Originally Published: November 15, 2011 http://blogs.republicanherald.com/tech/?p=199
The holiday season is upon us once again! While that does mean snow and freezing temperatures, new coffee flavors at Dunkin’ Donuts, including one of my favorites, Gingerbread, and not just because it’s the name of a version of Android, and being able to eat enough food that you could theoretically hibernate all winter, it’s also time to start thinking about those gifts you’ll be giving (or asking for), especially electronics.
Although there are a slew of new gadgets coming out, many of which will be hot items, I’m not going to focus on all of them right now, just one. Today Amazon’s newest tablet came out — Kindle Fire. You can check all over the internet as there are tons of reviews, GigaOM has a culmination of all the reviews on the net, but I just felt I should give my two cents because I also don’t think it should be directly compared to the iPad, the mother of all tablets.
You’ll notice many places say “it’s not an iPad-killer,” and if you remember a couple posts ago, I suggested we stop using the term, not that I expect people to listen to my small voice in northeast Pennsylvania. That being said, no it’s not the all-powerful, one tablet to rule all tablets, but it’s not meant to be. What you get is the best media consumption device $200 can buy and it’s priced the same as Chinese knock-offs, but offers so much more. The 7-inch WiFi tablet brings to the table a 1,024 x 600 IPS LCD display, dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP processor, 512MB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and it’s all contained in a sleek black package with a rubberized back, so it won’t slip out of your hands.
The Fire is running a highly modified version of Android Gingerbread (2.3, not 3.0 Honeycomb designed for tablets, or 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, making its debut on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus), making it much different from its previous Kindle brethren. At it’s core it is an Android tablet, but if you’re looking for a tablet with access to Google Apps such as Google Talk, Gmail, Maps, etc., or the Android Market you won’t find it on here. There’s also no GPS packing inside. In that aspect, you’re better off getting a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus, but that’s a different story and expect to pay at least double the amount of the Fire.
So if you’re asking what can you do with this, as with previous Kindle versions, you can read books, but it can also run MOST Android apps. You’ll have access to the Amazon App Store, which features an extensive slew of apps, and everyday offers a free ‘App of the Day.’ I’ve heard that you can also side-load apps. What Amazon built this around though is it’s ecosystem of media, and with Amazon Prime you have access to 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books. When you purchase the Kindle Fire you get a one month subscription to the service, which included free two-day shipping for Amazon purchases, but after that it does cost $79 annually, which in my opinion is a great deal. That’s under $7 a month. You get to choose from thousands of books — including more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers — to borrow and read for free, as frequently as a book a month with no due dates, from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
On top of that, Fire also allows you to use apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and nearly all the games you can enjoy on your Android phone, and yes, Angry Birds too. You get a great internet browsing experience, and free cloud storage for all your Amazon content as well.
Just to sum things up, for consumers who want something that they can use in the comfort of their home to browse the web, watch movies, read books, and play some games, Amazon seems to have gotten this right. Just like the iPad, nearly anyone can pick it up and start using it, but the price is right that it makes both a cheap, high-quality gift, and an easy impulse buy, where you won’t be left disappointed.
I’ll admit I don’t own it personally, although I purchased one the day it was announced, which I may or may not give as a gift for Christmas, so I’ll have to give my hands-on thoughts later.
So, if you’re looking to jump into the tablet world and don’t need a full-fledged device, this is a great first step. It offers all you need in a tablet, except for a front-facing camera for video chat. Take my word for it that Amazon had consumers in mind when planning this, so besides the only 8 GB of storage with no expansion, most content is left in the cloud though, it won’t disappoint.
Check out Amazon for more information or to order your own Kindle Fire.