Amazon Kindle Fire: It Burns!

I love Amazon — I use it all the time. I pay for an Amazon Prime account. We use Amazon Fresh as our primary grocery service. I paid $200 for the Kindle Fire (like everybody else). The new Kindle Touch is the absolute best eBook Reader on the market today. I have absolutely nothing against Amazon.

David DiFranco spent his hard-earned money on a Kindle Fire — and he’s selling it (citing very cogent reasons for wanting to do so). He has every right to sell it, as he had every right to buy it. Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling just as much consternation over this thing as David has.

Blaming David for the Kindle’s shortcomings is shortsighted and inappropriate. The onus is on Amazon to improve this experience, not us.

I was blacklisted from Amazon’s PR efforts at one point because I was deemed “not positive” before the first Kindle shipped, but only after suggesting to Bezos that the true value of the first Kindle was in subscriptions and content (not the device itself). Lo and behold, years later, we find Amazon not making an incredible amount of money with the Kindle hardware, making up for it in software / services. Derp.

Amazon Kindle Fire: It Burns!I purchased a Kindle Fire in the hopes that it would be one of the better Android tablets out there (even with a wildly outdated and modified version of the OS). I was both right and wrong. The service, in theory, is outstanding — but it’s being crippled largely by the lack of optimization. In other words: The first Kindle Fire is a decent piece of hardware with a rather lackluster software experience.

I’m sure that a ton of people will be getting Kindle Fires for Christmas — but if this is their first “tablet” experience, even at $200, they’re really missing out. Not to say that it’s the best Android tablet, but I don’t find it to be any better or worse than any other Android tablet available today. Don’t blame me — I’m not developing it. I love Amazon, but I don’t love the Kindle Fire. Not even close.

It sucks to use today’s Kindle Fire. I have my Kindle Fire sitting next to me and I’d still rather walk upstairs and use another device to do anything I could do on the Fire outright. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to tap an icon repeatedly before it did what it should’ve done after the first tap.

Price? Perfect. Great promise? Yes. Frustration? Too much.

Amazon should absolutely be working around the clock to optimize this sucker. In its current state, I don’t want to use it — and I’m hard pressed to even recommend it today (unless the person has $200 burning a hole in their pocket and really, really, really, really wants it). By choosing Android, Amazon is on the right path — but even with me loving to watch Frasier reruns every night (seriously, that’s not a joke), I hate using the Kindle Fire in its current state.

The software (and experience, vicariously) is lacking in more than a few ways. This isn’t a slight against Android, either — as even the strongest Android supporters have already written off the Fire. I’ve always liked the idea of Android, but implementation has always seemingly fallen short — even on my Google TV. Hell, even Mattias Duarte himself, at the ICS reveal, said: “While people like Android, while people need Android, they didn’t love Android.”

Boom. If I don’t love a product, I don’t even want to use it (and I certainly can’t recommend it).

The customizations that Amazon’s made to Android aren’t horrible, mind you. The Kindle Fire UI is cohesive, clean, and straightforward. It’s also rather nice to get a free Android app of the day courtesy of Amazon — you can’t forget about that. But the herky-jerky transitions, the sluggish animations, and a near-constant “this app doesn’t look like it was built for my screen” issues are too great to ignore.

If you want to purchase the Kindle Fire because you were hoping it will be an amazing eBook reader, you’ll have overpaid by at least $100. You’re better served by the Kindle Touch (which is a very-recommended buy). Or, you could stick with your current mobile device if the Kindle reader is available for it.

If you purchase the Kindle Fire because you absolutely need to view Netflix on the go, you might be happy enough. Amazon Prime has content to offer, but is it priced that much better than the alternatives like YouTube, iTunes, or a traditional content provider? Dunno.

Geeks who are inclined to hack / root their devices at the drop of a pin are already flocking to a modern alternative (a Nook tablet), but some are sticking with the Fire. I’ll hold onto my Fire for now, too — if only because I want to see where this thing goes. But is “promise” enough to keep a consumer’s interest? That’s an ill-advised bet.

Article Written by

Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • http://twitter.com/nLoopMedia Tandi Smith

    Great post.  I have been on the fence about buying a Kindle Fire.  I have an iPad and my 9 year old really wants one (with a $500 price tag totally out of the question) however, I was thinking about getting her the Kindle Fire… after reading what you have written, she may have to keep her iPod Touch for another year.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      Yeah, wait. I really didn’t want to turn this into a “you should buy an iPad, instead” article, but… going from an iPad to a Kindle Fire is like going from a Bentley to a Focus.

      • Chrisq

        I think that might be an insult to the Focus lol

  • Anonymous

    Way to keep it honest Chris

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      Yes, well… I’m certainly not alone. It just bothered me that so many halfwits were attacking David on YouTube for his rejection of what Amazon had to offer. 

      • Anonymous

        And that’s the unfortunate sad part about it. There are too many fanboys and trolls that will love (or in this case hate) just about anything anyone has to say about a product produced by a company. In this case it was Amazon.

  • http://twitter.com/tntoak Doug McCloud

    I’ve noticed the same things you brought up.  The touch input seems very inconsistent, being too sensitive at times and not sensitive enough at other times.  I’ve also seen cases of input lag (ie a delay between when you touch the screen and when it actually responds).  While I can see Amazon positioning the Kindle Fire as a conduit to the Android ecosystem (Amazon Music, Kindle, Audible, etc), as an Android tablet it has some flaws that I wouldn’t expect from a well-established version of the Android OS.  I can’t help but wonder whether the customizations Amazon made to the OS resulted in sacrifices with other elements of the user experience.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      I didn’t even bring up the heat issues, either. Since I’m in Seattle during winter, that’s actually a nice feature. :)

      • http://twitter.com/tntoak Doug McCloud

        I’m in Alaska during winter, it’s even better for me!!

  • Justin

    Are there many advantages to get the Kindle Touch over the cheaper Kindle? Does the touch screen make a big difference for books?

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      Baseline Kindle is $79 vs. a Kindle Touch at $99. Small difference in price, clear difference in usability.

  • D Wyland

    Hey Chris. Thanks for letting me know. I was planning on getting a Kindle Fire for me to use out of the house and the iPad in the house, but I’ll wait till revisions are done. I really just need something fluid, clean, responsive, and more then all stable. I’ll be getting this when more positive reviews come out from multiple sources…even if I come to you first. lol

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      Use either the same iPad, or buy a second iPad and access the same software without jumping experiences.

      • http://twitter.com/DerekWyland Derek Wyland

        Thanks.  Plus that could be an added form of redundancy if anything occurs.

  • Anonymous

    Another option is to go to the Apple Store and take a look at refurbished iPads. Currently the first generation iPad, 32GB Wi-Fi & 3G is on sale for $399. Same model iPad 2, new, is over $700. 

    This past week I have had three friends come to my home and looked at the iPad and Fire, both of which I own. All 3 opted to buy the iPad. My wife even told me that if I wanted to send the Fire back and buy an iPad I could. However, I have opted to keep the Fire. Chris, like you, I want to see what Amazon does to improve the little pint sized tablet.

    ‘ but… going from an iPad to a Kindle Fire is like going from a Bentley to a Focus.’

    This is exactly why one can not compare an iPad to a Fire. :-)

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      I was careful not to compare, but… that doesn’t mean I could ignore my own previous experience. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/TechW0RLD TechW0RLD

    I Just Don’t Like the Kinde Fire , Because  Well form all I have heard , its a Joke, , Slow, Limits on Media ONLY 6GB Storage, and The Power Button is in a Bad Place, Why hasn’t amazon Thought about THIS! Kindle Fire 2 or Kindle Fire sandwich should be BETTER

  • Christian Arbec

    Even though I haven’t gotten my hands on it, I like the Kindle Fire. I like it first of all for its price. I know a lot of people think it is a terrible and course device, but I think it is a affordable tablet(consumption device) from what I have seen. I also think that if your like Chris Pirillo, David Di Franco, or some other tech reviewer of course it is not going to be their favorite. For me an aspiring geek on a tight budget just to be able to say “Yes, I have a tablet” would be awesome besides the fact of having one. Keep up the good work. 

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      Don’t get a Fire just to have a tablet. That’s a really, really stupid idea.

      • Skatetrash

        Ok….If you don’t have any more than $200 to spend, period, then what do you recommend as a tablet. One that can do as much as a “REGULAR TABLET” as possible. For some even $200 is an extreme stretch of there finances.

        • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo
          • E-Z-E

            Good point, Skatetrash.  Chris makes a good suggestion with the iTouch for $200.  You could even find a used one on Craigslist for $100.  Of course, that screen is half the size of the Kindle Fire.  What about the no-name (or small name) brands from China, such as the Coby Kyros?  I purchased the MID7015 model for $150 six months ago.  Similar to your review of the Fire, the response time is lacking.  However, I knew this was not an iPad replacement going in.  The processor is slow, the RAM is too little, and the screen uses archaic resistive technology.  It did not come pre-loaded with Google’s Android Market.  However, I quite easily installed Amazon’s Appstore.  I can play Angry Birds. I can read books using Kindle.  I can watch YouTube.  This model is now selling under $100.  I think the newer Coby Kyros have better hardware, such as a 1 Ghz processor, 512 MB of RAM, and capacitive touch screen, dual cameras, home button, and volume buttons in the $150 range.  These are available at all of the big computer stores, as well as lots of small online resellers.  There are even tablets with the same size screen as iPads – 9.7″  Some have GPS and 3G options in the $250 range.  There are even some with Windows 7 or dual boot of Win 7 and Android.

            Chris, how about using your influence and connections in the tech industry to get your hands on demos and give us a comparison review.

  • Shawn A

    at 24:30 the sound gets really messed up.  I was unable to finish watching :( I was enjoying it.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      Yeah, YouTube screwed up the live encoding. :(

  • Anonymous

    Smooth buttery transitions, animations, and response go along way in creating a pleasant experience for users, and it’s something that has escaped Android developers and device makers. The focus is too heavy on “features” and “specs” but not on pleasantness like personal mobile devices should do. Even ICS, finally having hardware accelerated graphics natively, still looks jittery and inconsistent.

    Apple with iOS get it. Even though it started with less features then there competitors but have found a way to capture users with a smooth pleasant interfaces. It felt good to use and it was always responsive to your commands. It worked with you, not against you, which is how I feel with my Android devices.

    Even Microsoft started to get it with WP7. Debut with less features, but had a silky smooth experience to encourage early adoption. Despite a lot of catching up to do, I think WP7 made a good bet.

  • Buildbright

    Thank You Chris for being honest. After reading all the people praising the Kindle Fire I am disappointed in the tech reviewers today. Leo Laporte, Cnet, Gizmodo, and More all let me down  and will think twice before buying anything they recommend. I got luck and got one for $123 and it still is not worth it. Buggy and Sluggish UI. Scrolling that gives me a headache and a browser that may be the worst I have ever used. You impressed me today with your candor and I thank you.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      People may hate me for it, but… :)

  • Snailwalker

    If you have 499.00 to spend you buy the Bentley, if you only have 200.00 then you have no choice but to drive the Focus.

  • Snailwalker

    If you have 499.00 to spend you buy the Bentley, if you only have 200.00 then you have no choice but to drive the Focus.

  • http://twitter.com/sports48 Blazerfan

    Hi !!

    Love ya !!