I’m not likely to want to access through the carousel again. My opinion might change as I shift from exploration to more focused use, but so far I’m not really feeling it.

I’ll note that these are impressions after just a couple of days of use. Further opinions will no doubt follow with further use.

From → Hardware, Mobile

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