Archive for December, 2011

My Kindle Fire review… sort of

December 7, 2011 1 comment

I couldn’t disagree more with this usability study of the Kindle Fire (linked by @SGgrc) in a number of key ways. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t just me rushing to point out that someone is wrong on the internet, but I have to comment on an analysis that is the exact opposite of what I’ve found using the Fire.

The primary example of them being wrong is their findings about web browsing. They say that mobile websites are the way to go, because it’s hard to click the small buttons and text fields on desktop websites. To reinforce this, they point to a user having trouble logging in to the Facebook mobile site. The buttons are too small and the text boxes are hard to click. On a desktop website, you would fix this by pinch-zooming to make what you wanted to select bigger. But on mobile websites, there is no such ability. You’re stuck with the tiny, sparsely filled screen and you can’t make it bigger. That login screen to the Facebook mobile site takes up maybe a quarter of the screen.

They summarize by saying that browsing mobile sites is “luxurious”. Once again, I disagree. Mobile sites look thin and stretched, like cloth spread over a too-large frame.

The Facebook and CNN mobile sites on the Fire

In short, web browsing on the Kindle Fire is fine. You have to pinch-zoom and double-tap your way around the web, just like on any mobile device, but the hardware makes it fast enough that you don’t notice.

I will agree, though, that the user experience of Facebook on the Kindle Fire sucks. But that’s because, for whatever reason, there is no Facebook app. There is a Facebook “app” icon in the app drawer, but it just opens the web browser to Fail.

Also, from the article, they say that the Fire is heavy, making it hard to read for long periods of time, and the lack of hardware page-turning buttons make it hard to use. The Fire is my first Kindle, so all my experience is from using the Kindle app on my 4inch-screen Captivate. That said, I don’t find it heavy or hard to turn pages at all. I’ve held it in my hand to read for a 45-minute stationary bike ride, and for an hour or more on the couch.

Finally, the article also indicts the Fire for the lack of hardware Android buttons. I, too, was skeptical of this, as well as skeptical of Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, the most recent Android releases that do away with hardware buttons in favor of on-screen buttons that can be hidden and are always at the bottom of the screen, no matter how you turn the device.

The Kindle Fire has sold me on the on-screen button idea.

It takes a little getting used to, but that’s because it’s new and different. Innovation always comes with a learning curve.

So don’t take this as an unreserved endorsement or review of the Kindle Fire. But it is innovative and polished and very pleasant to use. I agree that it has flaws, but this article misdiagnoses most of them.

The biggest problem of the Fire is currently the lack of the Android Market, to give you access to the app ecosystem there, like the Facebook app and all your purchased apps. This is a result of the Amazon App Store currently being an also-ran, because before the Kindle Fire there was no reason for app developers to mess with it. With the Fire selling as well as it is, I see this problem being remedied within a few months.

As an Android-savvy early-adopter, I’m okay with rooting and unrooting my device to install the Market while I wait for the Android ecosystem to catch up. Until then, next time you see me, ask to play with my Fire. I guarantee I’ll have it on me.

How’s that for a review?

Categories: Android