Amazon Kindle Fire: Insight and How Not To Get Burned

Introduction & Specifications

The Kindle Fire is Amazon's attempt to blaze a trail in the low cost Android tablet market, and if doing so ends up applying a bit of competitive heat to Apple and its dominating iPad line, then so be it. To be clear, Amazon isn't pitching the Kindle Fire as an "iPad killer" nor will you find any veiled marketing attempts to cast this as Amazon's David to Apple's Goliath. The Kindle Fire is a different type of device aimed at a different type of buyer, namely anyone who can't afford a full-sized slate or simply isn't willing to fill a fruit basket full of cash and hand it over to Apple. At the same time, comparisons are inevitable because let's face it, outside of enthusiast circles, apparently hardly anyone wants anything but an iPad, or so say the market share numbers.

At $199 for the Kindle Fire, Amazon's venturing into a massive untapped market, one that's made up of consumers salivating for an affordable slate that, plain and simple, doesn't suck. If you go back to when the first iPad came out, everyone assumed once Android made an appearance, there would soon follow a cornucopia of lower priced alternatives just as capable as the iPad, but for much less coin. Instead, manufacturers pumped out a handful of $500+ Android tablets, some of which were technically superior to the iPad, but just as expensive and, for the most part, not as polished. That situation is slowly turning around as Android 4.0 approaches but the untapped market we're speaking of, is made up of the same buyers who pounced on Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad after it was marked down to $99.

But before we dig into the nitty-gritty on the Fire, let's digress a bit and give you some quick hands-on time with Amazon's new slate, to show you what a $199 tablet and eReader (without the need of a "fire sale" to get the price down) is capable of.

Unlike the TouchPad, Amazon's Kindle Fire has a future and is poised to be the game changer every mainstream shopper has been waiting for, albeit in a smaller form factor. By all means, the Kindle Fire is fairly well spec'd --  it has a dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and even an In-Plane Switching (IPS) display instead of an inferior TFT panel. In fact, the sum of its parts combined with manufacturing costs are believed to add up to more than what Amazon's selling each Kindle Fire for. The reason Amazon can sell the Kindle Fire for a loss is because of the content delivery system it's built around. From app purchases to eBook sales and Amazon Prime subscriptions, Amazon plans to more than make up the difference, and it's part of the reason why Amazon can afford to price the Kindle Fire at $199 when other tablet makers are charging twice that much. It's a brilliant strategy, and also a gamble because if the Kindle Fire is flawed, Amazon's plan will go up in flames.

Amazon Kindle Fire Specifications
Android 2.3 Heavily Modified and Hooked into Amazon
  • Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" (heavily modified)
  • 1GHz Dual-Core TI OMAP 4430 CPU
  • PowerVR SGX540 GPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 8GB internal storage storage + free cloud storage
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 7-inch 1024x600 IPS display
  • Capacitive multi-touch
  • Non-replaceable 16.28W-hour Lithium-Ion battery
  • Up to 8 hours continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback with Wi-Fi turned off
  • Charging via power adapter
  • Supported Formats: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible (Audible Enhanced [AA, AAX]), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8
    3.5mm Audio Jack
  • USB 2.0 (micro-B Connector)
  • Access to Amazon App Store
  • 7.5" x 4.7" x 0.45" (190mm x 120mm x 11.4mm)
  • 14.6 ounces (413 grams)
  • 1 year warranty

Is the Kindle Fire a fully fledged tablet or a glorified eBook reader with tablet-like qualities? Looking over the system specs, it appears to be somewhere in the middle. It's only 7 inches, it doesn't have any built-in cameras, and there's no 3G radio, which is particularly surprising for a Kindle. But there is a dual-core processor with a capable GPU, half a gigabyte of RAM, Wireless-N connectivity, 8GB of internal storage, an IPS screen, and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), albeit the operating system is heavily modified to the point where it hardly resembles anything Android.

If you're comparing these specs to the iPad, the Kindle Fire falls short in almost every category. It's also less than half the price and is capable of playing games, watching movies, listening to music with or without headphones, sending emails, surfing the Web, reading books and magazines, and editing documents. But can the Kindle Fire do all of these things well, or at least well enough to warrant a $199 investment? Let's find out.

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