I have a smartphone and have, unfortunately, become very attached to it. I use it mostly to surf the Internet, and streaming video has also become a recent favorite. So the idea of having a similar device with a larger screen has always been compelling since the iPad’s debut, yet I’ve never found a tablet to be a necessary device. When exchanging Christmas wish lists late last year, I included the Kindle Fire in mine since I figured its relatively low price point might not scare the others away from it. To my surprise, I actually did receive the Kindle Fire and my experience thus far has, for the most part, been a pleasant one.
The web has been inundated with mixed reviews. As noted by the New York Times’ David Streitfeld, some of the earlier complaints involved the fact that “there is no external volume control. The off switch is easy to hit by accident. Web pages take a long time to load. There is no privacy on the device; a spouse or child who picks it up will instantly know everything you have been doing. The touch screen is frequently hesitant and sometimes downright balky.”
I agree with most of these. The volume controls are difficult to access, especially when streaming through Netflix. I’ve often hit the off switch by accident. A few times the touch screen has been a little finicky, especially when surfing the web. I am the only user on my device, though, so privacy is not really an issue for me.
Despite this, none of these problems are deal breakers. Though the volume controls are not easily accessible, all one has to do is touch the screen 1-2 times to get access to it. Hitting the off switch can be annoying when streaming video, but the device is just as quick to turn back on. The touch screen can be the most annoying of problems, but this problem is most prominent when surfing the web. If you use the device mostly for reading, streaming video, or games—which are my primary uses—then it won’t be that much of a problem.
Reading both magazines and books on the device has been a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I’ve always been hesitant about the printed world’s digital migration, but I now understand why the experience is so captivating. Though I have some reservations about the tablet version of my magazine, it is specific to the actual app and not the overall Fire experience. I also must qualify this by saying I’ve never owned an actual e-reader, nor have I ever used one.
The one thing I’d add to Streitfeld’s list is the significant difficulty I’ve had using the Netflix app, which is no criticism of the device itself. Streaming videos is my primary use of the tablet. I subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu Plus, and I’ve purchased digital files through Amazon’s site many times before, which makes the integration to the Amazon store all the better (and the Amazon Prime trial is an added bonus). And while video playback from either Hulu Plus or Amazon’s cloud has been a great experience on the Kindle Fire, streaming through Netflix has been a problem since day one. The audio and video are not synced, and it seems like I’m not the only with this problem. Though apparently an app update has been issued, I have yet to see any improvement with this.
All in all, I don’t see why there was such uproar during the device’s first month in the market. It is a high-functioning tablet that has all the capabilities one is expected to have. Perhaps the problem isn’t with the device itself, but rather with the expectations audiences have. The Kindle Fire is not an iPad, and it’s a good thing it isn’t. Otherwise, consumers would have to dish out an additional $300, and as I’d discussed a few months back, this is the Kindle Fire’s biggest selling point.