This was easily one of the most impulsive purchases I've ever made... a $200 device preordered within hours of the press conference announcing it. Granted, it helped I had about a $150 credit with Amazon, so my Kindle Fire only set me back a little over $50. I'm secretly hoping this device will replace my 1st generation iPad & existing 2nd generation Kindle.
Before I get started, I'm not sure anyone else can say that every device they've released uses the same type of common cable. Every Kindle has used a microUSB connection to connect to your laptop or to charge the device. Love it! Sure the Apple connectors are fairly standard now... but only for iPods/iPads/iPhones.
To put things in perspective, it helps to understand how I use the existing devices.
- Kindle 2nd Generation - I read books & newspapers (specifically the Wall Street Journal) on it. I love the eInk screen as it is easy on the eyes and I don't get tired reading or holding it.
- iPad 1st Generation (32GB WIFI) - I use it mostly for reference as I keep PDF manuals, eBooks as PDF for technical stuff (SharePoint, Silverlight, Azure, etc) & videos from conference sessions I wanted to catch up on (using the app Buzz player which always gets out of sync). I also use it to do light web surfing (Facebook, news, etc) and a few games (I'm not much of a gamer). I also rip a few DVDs to it to watch on a flight or while on the road.
The size of this little tablet is perfect. I've been used to holding my iPad which now feels quite big. The screen is a great size for surfing, checking email, playing games, watching a movie and reading PDFs as well as books. The device is a slight bit smaller than the Kindle 2nd Generation and a bit thicker... similar in thickness to the first iPad. Because of it's size it isn't heavy and works great for one handed operation. I can hold it with one hand comfortably.
User Interface / Touch
The operating system, a custom Amazon fork of the Android OS, is pretty good. It did take a little getting used to but I think I like it. It breaks things down into a homepage kind of view (most recent apps shown in a carousel view, kind of like Apple's Coverflow) with favorites pinned at the bottom, and then has tabs for Apps, Video, Docs, Web, Music, etc. Each tab then has an option to say "show me my content in the cloud" or "show me my content on the device" making it easy to download a book you bought previously, but don't have it locally. Before with previous Kindles you had to go to the website to download it. This is very different from the iOS approach where everything is an app... and I think I like this new approach move over the iOS approach.
The touch experience is also quite good. There are times when it seems to not be as responsive as you'd expect, but I'm guessing this isn't a hardware issue and more of a software issue. I say this because when typing an email on the keyboard, I can type quite fast without issue and without pressing very hard. Seems some times you have to be careful about what you touch. Hoping it is a software thing Amazon can address with an update.
Media (Videos, Music & Documents)
One of the big things I used my iPad for was to have a local reference of a bunch of PDFs of technical books and manuals instead of having them on my laptop. For the iPad I had to find an app (GoodReader) and then put those PDFs somewhere (FTP) where they could be pulled into the app. Same was true for videos where I used an app (Buzz Player) and had to import vidoes from somewhere on my network. Yes, both of these apps let me copy files from my laptop into them, but I had to use iTunes (which I hate just about as much as taxes) and then you still couldn't setup subfolders.
With the Kindle Fire it's so much easier. I did get a PDF reader app (ezPDF Reader) for $0.99, but I can easily copy my PDFs over from my laptop because connecting the Kindle to the laptop via USB has it show up as a USB drive.
Same is true for videos... you can encode them as a M4V file (same format that iPad recognizes) and copy them over. What is a bit confusing is that the videos don't show up under the Video tab in the OS (that's reserved for content you get from Amazon like TV shows/movies) but instead shows up in the included Gallery app. It's a bit disappointing that WMV files aren't recognized by the Kindle Fire, but that isn't a deal breaker for me. What is nice is that playback works great... no matter the format I used on my iPad, the audio & video always got out of sync.
I've also tried reading some magazines (Wired & Sports Illustrated) and they work great on the Kindle Fire. The screen isn't too small... in fact it is a very good size for this experience.
It's a Kindle so you can obviously read books, one of two things I use my Kindle 2nd Generation for. I'm currently reading an autobiography (Steve Jobs) & the experience is very good. I'm still waiting to see how I feel reading a book over a long period of time which I just haven't had a chance to do. My concern is the backlit screen will cause eye stress which I have with my iPad and others complain about. That's what's nice about the 2nd Generation Kindle... the eInk technology is like reading a paperback. Only time will tell.
It's a web browser... it just works ... AND I can configure my search engine so I'm not forced into Google.
Apps / Games
Finding & buying apps is great... much better than ALL other mobile platforms (Apple & Microsoft). Not only can you browse, install & buy apps on the device, but you can also do it from their website on the Amazon Appstore for Android. You don't even need your device with you, just send it to the device!
I found apps for everything else and like all the following:
- Email (Exchange) - Touchdown w/ Exchange ActiveSync
- Twitter - Seesmic
- Facebook - Web experience ... feels just like their iPad app... but would love a good offline reader
- PDFs / eBooks - exPDF Reader
Apps I need:
- Google Reader - Blog/RSS reader WITH offline caching & sync
- OneNote - for now the web experience of SkyDrive works, but prefer to have offline sync
What's Missing for Me
So far I've talked about what I like with some criticism in there. Now for what I think is missing or leaves a bit to be desired.
- Wall Street Journal - You can subscribe and have it delivered to your existing Kindles, but it isn't supported on the Kindle Fire. What gives? Ends up this is a WSJ issue, not a Amazon issue as WSJ selects what devices it can be delivered to. Rumor in the forum is that some users have called the WSJ who's told them they are adding support for it this week (Thanksgiving week, week of November 21, 2011) so we'll see! This would be the only thing keeping me from making the complete cut over from my existing Kindle 2nd Generation.
- No Hardware Volume buttons - There's only one button on the device & that's power. I would like to have volume buttons on the device like I have on the iPad... but not a deal breaker. In addition, I do like the iPad's "don't rotate the screen" switch.
- Good Google Reader app - Man, everything I've found in the Appstore so far sucks. Some are ok, but they show you the folders you've created for organization AND all your tags. That's annoying for those who haven't taken the time to tag stuff as things show everywhere. How should you do it? Look at FeedlerPro on the iPad. For now I'm sticking with the web interface on Google Reader (which sucks as I'd like to go offline).
- OS Update - As I mentioned above some of the touch stuff needs to get tweaked. I don't believe it to be a hardware issue as when I use the keyboard it is very fast and responsive.
All in all, this is a killer little device with a ton of promise. As is, I love it and not complaining... simply have some feedback & requests.
So what will it take for me to retire my Kindle 2nd Generation? Sadly it will never be completely retired. You can't read anything with a backlit screen outside in the sunlight so I'll keep my Kindle for when I head out on vacation to the beach. But once the WSJ subscription issue is resolved, the only time I'll pull my Kindle 2nd Generation out is when I am doing some book reading at the beach/outside.
So what will it take for me to retire my iPad 1st Generation? Well it's been 4 days and I've yet to pickup my iPad so for now, it's done it! We'll see how that pans out (no, it isn't for sale just yet)... but it might become a kids toy soon.
[Update 11/23/2011 @ 9:15a] - After some fantastic comments in this post, I've sideloaded the Google Reader app that is usually only included on Android devices that can use the Google Marketplace. Check out the links in the comments... Brian & Joe were a huge help. Joe posted a detailed post on how to do it. I didn't root my device as it isn't necessary... just sideloaded. In addition, it appears the WSJ has received TONS of calls about their subscribers not being able to get it on the Kindle Fire. It has been delayed for a week, but they are going to support it soon.