Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971

Sunday, December 25, 2011

First Impressions of the Kindle Fire

I am holding in my hands my new Kindle Fire.  Anyone who knows me knows I love to play with, explorer, and experiment with new gadgets and bee technology.  I received the Fire as a Christmas present and spent three hours downlouding apps and seeing what this new Kindle can do.  The perfect Christmas Eve.

Two years ago, I bought a 2nd Generation Kindle.  When I bought it, I was unsure whether I would use it.  I do enjoy physical books, the look, the feel, the smell.  But I was curious to see how it worked.  At that time, the Barnes and Noble Nook and the Sony e-reader were both out and I took a look at both.  The Sony was the smallest, and felt too small to effectively read on it.  The Nook and Kindle were comparable.  The main differences were that the Nook supported ePub and the Kindle supported Mobile, and that there were in store advantages to the Nook.  The in store parts didn't make much difference to me, as there isn't a Barnes and Noble where I live, and I only visit one about once a month.  The main advantage of ePub over Mobi is that most libraries that support electronic checkout do so with ePub.  Online, every site I've wanted to download from that supported ePub also supported Mobi and often native Kindle format.  Ultimately, I went with the Kindle because I usually shop online through Amazon not Barnes and Noble, and because our local library doesn't support electronic checkout and isn't likely to for years.

That initial Kindle was amazing for reading.  It was very nice on the eyes with its electronic ink, compared to reading an ebook on a computer.  The interface for reading was very simple and intuitive.  I loved being able to carry many books with me without the space and weight issues.  I loved being able to highlight something or write a note and having it available from a web browser.  I loved being able to buy a book and have it immediately.  But everything else left a lot to be desired.  PDFs were unruly to read, and didn't support bookmarks, highlighting, notes, and resizing (except by turning it and viewing half at a time).  The web browser was abysmal and barely usable on websites made since Mosaic was popular.  And there was no way to add apps, though no one else could either.  It was a ebook reader, everything else was experimental.  But it did its job well.

About six months after I got it, there was a major update to the software.  This improved web browsing a little, but mainly added the ability to share your notes and highlights on Facebook and Twitter.  I really liked that as it allowed me to share interesting parts with friends and family.  And some of them bought books from Amazon because of reading what I shared.  It was a very nice feature to add that I took advantage of and enjoyed.

Last April, I played with an iPad 2 in an Apple store down in Colorado.  I really liked it, and have wanted one ever since.  My experience with the iPhone 4 I got in June to replace my Blackberry Storm 2 that broke solidified my desire.  Over the last eight months, I've looked at and dismissed every other tablet that has been in stores for me to try out in person.  None of them impressed me like the iPad.  This Kindle Fire, though, comes close.

First impressions?  It's a beautiful device, runs well, is easy to use, but is missing some things, enough that it isn't an iPad killer and hadn't changed my mind about wanting an iPad.  I am very happy with it.


* The colour and clarity of the screen are amazing.  I think it beats the iPad and every other tablet I've seen in this area.
* The size is perfect.  The screen is quite a big larger than my old Kindle, but the over all size is a lot smaller and very thin.  This Kindle fits perfectly in one hand.
* It runs very smoothly with no app crashes so far, and no slow downs.
* The battery life seems good so far.  Three hours of use used about 40% of the battery, maybe less.
* It runs a customized copy of Android 2.3.  Because if this, there are a lot of apps in the Amazon App Store that are generic Android apps that wouldn't be available yet if they had to be rewritten for a new device.
* The WiFi support makes downloading and browsing very fast in comparison to my old Kindle.
* I really like hoe the autocorrect shows a strip of suggestions you can see easily and select.


* No support for sharing from books to Facebook of Twitter.  This is a step backwards.
* Fairly low selection of apps.
* The colour display is nice but hurts my eyes more that the liquid paper.
* The Blogger website doesn't work correctly so I'm typing this in Evernote and will copy it on the computer to post later.
* Lack of 3G support means if requires WiFi.  But the hotspot on my iPhone solves this.
* The key spacing doesn't seem quite right, so I make ggd same mistakes I make on my iPhone despite larger buttons.
* No camera or GPS chip, making some of the apps I want for the iPad impossible on the Fire.

Over all, I like it a lot and am happy with it.  It is a good replacement for my old one, and will tide me over until I get my iPad.  It really is a wonderful device and woryh having.  If they can fix the lack of Facebook and Twitter support, it will be a wonderful replacement for the older Kindles.

Bethany Kennedy
IT Professional