Kicking Through Kindle Fire's Smoldering Embers

MoBlogConventional wisdom has it that enthusiasm for the Amazon Kindle Fire has diminished considerably since the 4+ million-unit holiday sales season the tablet was said to enjoy in 2011. Recent analyst reports suggest a dropoff this year, even as rumors persist that a larger screen (no, a real iPad-killer this time, really) is on deck for holiday 2012.

This may explain Amazon’s relative neglect of the Fire since its launch, but it doesn’t excuse the company. Too bad. They had the opportunity to give itself and the Android OS a real jump on Apple’s rumored half-sized tablet. The last six months would have been a great time for Amazon to encourage and promote developers to explore the potential of the half-sized tablet real estate.

What we have instead more than half a year since the Kindle Fire’s release is an e-reader with benefits. I have kept the Kindle Fire at my bedside all this time, with occasional walks to the living room during prime time to see how it slips into my device-centric life. My overall sense now is that it is a very good book reader, an app platform only in a pinch, and a frustrating Web device.

The state of Amazon’s apps, many of which really start as Android smartphone apps, is poor. Many of them continue to feel like oversized phone apps. From a developer’s point of view this is understandable, since rethinking content for every screen size is cost-prohibitive. But from a consumer’s perspective (this one’s, at least), there is the persistent feeling of wasted space and opportunity to many of these apps.

ESPN’s ScoreCenter not only seems formatted like a stretched Android app, with a lot of center dead space as a result, but it even carries mobile phone-sized banners that occupy a shrunken section of the screen bottom. The same is true for E!’s app. All of the bottom menus are scrunched to the left half of the bottom rail. Even Facebook’s app just stretches its m.facebook.com mobile Web experience across the wider expanse of the Fire screen. No one seems to think it is worth the bother to explore what is and is not possible about a 7-inch screen.

Again, this is understandable, but I suspect it means that tablets at this scale will struggle to endear themselves to users as more than e-readers with a super-sized smartphone experience. This is made all the worse by an Amazon-forked Android interface that silos the book, app, Web, music, video and docs experiences in a way that feels as jagged as the halting screen performance and leaden touchscreen response.

In short, the weaknesses of the Kindle Fire have not worked well, and Amazon has not rushed in to update any aspect of the device and give us a sense that it truly supports this device and form factor. Or maybe the company is distracted at the prospect of the 10-inch tablet it wanted all along. After all, there is an iPad to kill…again.

Tags: apps, tablet
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3 comments about "Kicking Through Kindle Fire's Smoldering Embers ".
  1. Andrys Basten from Kindleworld , July 9, 2012 at 1:56 p.m.
    I don't use mobile versions since the 7" is big enough when you rotate it to the side. Also, it helps to know that if you are interested in a paragraph of text and it is too tiny on that device, double-click that paragraph and it'll make the font large and fit the width of the column to the width of the display and do line-wrap accordingly. Sometimes if you just increase it until the font is the right size for you and then double click that, it'll customize it to your desired font size. Also, Amazon did add a feature that shows you spectacles or eyeglasses on the lower status line and you can click on it to see the main story in readable text although you can't pinch zoom that. But it's a great feature too.
  2. Andrys Basten from Kindleworld , July 9, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.
    Also, to get faster webpage loading, turn off the web acceleration, as it doesn't speed things up and sometimes slows it down. I also put Flash (another setting) 'On Demand' so it doesn't run it unless I want that...
  3. Angela Hey from Techviser , July 9, 2012 at 3:22 p.m.
    The device has a nice eco-system - but I agree some of the Apps are for mobile phones and don't make the best use of the screen. The Kindle Fire (and in some cases Android) needs, at a minimum (there is much more I could add): - ability to edit docs like Google Drive docs in its browser - anti-virus software already installed and updated regularly - I don't know what Amazon's cloud provides - video out for HD TV 1080px - memory card slot with safeguards against malicious software Nice to have - Bluetooth for headphones - GPS I am not too concerned about higher resolution screens. There are many better software tweaks that can be made, such as improving options (I can't find an option to stop new items going on the carousel, for example). Improvements to setting the keyboard speed are needed - the iPhone has better sensing when you touch, expanding the zone around the letters. There are some obvious upgrades - like latest Android OS, etc. that I assume will be in a new device.