Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

Summary: There are simply too many compromises in the Kindle Fire to make it a viable competitor to the iPad. Fire's sure to gobble up the low-end of the market, but an iPad it's not.

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TOPICS: iPad, Hardware, Mobility
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Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

This post is a response to David Gewirtz's 7 reasons the Kindle Fire is better than the iPad. To his credit, he countered most the assertions he originally made in a follow-up post 12 things that kinda suck about the Kindle Fire. But People's tablet or not, the Kindle Fire is inferior to the iPad every way -- except price.

Here are a few that rub me the wrong way in my first day of using the Kindle Fire:

  • It's laggy. The Fire's OS (which is built on Android 2.3) is laggy at times and occasionally you need to touch something twice to get it to respond. It's hardly an epidemic or anything, but it happens more than I'd like it to.

  • It's jaggy. The Fire's craptastic screen is nowhere near the quality of the IPS panel in the iPad -- and it shows. While serviceable, Fire's rendering quality is poorer than the iPad. Ironically, where this hurts Amazon most is on text. I can see a hint of shadowing around text in books and magazines, and the same goes with Web pages.

  • Pinch and zoom suck. What bothers me most is the Fire's dodgy pinch and zoom performance. It's both laggy and jaggy. iOS has silky smooth zooming, but the Fire, not so much. Pinching on Web pages is often stuttery and slow the first time on a given page. Zooming performance improves on subsequent attempts (presumable after the page is cached) but it's still not as slick as the iPad. (I'm still not used to Fire's wacky double-tap behavior either, but I'll chalk that up to inexperience).

  • It's thick and heavy. I guess that I was secretly hoping that the color Kindle would be thin and svelte like the black and white Kindle, but it's not. In fact it's downright horsey. At 0.9 pounds and 0.45-inches thick the Fire feels heavy in the hand. Really heavy. For an extra 0.4 pounds you get the additional screen real-estate of an iPad 2 and it's thinner, at only 0.34-inches thick.

  • No home button. The Fire doesn't have a hardware home button like the iPad does and it's a mistake. This means that there's no rip cord that you can easily pull to get you home quickly. Because Kindle's home button is on-screen, you usually first have to touch the screen once to see it, then touch the home button. Twice as many touches to do the same thing. I hope that Apple doesn't remove the home button as has been rumored.

  • It's too small. This one is subjective and some people will like the Fire's smaller, 7-inch form factor, but for me it's too much of a compromise. Maybe it's because I'm used to the iPad, but the using the Fire makes me want something bigger. The Fire's 1024 x 600, 7-inch display is passable for book reading (if you can past the rubbish screen and zooming issues, that is) but 7-inches is a tad too small for reading magazines and Web pages in their full glory. One man's opinion.

  • No Android Market. Since Amazon forked Android for the Fire, you don't get the Android Market and its selection of 360,000+ apps. Instead you get the Amazon App Store's feeble selection of 10,000 apps. The iOS App Store has 500,000+ apps by comparison. (Update: there's a now a hack to enable Market, but who wants to root their Fire?)

  • No native Google apps. Since the Fire is running a forked version of Android, it doesn't get access to Google's flagship native apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Music, the list goes on.

  • Limited hardware. The Fire doesn't include Bluetooth, 3G, GPS, a microphone, physical volume controls or a home button (as mentioned above) -- they were ritualitically sacrificed at the alter of Amazon's $200 price point. It's simple actually, don't expect all the niceties of an iPad in a $200 device and you won't be disappointed.

While the Kindle Fire costs less than half the price of the cheapest iPad ($200 versus $500), it's just not worth it for me. I get way more bang for my buck with an iPad.  However, if you're looking for an entry-level, lowest common denominator tablet or something for a novice user, the Fire might fit the bill. But a technical user -- or anyone that's used an iPad for more than 24 hours -- will find the Fire lacking in almost every way.

What did I miss?

Topics: iPad, Hardware, Mobility

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51 comments
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  • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

    I could be wrong, but I don't think the Kindle Fire was built with the intention on killing the iPad. It was built and priced for the low-end tablet market. Of course it is not as polished and fluid as the iPad, but it is not supposed to be. Yeah, it would be worth to spend the extra money and get an iPad, but that isn't an option for everyone. Lots of people would like a tablet, but can't justify spending the $500 on an iPad, but $200 for the Kindle Fire is more manageable. Just my humble opinion.
    DustinU
    • Sounds like a "Panic Post"

      @DustinU
      Some other slightly related device that steals some thunder from a released product, and it suddenly has to be compared to that product.

      Could be that people didn't need all the stuff an iPad has, and [b]charges[/b] for?
      William Farrell
    • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

      @DustinU <br><br>"I could be wrong, but I don't think the Kindle Fire was built with the intention on killing the iPad."<br><br>Yes, but that haven't stopped the J. Perlows and David Gewirtzs of the world from thinking it will shatter the tablet market and become the new "people's Tablet" (displacing the iPad). All because of its price. Even Amazon themselves when introducing the Kindle said it is going after the lower end of the market, not competing directly with Apple's iPad at the more full feature premium end. <br><br>The two can even co-exists in the same market, sort of like how netbooks co-existed with full featured notebooks and laptops.
      dave95.
    • Ah, but that's the point, Dustin...

      @DustinU: Many of the anti-Apple zealots want it to be THE iPad killer because none of the other so-called Android tablets have come close to even slowing the iPad's sales down.

      I agree, the K-F is aimed at a completely different class of device that fits the a-A-z concept of what they believe the iPad to be.
      Vulpinemac
    • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

      @DustinU

      Agree Dustin. Also interesting that the people that defend Apple against higher speced PC products are now using that as an argument for the iPad. It is faster and better. They miss the whole market they are trying to reach. I am considering buying a Fire, while I type this on a MacBook Pro. I don't need all the bells and whistles of an iPad. I also truly believe that right now is the worst time to buy a tablet; I think that after Christmas you will see the prices on tablets take a big tumble. I think the $100-$149 price point will get you a good name brand tablet next year.
      MichaelWells
  • there's room in the market for a variety of tablets...

    at different prices points, just like there is a market for automobiles (family models, not exotics) from $15,000 to upwards of $60,000. If a person buys what they can afford, not go into debt, and have a device that does what they need (though maybe not as smoothly as a more expensive model) then they'll be happy with their purchase.

    The only problem I see with the Fire is what happened to some poor souls who asked for iPod Touches a few years ago and woke up to find coal-colored zunes in their stockings. Talk about a disappointed recipient! I hope that people that have their heart set on iPad, and if their parents can afford it, don't fall for the price of the fire (or the Apple haters on these boards) and think that the Fire is just like an iPad, cause it's not even in the same league. But for a low end, cheap device, it's okay.
    ShazAmerica
    • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

      @ShazAmerica
      If I had a kid like that I am investing in coal.
      I would teach my kids about prudence than consumerism; one can live without the latest toy
      Scatcatpdx
      • Im with you!

        @Richard B
        otaddy
    • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

      @ShazAmerica

      Upwards of $60,000? LOL! I laugh at you at 200 mph from the rolled down windows of my $1,000,000 Bugatti Veyron! (You'll recognize me by listening for my laughter... the doppler effect means that I'll be sounding like a chipmonk as I approach you, and the devil... or Jesse Ventura... after I've zoomed past!)
      dsf3g
  • Fire is cheap

    It's cheap like the razor blade handle to Amazon's razor blade eContent. Because it's so cheap, it'll be disruptive in the tablet market and it will certainly hurt the sales of all higher priced Android tablets. It'll also, to a lesser degree hurt the sales of iPad. But out of all the tablet players, Apple is the only other player who has enough eContent to allow them to play this kind of disruptive price game. It's almost a certainty that Apple will begin offering a better tablet at a competing price.<br><br>Let's face it, economies of scale and the streamlining of production will mean that corporations will soon be giving away these kind of devices for free, just to get you to buy their content, watch their advertising, be seen holding their brand name. Soon they will be the prize in a Cracker Jack box.<br><br>But above this fray, some will still insist on buying the higher quality, higher priced versions. It will depend largely on the value proposition they offer, the eContent they deliver and the quality of the software tools they support. I think Apple is best positioned to win this high ground, again.
    jaypeg
    • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

      @jaypeg There's no company out there that has the content that Amazon has along with the innovative business model (well, Apple did it first) of making money on content and not on hardware. They will sell a boatload of Fires. The upside to Apple? Once people realize their Fire is a Gillette and the blades are eating their lunch using an inferior razor it will make the iPad look like a Norelco three headed electric. That aside, again, NO one has this business model in place or are able in the short run to do it. If you read other news today you'll see that the major PC manufacturer's are about to abandon the tablet market. They've had their heads handed to them by Apple and now their ar*ses are being bit by Amazon. They are being squeezed from the top and bottom out of existence.
      dheady@...
      • I agree

        @dheady@... <br><br>Those big pc players will have little to no place in this new kind of loss leader tablet market place. Maybe Microsoft will get a bit of traction out of squeezing their entire Windows OS into this kind of tablet format hardware--a Hail Mary to garner and rally the support of their aging Windows fans. But we've yet to see how that will play out, will the UX be good enough? There remains tons of good reasons behind Apple not trying to shoehorn the entire OS X into the iPad, and most of them highlight why Microsoft's early tablet initiatives failed. Time will tell, but eventually even iPad will have all the capabilities of OS X (but without all the existing i/o and storage hardware--think iCloud instead).<br><br>My earlier point was to look for new corporate, content centric, players to enter the playing field. It's been pointed out that Fire seems to share the same hardware reference design as the Rim Playbook, meaning the tools and dies to make these things is set and can probably be reset quite quickly from now on. How much more exterior design work is ever really going to be needed for a flat, buttonless, handheld device. Differentiation in the consumer market will now begin to come from the logo stamped onto its cheap plastic surface. In few years (maybe months) expect to see major magazines or entertainment networks begin to hand them out for under $100. Their version of Android will be rigged to host their advertising and content. New young software companies will spring up to support these kinds of add-ons.<br><br>Will Apple play in this cheap league? Maybe, why not? They have tighter control over their hardware reference and software and could deliver a much more integrated, slick, snappy product. And I'd expect they'd secure the high ground pricing on this kind of thing quite quickly.<br><br>The future is no longer about 'devices'. The sexy hardware era is over, the flat buttonless tablet is here. It can be anything because software and content is now the name of the game.
        jaypeg
      • @jaypeg & dheady ... You guys are both correct

        @dheady@... on the way iPad is a superior experience, overall versus the Kindle Fire.<br><br>But jaypeg, your last paragraph is somewhat misguided:<br><br> " ... The future is no longer about 'devices'. The sexy hardware era is over, the flat buttonless tablet is here. It can be anything because software and content is now the name of the game. "<br><br>If you're talking about tablet computing overtaking / annexing / supplanting the PC, then that is disingenuous to say the least. Show us any corporation that will turf out productivity machines (i.e. workstations) and replace them with tablets ... and i'll show you an honest, trustworthy politician.<br><br>Now, you'd have had half a point if you were limiting yourself to discussing non-enterprise / non-business users (i.e. general public) - but even then, there is a huge segment of the populace that would only part with their desktop / notebooks over their cold, dead bodies.<br><br>Tablets are a niche-filling product: that is, they fill a usage void (in some people's minds) between smartphones and notebooks - since the operative concept is 'mobility computing'. To that end, they perform that role swimmingly well. But that is the logical extent to which they can realistically meet business requirements for the majority of businesses / corporates / enterprises / educational institutes. (Hint: check usage statistics for Windows in business and educational institutions).<br><br>I will admit, it's correct to say tablet / mobile computing has an increasingly important "value-add" role to play in future computing ... but it's borderline certifiable to suggest tablets could displace enterprise-ready, desktop productivity computing systems.<br><br>Sincerely
        thx-1138_
      • Cars and Trucks

        @ thx-1138_@...

        Don't panic, no one is going to come and take your desktop away from you anytime soon, but this 'niche' train is about to hit you--hard.

        The truth about enterprise is that the average office worker needs little more than a network (LAN or WAN) attached tablet (with no more than a keyboard attached to meet most worker's legacy preferences). Such a machine is much cheaper, and much easier to deploy and administer than current pcs. Common sense and budget pressures will do the rest.

        As Steve Jobs pointed out (and he had a habit of always being much more right than wrong), the tablet will be like the car; most people will use them. The pc workstation will become like the truck in that far fewer people will need to drive those, but they'll always be needed. Trucks will be needed by those who need the extra horsepower to do larger computing tasks (designers, developers, scientists, engineers, researchers, content creators and maybe hard-core gammers), but this group represents the true niche in any enterprise/consumer grouping. There will always be a growing amount of overlap between cars and trucks in the digital realm.

        The point I was trying to make with that last paragraph is that we've reached an inflection point in computing history. The general consumer lust for the look and feel of the exterior gadget will now begin to be replaced by a lust for the particular apps and content that the gadget can offer, the networks they can access. The iPhone and iPad has set the standard and now all other competitors will look the same ...a flat buttonless tablet. They will now be differentiated by their capabilities via software, content, networks.
        jaypeg
    • Fire...Baaad!

      @jaypeg & folks

      I think the lingering legacy of Open Architecture has left a bad taste. People remember incompatibilities, driver problems, second rate software, viruses. The experience became too much of a burden. Fire presumes to set content above "use". It has to pass the "use" test though. It has to show compatibility, and create a fluid, uninterrupted experience. On some level, this is about the amalgamation of the virtues of operating software, apps, and media into this overall experience. Accountability is part of that experience. Leadership and influence is another factor.

      Fire will sell, and the bar will be lowered for entry into tablets. iPad is expensive now, as these things go. However, the standards have been set by Apple. Everything now mimics the Apple prototype. They all aspire to it's "experience". It becomes clear to folks, that the tablet generation was ushered in (properly) by Apple, and may not have happened without their leadership.

      So, for those increasing number of people making a commitment to the Apple platform, the iPad becomes a logical choice. The ecosystem extends it's value. For the strident fans of "open", they can take a chance with a retailer's idea of what a device should be, and hope the complex interdependencies have been thought through.

      If the Fire does disappoint and flounders. It will be yet another nail in an "open" coffin. Apple users, derided for being suckers and spending too much? Well perhaps not anymore. Perhaps these folks have in fact, subsidized actual tech progress and not just salesman's noise. It's possible that those few extra dollars have endorsed accountability, platform integrity, vertical integration, innovation, and safe, quality content. Undoubtedly, the Fire will succeed enough to survive and exist in parallel with iPad. If for no other reason, than to provide something for those too cheap to spring, or with deep Apple hate. By now though, folks know exactly where the money should be channeled if we actually want to evolve technology and not just be trapped in endless cycles of consumption. Are we to bind technology to the broad range of liberal arts and sciences, or do we just want to "go shopping" for the rest of our banal lives? Yes gadgets are now fully baked and being consumed en masse. If we have any hope for a post-gadget era that contains something a little more revolutionary than Kanye and Twilight, we need to put our money where our mouth is. There is a huge difference between a company that uses technology to subsidize the growth of a store, and one that uses a store to subsidize the growth of technology.
      norgate
  • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

    "It's Laggy" - My Ipad2 with the latest IOS update has similar problems with frequently not recognizing button presses. My wife's Ipad1 does not have this problem. I like the Fire for the price. It's sufficient to do 80% of what I use the iPad for (a living room distraction and quick access to the web) and while I agree the screen is not as good I hate reading books on the iPad and the Fire is better than my phone for that purpose.
    dlwhite66
    • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

      @dlwhite66
      My iPad 1 (on iOS 4) was great but with iOS 5 it too is learning to be laggy and (Safari especially) crashy.
      ckantack@...
  • Why the VW Beetle can't hold a candle to the Mercedes

    No kidding, they are going after different markets. But both will sell well.

    I find it amazing that everyone in this industry defines success as a virtual monopoly and failure as anything but.
    Michael Kelly
    • RE: Why the Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the iPad

      @Michael Kelly +1. Agree totally.
      tkeller@...
    • what are you doing

      @Michael Kelly ... on ZDNet? You make absolute sense.

      (... first post here in a long time to 'get' the mobile game.)

      +100
      thx-1138_