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The Kindle Fire: Amazon’s new eReader and Android Tablet

by Tim Attwood on October 6, 2011

Kindle Fire: eReader & Android TabletAnnounced on September 28, 2011, the much-anticipated Kindle Fire tablet from Amazon showed consumers a great deal to love and a number of things to be concerned about when the device drops in November. Speculation about the device has been rampant over the last year with Amazon as a perfect contender for the tablet market. While it doesn’t appear that the Fire will have the heat necessary to burn down the Apple tree, it has a lot to like.

What’s In a Fire?

First off, a lower price. Amazon is aiming to bring digital content to a wider array of users by pricing its 7” Kindle Fire at $200 US, a significant amount less than the $500 or more Apple charges for various versions of the iPad2. This will place the Fire well ahead of other devices in its price range, most of which are eReaders like the Nook. The catch? That the Fire will not have 3G access. At all. Instead, all versions of the Fire will be Wi-Fi enabled. While this is a small issue for those who will use the device at home or in their local, free Wi-Fi coffee-shop, it does make the utility of the Fire somewhat limited.

In addition, the Kindle Fire won’t come with a camera of any kind, front or back, and most users speculate that this is in an effort to keep costs down. A clever move for pricing, but a camera is pretty much standard fare for any tablet by now.

What’s Keeps the Fire Blazing?

Under the hood, the Kindle Fire will be running a heavily-modified Android 2.3.5. How heavily? Enough that it doesn’t look anything like Android when the tablet boots up, with many familiar icons not where they should be and looking nothing like they used to. While the tablet will still support native Android features like Android Email and calendars, the only App Store that users will have access to is the Amazon App store – any access to the Android App Store will be gone.

Still, there are a number of points in favor of the Fire’s hardware and software, including the Amazon Silk Web browser. By farming out much of the page-loading duties a Web browser has to manage on its own to the EC2 cloud, Silk provides pages that load lightning-fast, and thanks to the robust nature of the EC2 cloud farm, the speed should only improve. Amazon is also offering free backup of tablet content on their cloud, making the 6GB of storage space offered by the Fire not seem so meager. In addition, WhisperSync for movies and TV will let any television program or movie be synced from the Fire to a computer or Internet-connected TV, all without the need for cables, something Apple hasn’t done yet.

The Fire looks set to burn up the competition at its price point, but how it will fare against the iPad2 remains to be seen.


izmir October 7, 2011 at 7:07 AM

What was the reason for not including 3G access? To keep the price down?

TopDog October 7, 2011 at 7:09 AM

I have a feeling the next iPad will have that movie-synching feature. Apple’s not going to let that one slip by!

CocoaB October 7, 2011 at 7:11 AM

The $200 price point is outstanding! It’s going to win over a lot of customers.

KevinAFD October 31, 2011 at 4:39 PM

Probably the only thing about the Kindle Fire that I would change is the fact that you can’t access the Android Store. Still, maybe the Amazon app store contains all the apps you’d ever want or need for an e-reader. Certainly, Amazon must have a lot of confidence in its apps to make this choice.

Lisa December 8, 2011 at 3:40 PM

I’ve had the Kindle Fire for 3 weeks now and my only complaint is the lack of access to Android Market for apps. Although Amazon AppStore for Android has many offerings, alot of big name apps made for IPhone & Android are not available thru Amazon (yet?) It’s disappointing to say the least. I have both IPhone & Kindle Fire so overall I do have the best of both worlds, so I really shouldn’t complain. I’m sure overtime Amazon will add alot of these apps, they just need to be reformatted probably to be compatible.

sam45 October 31, 2011 at 4:45 PM

it’s amazing you can’t even recognize the android os while using a kindle fire. i wonder why amazon felt it necessary to so greatly alter android 2.3.5.

FieldODreams November 12, 2011 at 2:22 PM

The lighting fast page loads and the wireless synching of movies and TV may be the Amazon Kindle Fire’s strongest selling points. The iPad 2 may seem impossible to compete with, but I think some people are ready for an alternative.

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