Should you purchase a Kindle Fire?

In the past week I have had a couple people ask me my thoughts on the Kindle Fire and if they should consider purchasing it for themselves or as a Christmas gift for their kids/teens.

They seemed interested based on the lower price of $199 compared to the least expensive iPad that starts at $499.

I told them I would do some research and get back to them and this is what I have discovered.

I went to my local Best Buy in Apple Valley the day the Fire became available. It took me a few minutes to locate the Kindle Fire. It was not prominetly displayed like the iPad 2. It was in the tablet section towards the end of the row. Before I picked it up and started to play with it, I had a flashback to when I had the chance to play with the iPad the first time. I remember it “just working”. It was a magical experience. After only a few minutes of playing with the Kindle Fire I can say confidently that it does not just work, and it is definitely was not a magical experience.

Now one must remember that I have spent most of my life around technology, I run my own tech business, and I am pretty good at figuring out how to get things to work without the instruction manual. I found the interface of the Kindle Fire to be quite maddening. Don’t take my word for it though. I have found a couple reviews by people that I respect in the tech field and I have included bits and pieces of their reviews below. I will add my comments when appropriate.

Marco Arment:

I expected the Kindle Fire to be good for books, great for magazines and newspapers, great for video, and good for apps and games.

In practice, it’s none of these. Granted, I’ve only spent two days with it, so I can’t share any long-term impressions. But I’m honestly unlikely to have any, because this isn’t a device that makes me want to use it more. And that’s fatal.

That’s how I felt while at Best Buy. Nothing I tried compelled me to purchase the device.

I expected the Kindle Fire to be a compelling iPad alternative, but I can’t call it delightful, fun, or pleasant to use. Quite the opposite, actually: using the Fire is frustrating and unpleasant, and it feels like work.

The Fire is an Android version, sort of, of the iPod Touch. It’s the first device available that’s inexpensive and offers Android in a somewhat reasonable package without a cellular contract. But that’s just about all I can say for it. It’s a bad game player, a bad app platform, a bad web browser, a bad video player, and, most disappointingly, a bad Kindle.

I would agree with pretty much everything Marco says in the above paragraphs.

Ben Brooks:

The long and short of the Fire is that it does quite a few things, but doesn’t do any of them very well. It does many of these things really poorly.

Starting to see a trend here…

As was the case with the Samsung Galaxy Tab the apps available for the Fire are both limited and universally subpar. I don’t say that to deride Android and hold iOS up on some pedestal, but the App selection and quality truly is worse than on iOS. This is actually a really big deal for me, and I suspect most users, because Apps are what make these devices so useful.

The iPad would be a good device with the stock set of apps but it becomes an AMAZING device when you have access to a ton of quality apps. Apps are very important and Apple has everyone beat when it comes to quanity and quality.

Overall I was left very disappointed about the variety of apps and the quality of the apps. (For the record the best app I found was Angry Birds. It actually managed to play smoothly on the device — it may be the only smooth thing on the Fire.)

You could buy the Fire if you are looking for a device with a 7 inch screen to play Angry Birds on….

So the Fire is branded under the Kindle name and Kindles are some of the best reading devices on the market (excluding paper). Unfortunately the Fire fails the Kindle brand in the reading segment.

Oh the text looks fine, comparable to the iPad screen, but the experience of actually reading a book is pretty terrible. I’d take the iBooks design any day over this, because with iBooks at least everything works smoothly.

So here’s the deal: I hate magazines on the Fire with such a passion that I very much regret every penny and moment I spent buying and testing Forbes — I even hate the fact that this sentence about it has run so long.

You would think that a device with Kindle in it’s name would excel at reading but looks like Amazon forgot what they are good at. I want to take a moment to say that I truly feel that the Kindle itself is a very good product especially for those who like to read alot!

Here’s the thing about the Fire, as it currently exists I pretty much find the device useless. Not one person would be better served buying the Fire over an iPad, OR an iPod touch. There’s no reason for it.

Not sure about you but after spending a few minutes playing with the device myself at Best Buy and reading a couple of reviews online from respected members of the tech community I see no reason to purchase the Kindle Fire.

I think you would be much happier with either purchasing an iPod Touch, a regular Kindle, or an iPad depending on what you want to use the device for. If you need help figuring out which device would be best for you or your loved ones drop me a line!