I spent much of the evening playing with it, and it distracted me a little today from other things, so I’ll tell you what I found!
Size: It’s perfect. It fits nicely in my purse, which something like an iPad wouldn’t. It’s big enough to read and type comfortably, but not so big that it’s inconvenient. However it does not fit in my pocket, and I was quite sad that I had to leave it at home today when I walked down to the kids’ bus stop. Didn’t have enough hands for coffee, Kindle, and helping little hands with heavy bags. Maybe I could engineer myself a pocket big enough…
Screen: I have to admit, I really like the regular Kindle’s paper-like screen. That makes reading on an e-reader really comfortable, but the Fire has a regular smart-phone type (LCD) screen, complete with glare. Can’t really expect anything else to get the quality color display though. It attracts fingerprints like a magnet, just like any smart phone (or tablet) screen would. It doesn’t really impede reading, unless you were going to try to read Anna Karenina in one sitting or with funky lighting. Setting the screen to sepia helps.
Reading: The touch screen controls are easy to use, but maybe too easy. I found myself accidentally tapping the screen while holding it, and then it would turn the page for me – when I wasn’t ready to turn. I suppose that will just take some getting used to. And from people with other e-readers, I’ve heard that many people really like the audible page turns. The Fire doesn’t seem to have that (unless it’s a setting I haven’t found yet). I love that when I’m reading I can double-click a word and it references the dictionary for me. Super handy. We already know that Amazon Kindles don’t let you use non-Kindle ebooks, and the Fire is no different. All in all, it’s comfortable, but if my primary goal was purely to read, I’d rather have a regular e-reader. But since I needed something for all the apps, the Fire is perfect for me.
Apps: And speaking of apps, let’s get to those. It’s built on the Android platform, but Amazon directs you to their app store instead of the full Google Andoid app store – Amazon currently allows about 10,000 of the 200,000 android apps. My hope is that they’ll increase their offerings or open up regular Google apps to the Fire. Some of the apps I’ve downloaded and used are: HootSuite, Evernote, GroceryIQ, Angry Birds (essential, don’t you know?), Hulu plus, ESV Bible, and Netflix. There’s no geo-location so location based apps like FourSquare aren’t really an option. And there’s no camera, so forget about QR code readers, barcode scanners, or Instagram. That said, the only app I’ve looked for and not found is Pinterest. And how can a girl survive without Pinterest? Oh, yeah. They have a website I can access on the Safari browser. I suppose I’ll live (but Amazon peeps, hint hint: we want pinterest!) The touch screen is really responsive and makes everything work like ‘butta’. Hubbs synced my email, so I can pretty much do all my work on the Kindle (as long as I have Wi-Fi).
Kid stuff: As I mentioned, the touch screen is really easy to use, and there are plenty of game and learning apps available. My kids can’t wait to get their grimy fingers on Angry Birds. That said, the purpose of the Fire is for my work, and I don’t anticipate putting it in their hands. Call me scrooge, but that’s just the way it is. Now, were things different and I needed them to be entertained, I actually think this machine is way better than an iPad. It’s smaller for their little hands and little laps – easier for them to manage. The investment is smaller (i.e., it’s less painful when they scratch or otherwise maim it). They can watch movies or videos on it, and it has plenty of fun apps. Fewer buttons and moving parts than other tablets also means fewer things to break.
Other techie stuff: Hubbs tells me that the battery is “only” 8 hours. So far, I’ve had no issues with battery power, and I can’t imagine that I’d need it for 8 hours straight without a power outlet. As far as speed, downloads and operating speed have been mostly great. Every now and then there’s a little lag, but I don’t know if that’s my wireless network or the Fire. The seamless integration between the device and the cloud really is super-quick. Speakers. It has them – two, to be exact. They work just fine, and you can get audio up to a decent level, but this machine wasn’t built for top of the line stereo listen-like-you’re-there sound. Finally, there’s one big drawback – only one, but it’s relatively big. There’s no 3G. That means I need to have WiFi to use most of the apps – at least the ones I use for work. Some tablets have a workaround where you can set up your phone as a WiFi hotspot, and the Fire doesn’t do that. So there’s really no 3G. Now, most of the places I would want to use it will have WiFi. But it looks like in the places that don’t I’ll have to pull out my teeny-tiny smartphone. Oh, what a rough life I live…
Summary: The controls are intuitive, it’s easy to use, and very comfortable. There’s no camera, geo-location, or 3G – so if that’s important look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a cross between an e-reader and a tablet minus the extras, this is a great little machine. I’d have to say that it’s more tablet than e-reader, and probably for that reason exactly it suits my needs perfectly.