Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a watered down, crippled version of the iPad. In almost every way, Apple’s product is better than Amazon’s 1st generation tablet.
I own both, and I’m comfortable with saying that. Of course, I haven’t returned my Kindle Fire, and I don’t plan on giving it away, either.
I do like the weight of the Kindle Fire while reading, but if that’s all I’m going to use it for, I like the weight of every available e-ink Kindle even more. (That’s a savings of at least another $100.)
Lodge any of the above criticisms, though, and you’ll likely hear: “Of course, dumbass! The Kindle Fire isn’t meant to compete with the iPad. It’s well under half the price of the cheapest iPad 2, and it was never meant to be anything more than a consumption device for people on the go!”
Someone should probably clue Amazon in on this line of thinking.
As far as I can tell, Amazon doesn’t even list the iPad at its selling price of $499 — it starts “new” at $518.75, from various retailers who aren’t Apple. A quick check shows the iPad 2 currently in stock on apple.com, though I suppose it’s possible that it’s not available from Apple, on amazon.com. Sure seems fishy, though.
Back to that chart:
Marco Arment has already posted a pretty great rebuttal, so I’m not going to bother questioning or exploring the validity of Amazon’s arguments, except to say that this doesn’t seem to be the chart of a company that thinks its product isn’t directly in competition with the iPad 2, and better.
No matter how I read it, I’m not getting:
"Hey! We know you might want an iPad 2, but why not save $300 and buy a Kindle Fire instead? It even does some of the things an iPad does! If all you’re interested in is browsing the web and reading some books, you’ll love our Kindle Fire, and you probably don’t need the extra power, or the hundreds of thousands of apps, available with an iPad."
Instead, they’ve produced a feature for feature comparison which seems to argue that much of what the iPad does — both technically and functionally — the Kindle Fire does even better, or at least just as well. For $300 less!
Clearly, Amazon wants potential shoppers to feel like there’s nothing that an iPad 2 can do that the Kindle Fire can’t do just as well, or even better. For a lot less.
Web browsing? Way faster. Cost? Way Cheaper. Screen? Nicer. Apps? No difference! Storage? Less is actually more!
And, just in case you don’t want to take Amazon’s word for it, they’ve helpfully added a smattering of effusive praise from outlets who hadn’t yet spent any meaningful time with the product. Please don’t look at the man behind the curtain!
Amazon’s got every right to promote its product, and even to compare it against a competitor’s product. (Even if it’s arguable that they’re playing a bit loose with context.)
They’d be foolish if they didn’t do so.
With that said, can we at least drop the idea that it’s unfair to point out the Kindle Fire’s flaws, as compared to the iPad 2? If the comparison is good enough for Amazon, it’s good enough for those who disagree with Amazon’s assessment.
It’s been quite an ordeal, but a Kindle Fire finally made its way into my hands.
I’ve been playing with it off and on for a couple days, now, and — it’s pretty much everything you’ve read in any of the reviews you’ve read. No more, no less.
Which is to say, a lot of people have already nailed its strengths (relatively few) and weaknesses (many).
The one caveat I’d add is that many of the weaknesses are rooted in software, and that’s the sort of thing that can be fixed, at least.
So, instead of rehashing what’s been said elsewhere, I’m going to touch on something that hasn’t been beaten to death, and that’s the idea of surprise and delight.
The underlying premise of surprise and delight is that you run up against a problem, and as you’re doing what you think should happen, it actually happens, or it happens in a way you didn’t anticipate, and you think to yourself: “Wow, I can’t believe someone thought of that. Genius!”
iOS is filled with surprise and delight moments. Perhaps the best example is the ability to type a period with one continuous motion — without lifting your thumb — even though the period key isn’t on the “home” keyboard screen. Uninterrupted flow. One click where three might otherwise be necessary.
In my experience, Amazon’s devices don’t seem to contain many surprise and delight moments, if they contain any at all.
As has been discussed, there’s no dedicated hardware home button on the Kindle Fire.
Instead, each app has a touch-based home button. That’s fine, and I think it’s something I’ll eventually get used to and it’s something people who haven’t used an iOS device might not even need to get used to.
With that said, the home button is situated in the bottom-left of every app. This is a real problem when you’re holding the device one-handed with your right hand, because it’s nearly impossible to reach the home button while doing so.
There are any number of reasons why your free hand might not be available for button pressing, but the least tawdry (and most important) reason is that some people don’t have left hands.
The obvious solution, then, is to simply put the home button in the bottom-middle of every app. Boring, but perfectly acceptable.
The surprise and delight solution is that the Kindle Fire somehow knows which hand it’s being held by, and accommodates for that preference (or disability) by moving the home button to an accessible corner.
Suddenly, the user thinks: “Holy shit, that’s genius, I can’t believe Amazon thought of that.”
Except, no one thinks that, because Amazon’s Kindle Fire isn’t filled with surprise and delight moments.
That doesn’t mean Amazon won’t sell millions of Kindle Fires.
What it might mean is that people will buy them, but they may not find much of an urge to actually use them, once the novelty wears off. Or, they may not find much reason to ever buy another tablet device from Amazon. Or, maybe no one ever talks about the Kindle Fire in a way that makes other people excited to own one as well.
Surprise and delight is the stuff of fanboy devotion. It’s the foundation of customer loyalty. It’s why Apple can lag way behind Android in units sold but still dominate mobile browsing statistics.
You can hate me for being an iOS fanboy, or call me a shill, but whether you like it or not, Amazon, at least, wants me to be an Amazon fanboy — Bezos wants to command a loyal army of Amazon fanboys — and he’s not going to get that through sheer volume.
"Meh" doesn’t build loyalty, or sell services.