The New York Times is derailing the Kindle Fire lovefest.
- There is no external volume control. Making the device louder or quieter requires engaging a touchscreen control.
- It's easy to hit Kindle Fire's Off switch unintentionally.
- Amazon's Silk browser isn't exactly a speed demon when it comes to Web page loading times.
- Privacy controls are lacking, since anyone picking it up can scroll through a carousel of recently opened books, music, and apps.
- The touchscreen isn't always as responsive as it should be.
Amazon is promising a software update later this month, though obviously that will only tackle the final three knocks. The structural shortcomings will remain until Amazon updates the actual hardware. I have seen both of those problems in action. It is a pain to get to the volume control when you need to adjust it. Playing a game in landscape mode does make it brutally easy to hit the Off switch by mistake with your right hand.
However, as the owner of both a Kindle Fire and last year's Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad, I still find myself spending more time on Amazon's device than I do on the original iPad that I paid more than three times as much for.
Let me spell out four reasons that I now leave my iPad at home and take my Kindle Fire with me.
1. Because Amazon is offering a single premium app free every day, I find myself firing it up daily to make sure I don't miss something that I will like. It's a lot like Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN ) or LivingSocial that way. It pays to stay close.
2. The screen size works for me. Steve Jobs called out the five-inch and seven-inch device screens as tweeners, but there's something to be said about portability. Folks aren't having a problem embracing games or streaming media on much smaller smartphones. Apple's 9.7-inch screen is nice, but it's not as if I need that much space for a gadget held at arm's distance.
3. The $199 price point does influence how I treat it. I have an easier time handing it to my youngest son or just tossing it into a suitcase. Replacement value is a big psychological factor in how people treat their possessions.
4. I'm ready for my second book as part of my Kindle Owners' Lending Library feature for Amazon Prime customers. I can certainly stream Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) on both, but Amazon's own growing digital catalog that's available for streaming at no additional cost for Prime members gives me comfort in having access if I should ever ditch Netflix.
The Kindle Fire obviously isn't perfect, but it's the right tablet at the right price. Of course the first generation may be a little buggy. Folks paid twice as much for the original Kindle four holiday seasons ago, and it's been improved with every new incarnation. The knocks that can't be remedied by a software update will persist until at least next year, but the value and practicality of the portable device aren't going away.
Maybe my recollections on automotive history are fuzzy, but did the Edsel ever sell millions in its first quarter on the market? Did the Edsel automatically become the country's second-best-selling vehicle at launch?
I didn't think so.
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