KINDLE FIRE REVIEW
What is it?
If you managed to somehow miss it, the Kindle Fire is a 7” Android tablet made by Amazon. It is built upon Android 2.3, and features a heavily customized user interface and Amazon's own App Store as opposed to the one Google operates.
What are the Pros?
1. If you are a frequent Amazon customer, you will love how directly the Kindle Fire ties into their products and services. Any credit you have earned from an Amazon Chase/VISA card or product trade ins can be used on books, digital video, applications, and games that Amazon sells. It doesn't hurt that it is also incredibly well suited to browsing Amazon, for obvious reasions.
2. If you are happy with the seven diagonal inches of screen real estate, it is great looking and smooth performing device for only $199. Amazon's willingness to sell this at tight margins is your gain. The screen in particular is terrific.
3. To my surprise, the Silk web browser that you can only find in this device works very well. YouTube videos are automatically full screened, several tabs can be opened at once, and it works flawless with the mobile versions of sites like Google and Twitter. It is hard to say to what extent the purported “cloud acceleration” is actually working, but I've yet to see the browser choke on a website that matters to me.
4. Despite some of the odd limitations of the Amazon App Store (see below), aspiring individuals can easily “side load” Android applications onto the device without hacking, rooting, or otherwise jeopardizing your warranty. I have successfully loaded Version 1.2 of Grand Theft Auto III onto the device and it runs very well.
5. Some of the most commonly used tasks on the web like Google Reader, instant messaging across various clients, and checking sports scores have very well made applications available for them. If you do not like leaving the comfort of the couch during an NFL and hot wings induced Sunday semi-coma, you will find these handy.
6. Free apps. Amazon gives away one each day in their store. The quality can vary wildly, but it is nice to have some games on standby if you are ever stranded at an airport.
What are the Cons?
1. No downloading from the “real” Android App store that Google maintains. Amazon has allowed viewing of it since the most recent firmware update, but you still cannot get products from there. This could be a major “no no” for developers or those who keep their life in Google's quadrant of the wide blue sky.
2. Amazon's curated App Store and integration with all of their services and credit you may have earned is a great idea, but the execution is very much flawed as of now. There are a number of apps that are not even certified or recommended to run on their one and only Android tablet, and others that run fine from side loading are absent. Strange deeds.
3. At this moment, even attempting to side load applications that require a Google account being tied to your device will not work. So no Google+ app, among other things.
4. You can delete whatever extraneous (read: non-Amazon) apps you like locally, but the “Cloud” portion or you app directory will still show the shortcuts. Mildly annoying.
5. There doesn't appear to be any way to get .mobi format Kindle Books onto the device. So if you got a public domain book, or downloaded a free novel from a self publicizing independent author through the web, you won't be reading them here. This is by far the strangest aspect of the device to me. It doesn't impact me the most, but given the brand name, it is a real puzzle. Imagine a Windows 8 tablet not working with WMV files.
6. How long can basing this product on Android 2.3 work with the larger ecosystem? Only time will tell.
Is it for you?
The most important question is if what this device offers fits well into your life and current assortment of gadgets. Fortunately for me, it fits perfectly. I have a dedicated Windows 7 desktop with 8GB of RAM, a netbook, and the requisite devices for keeping myself entertained on less productive days. I have never been in the market for a five hundred to seven hundred dollar tablet, and the Kindle Fire fills this void brilliantly. I have also never used iTunes for much more than putting MP3's and podcasts onto my iPod, so there is no attachment to the iTunes store or iOS itself for me.
The people who may not find this device terrific are either those who want to stay on the cutting edge of Android or those who need a larger screen and the apps iOS has for productivity and creative suites. You're not likely to assemble a presentation or edit a video on Kindle Fire, but that may not matter to you. There is also the option of side loading apps you need from a more elaborate Android device like a Galaxy or Nexus.
Kindle Fire is ostensibly a good looking, smooth running, and easy to carry media consumption device. If you like to read books, watch videos, listen to music, and leisurely keep pace with the endless torrent of updates that sites like Twitter and Google+ throw at you, it will get the job done and then some. Android savants and those who pour their entertainment dollars into Apple's coffers will not find as much to like. Anyone else who wants a better priced and more portable tablet that is hooked into Amazon will love it. It isn't for everybody, but it is a tremendous tool for those who can put it to use for them.
Recommended Apps: gReader, Gemini App Manager, SanDisk Memory Zone, ESPN Score Center, imo Chat, Evernote, ES File Explorer, and doodlr.