Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

Summary: Although volume control gets the press, the biggest issue for Amazon is fixing the one-click buying without a password. That's a parental nightmare.

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Amazon is learning life in the tablet market is a bit different than e-readers. The critics, who are talking about volume control, user interface and one-click shopping, are starting to pile up. The open question here is whether Amazon is facing a crisis or just a hiccup.

Much of the latest consternation around the Kindle Fire is summed up by a New York Times story. The most disgruntled are sending the Fire back. No external volume control is a hassle; privacy concerns abound and a sometimes clunky UI are the biggest beefs. User interface expert Jakob Nielsen has panned the Fire. Amazon said it will update the software in less than two weeks.

The complaints are largely found on Amazon's support site and present a more nuanced view. Here are a few excerpts:

Note this one:

The power button is in an annoying spot but I haven't had issues yet accidentally shutting it off. The volume controls are horrible. With only a virtual slide that is hidden in the settings, it’s too many clicks to get to the volume controls. A simple software update could place the volume control on the main taskbar (still virtual, but much easier to access).

However, that same review has the following:

When I got down to the heart of it, for what I actually use these devices for, the Kindle Fire is a cheap alternative to an iPad that has all of the functionality that I want at less than a third of the price.

And then there's this one:

I was really excited to buy Kindle Fire as a gift for my 5 year old twins but after trying it for a day now, I have decided to return it for the following reasons - Absolute lack of parental controls on content (apps, music, videos, web) Please pardon me the "parents are the parental" control non-sense. It is not about control kids, it is about keeping kids safe while letting them be independent and curious. - Lack of control on apps or content purchases - General lack of kids’ content specially books. - Cumbersome interface (volume control, double taps, sluggish touch response

Sorry to be disappointed with Kindle Fire but it is not ready for prime-time as a content consumption device especially for the young kids.

That complaint carries some weight since many folks see the Fire as a kid tablet. All of my daughter's elementary school pals are asking for iPads for Christmas and borrowing my Kindle Fire to see if the kids will like the device and save mom and dad some dollars.

Read the heated arguments: Great Debate: Kindle Fire or iPad: Which one should you buy?

So what's my take? I've had the Fire for nearly a month now. The volume controls throw me off, but a software update could fix that somewhat. The UI stumbles are definitely there too. But there hasn't been anything that has inspired me to throw in the towel. The apps run better on the Fire than they do on my force-close happy Samsung Galaxy Tab with Honeycomb. One-click buying is an issue for the kids, but my bigger priority right now is limiting iPod Touch purchases from the younger, but increasingly savvy children.

In other words, the jury is still out on this Kindle Fire in crisis storyline. This crisis would be much larger if the Fire were selling for $499. At $199, the complaint calculus changes. My gut tells me that the Fire would have to be a complete disaster for the masses to send it back. The Fire isn't a disaster and $199 will cover a lot of flaws for those expecting an iPad killer.

The Amazon reviews seem to back up the more middle of the road view of the Fire.

  • 47 percent of reviews are 5-star;
  • 19 percent are 4-star;
  • 12 percent are 3-star;
  • 9 percent are 2 star;
  • 13 percent are 1 star.

To me the biggest issue for Amazon is fixing the one-click buying without a password. That's a parental nightmare. This review sums it up:

Just think for a minute. Every purchase you make with your Kindle or Fire is charged to your default card. There's no password, no sign-in, nothing. So anyone who physically has a hold of your device has a direct line to your credit card. Remember this if you lose it or it gets stolen, and you might want to be extra careful who you loan it to. Really, Amazon - how hard is it to make a password requirement for purchases? I was thinking of giving my Fire to my daughter. The fact that she could purchase anything she wants without a password (and therefore without any oversight) is making me think again.

It's no secret that the Fire is built for shopping, but the tablet market has to be different. Amazon is going to have to move away from its standard practices and make shopping a bit harder on the Fire for security.

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Topics: Hardware, Amazon, Mobility

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  • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

    I thinks it's also a security risk shipping the Kindle Fire already logged into the users account. Just imagine the risk if your shipment gets lost or stolen and it's already logged into your account/credit card, ready to shop. I am surprise this is not getting scrutinized. Amazon is recommending clicking on the "gift" option upon checkout if you don't want it shipped already logged in. Really? Security comes first Amazon.
    dave95.
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @dave95. Very good point there. They should make it more like Google phones. You login your account after you get them. It isn't exactly rocket science. There's making thing easier for the consumer, and then there's dumbing things down too much.
      NCWeber
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @dave95.

      This has already happened to a few people and has been recorded in the 1 star comments on Amazon. There's no good reason why it should be shopping ready on your doorstep before you even get a chance to open it and set it up.
      biobat
      • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

        @biobat Except if it wasn't, people would be complaining about why they had to go through the trouble of setting it up, they're not rocket scientists, Amazon has all the information already, why do I have to type it in again, Apple has a better user experience, blah, blah, blah.
        jgm@...
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @dave95. When you get the Kindle Fire you have to log on and enter your password for your amazon acount before you can buy anything. So if your KF is stolen in shipping your credit card information cannot be accessed.
      narinec
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @dave95. Security you say. Amazon has altogether stopped asking me for my account password on their site lately. Just like that. What do you expect from Fire that has been created for you to spend on Amazon.

      The easy, yet less convinient, way out of this mess is to remove your credit card info from your account altogether, and retype - yes, retype - it every time you make a purchase.
      ForeverSPb
      • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

        @ForeverSPb clear your cookies or restrict cookies from Amazon and then you'll have to login everytime
        Romas27
      • A few suggestions ...

        @ForeverSPb

        Use Firefox with the BetterPrivacy app that will ERASE any flash cookies and set the browser to erase all history and cookies when the browser is closed.
        wackoae
  • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

    I never even thought about the one-click buying until this article. I guess my 8 year old is the exception. She shops for books and games and then asks me to do the actual buy. I think you can turn off one-click buying in your account setting. It should be changed on the Kindles though. Other than that it is fine. I haven't noticed any problem adjusting volume when playing videos. I don't use it for music.
    bobfastner
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @bobfastner I think you should give credit to yourself for raising a responsible child and being a parent and not blaming hardware for your lack of parental skills. While I do think one click shopping is wrong to have enabled by default. I see where Amazon considers this a adult piece of electronics not a toy. Giving a 5 year old a Kindle to use unsupervised is just dumb.
      jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
      • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

        @jscott418 <br>I agree totally. You don't just let your kids run willy-nilly on the Internet, do you? Why is a tablet so different? All my kids are grown now, but they never got to use the family PC without any supervision. If I had grandchildren they would get the same treatment.
        SElizDav
      • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

        @jscott418 Amen!
        marcovj
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @bobfastner I was thinking the same thing... turning off one-click in your account might resolve this while making it slightly more cumbersome to order for yourself. I think these are reasonably simple 1.0 pains.

      To me the bigger issue is, why the hell do parents think every device should always be kid friendly in the extreme? First, I have no kids and don't want child-proof caps or Kindles. And second, whatever happened to Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls? If an e-reader is called for, there are less expensive and more child-friendly ones available. I don't think any device this powerful and capable of taking kids places unsupervised should be given to a child. Ever. Internet content should always be supervised and restricted. You don't let your pre-teen take your car over to the local bar, so why let them do the equivalent on an Internet device?
      JoeFoerster
      • Agreed

        @JoeFoerster
        I totally agree with those thoughts. The 21st century seems to have got parents checking their brains and responsibilities in at the purchase counter...
        IslandBoy_77
  • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

    I've been a Kindle (international 3G) owner since the day it was made available. This e-ink reading device was revolutionary in many aspects but one: the user experience.

    I also had the chance to try the Kobo reader which turned-out to be inferior to the Kindle in every aspect but one: the user experience.

    Considering Amazon's mightyness, it is simply unacceptable to deploy such innovative products without a decent user experience. Their UX is simply insipid, obsolete and totally lacking visual attractiveness. It has this strange BlackBerry after taste.

    It is time for Amazon to bring new blood in the UX department. And fast.
    TheCyberKnight
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @TheCyberKnight Interesting how you mention BlackBerry because the BlackBerry Playbook has the best smoothest, elegant user experience. People frequently comment on how after using the Playbook, they get frustrated going back to an iFad.
      John Hanks
      • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

        @John Hanks Interesting how you try to make a joke out of the name of the hottest tablet platform there is. They are *all* fads, every one of them. Tech products are all about the latest thing, so go back to the drawing board for making jokes.
        JoeFoerster
      • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

        @John Hanks
        You're right. I should have excluded the PlayBook which indeed has a very slick UX. I really meant the BlackBerry phones.
        TheCyberKnight
  • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

    I'm a touch mystified by the "tablets for kids" idea. If you want to give your kid a tablet, V-Tech and Fisher Price make some pretty nice ones just for kids. Tablets are rather serious pieces of technology covered end to end in glass, a parent's nightmare (I don't care how tough that gorilla glass is). As far as the shopping thing, I don't let others use my Kindle without me standing right next to that person (or over, in my niece's case). I also have a password put in place. You can't get past the unlock screen without it. So, while the Kindle Fire won't be winning any congeniality awards for security, they also didn't leave us completely high and dry. As for the volume, I don't see the big deal. I like it where it is. Also, the power button is in a terrific place. I thought it was lousy, too at first. But then I realized, it's in the one spot I never place my hand while holding it! Genius.

    I will say this. As a suggestion to improve security on the Kindle Fire, put a password lock on the WiFi antenna. It always shuts down when the screen go dark. Have it so it can't be turned on without password approval. That would really be a killer feature, and not too obtrusive, I should think. Once it's on, it's on until the next time the screen logs out.
    NCWeber
    • RE: Amazon plots Kindle Fire update: Aims to weather first flap

      @NCWeber As a Parent I could not agree more. Parents seem to cave to pressure by other dumb parents who just allow their kids to have what they want. It puts a lot of parents in a bind to also do what they know is wrong.
      I think better measure should be in place for purchases just for the sake of the Fire being stolen. I never liked one click shopping but I am sure the stores do.
      jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376