I ordered my new Kindle Fire during the first week after they announced it, as soon as I realized it might be on the Amazon site. Priced at only US$ 199, it has undercut the pricing on the tablet comput
Even though I’ve got the Amazon Prime service which would have given me free 2-day shipping, and that’s the way I placed my order, later I upgraded to the extra $3.99 per item for next-day delivery. I bought a lightweight MicroShell Folio case for it at the same time, so the shipping upgrade hit me for $7.98 shipping (I was willing to do that rather than take a chance on getting bumped to the end of the line).
The first thing that I noticed was the unusual home page on the Kindle Fire. Of course, there are some of the usual functions you’d expect, like a menu bar (Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps and Web), a search bar (which searches in the Kindle Fire, a clock, a cog (as the icon for Settings), a wireless strength indicator and a battery indicator.
The unusual aspect was the rest of the display. The most prominent is an icon representation of your recent open applications. In some cases, such as the web browser, it will show the image of the last web page you visited. These icons are actually pseudo-buttons that you can double-tap to open. They’re also a scrolling menu — slide your finger to the left and the top icon will fold, then vanish, and the one beneath it is now the active icon. Or, on the ones that are partially visible, just tap on one and it becomes the active icon.
Below the rolling icon selection bar are a couple of rows of Favorite icons. You can add an icon from the rolling selection bar to the Favorites by tap-and-hold on an icon. This will display a context-sensitive menu that will allow you to Add to Favorites or Remove from Device. If the icon is already a Favorite, then the first option will be Remove from Favorites.
One of the first things I did with my new Amazon Fire, WHICH ARRIVED ALREADY REGISTERED TO MY AMAZON.COM ACCOUNT (if you’re not going to be the one using it, be sure to order it as a “gift” so that doesn’t happen), was to try the free video streaming that comes if you have their Amazon Prime service.
My first choice was to watch a Dr. Who special called “Planet of the Dead,” starring David Tennant, one of the very best “Doctors” to have ever played the role. Not all movies and TV shows are free, but there are an awfully lot of them that are… There’s also an available NetFlix app for the Kindle Fire, so if you have NetFlix streaming service, you can use that.
I ordered a 3ft Micro USB Data Cable so I could connect the Kindle Fire to my computer. It was $2.99 with free shipping, but it’s from a third party vendor via Amazon (I ordered and paid Amazon) and will take about a week to get here. Fortunately, after I had given up searching for a cable at the house, I thought about one more possible place – and found a 2-foot micro-B USB that I could use until the longer cable arrives.
Since I had a micro-B USB cable, I could load MP4 videos, "mobi" ebooks and music directly onto the Kindle Fire from my computer. The Kindle Fire sets up just like an external or USB drive when you hook it up via the USB. I did find that, if you load an MP4 file by using a micro-B USB cable, it does not show up under the Video menu bar item. You have to select Gallery to access videos that you load directly.
What about some of the specs on the Kindle Fire itself?
- Display: 7" multi-touch display with IPS (in-plane switching) technology and anti-reflective treatment, 1024 x 600 pixel resolution at 169 ppi, 16 million colors.
- Size (in inches): 7.5" x 4.7" x 0.45" (190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm).
- Weight: 14.6 ounces (413 grams).
- Storage: 8GB on the device. No SD card or micro SD card. Includes free cloud storage for content purchased from Amazon.
The Kindle Fire is advertised as supporting the following file formats (I haven’t tried them all):
- Ebooks — Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively
- Audio files — Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV
- Microsoft Word files: DOC, DOCX
- Image files: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP
- Video files: MP4, VP8.
Amazon claims that the battery life, with wireless turned off, is 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback. Of course, the video playback would be either movies that you bought or rented from Amazon’s video service and downloaded to your Kindle Fire. It wouldn’t apply to video streaming, since you must use your wireless connection to do the streaming.
Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or enterprise networks with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication; does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
In case you are confused about Amazon’s "WhisperSync" versus "Wi-Fi wireless networking," if you don’t have a wireless Internet connection — that is, an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connection (which can use WEP, WPA or WPA2 encryption) — you can’t get to anything on the Internet. That means you can’t do email, web browsing, steam videos from Amazon, or even install new applications. You definitely need a wireless router if you’re considering an Amazon Prime.
WhisperSync is not a service providing Internet access (unlike Barnes & Noble’s "buy from us using our special built-in 3G service but do anything else via your wireless connection"), WhisperSync is just an application running in the background that syncs your current location in a purchased book or movie to your other Amazon Kindles or Kindle apps on other devices.
So, how do I like it?
So far, I’m really enjoying the Kindle Fire. I had an iPad 2, but I lost it to my wife (no problem there, she needed it <grin>). Me, I like the gadgets, and the Kindle Fire definitely qualifies.
The iPad 2 just works. Need an app, go to the Apple App Store and buy it. With the Kindle Fire, the Amazon Kindle Fire App Store is easy to use and easy to find fun apps – some useful ones, too.
Amazon appears to have structured the Kindle Fire to make their money from subsequent ecommerce, giving the user easy access to purchase ebooks, videos and apps. However, many of the apps in their app store are free. If you are a "member" (their new word) of their Amazon Prime Service, you get free streaming of videos to your computer and to your Kindle.
Not all videos are free (most aren’t), but they advertise that over 10,000 popular instant videos are available at no additional cost. Their most recent announcement is that Amazon Prime members also get access to the new Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, where you can choose from thousands of books to borrow for free, as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.
After four days of ownership, my call is that the Kindle Fire is a "keeper" — and I would recommend the AAmazon Prime service for the quick shipments/quick delivery of purchases from Amazon and for the free video streaming that is now part of the service.