12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

Summary: Before you rush out and spend your hard-earned cash, I'd like to caution you. There are some good reasons you might NOT want to buy a new Kindle Fire.


Pre-launch "artist" rendering of Kindle Fire

UPDATED: Now that we've seen the announcement, these reasons are updated. One goes away!

I've had an interesting relationship with the Kindle. I absolutely love the design of the Kindle service, how books can be read on almost any device, and how they stay in sync (mostly) between machines.

I love how Amazon has smartly made it possible to read your library where you want to read it, so if you want to one day read a book on your iPad you can. If later, you want to curl up in bed and read it, one handed, with an iPhone, you can. If, at another time, you want to prop your netbook on the arm of a chair and read your book, you can do that, too -- all with the same book.

There's DRM in the Kindle ecosystem, but the usage model is so flexible that it is hardly ever apparent.

But I dislike the Kindle device intensely. It feels like the user interface was designed by a hardware engineer who only grudgingly recognizes that real people have to touch his gear. It's slow, it's cumbersome, the keyboard is terrible, bookmarking is incredibly inconvenient, and it's completely devoid of any UI elegance whatsoever.

I bought a Kindle 2 and returned it shortly thereafter. The e-ink screen was simply unacceptable. My wife later bought a Kindle 3 and although the screen is much nicer than that of the Kindle 2, she still finds herself reading Kindle books on almost any device other than the Kindle. She likes it for battery life and portability, but finds reading on a netbook to be a much nicer experience.

As a device, the e-ink Kindle, frankly, kinda sucks.

So, it's with some degree of trepidation that I welcome the new Kindle Fire into the world. First, let's talk about the name. There's something twisted going on in a world where book burning is a heinous act, naming your book-reading device "Fire". Just saying'.

In any case, as we all know by now, Amazon is introducing the new Kindle Fire later today and before you rush out and spend your hard-earned cash, I'd like to caution you. There are some good reasons you might NOT want to buy a new Kindle Fire.

A dozen of them, in fact.

Next: The reasons »

« Previous: Maybe you should wait

Reason 1: Out-of-date Android

The single biggest reason you might not want to buy a new Kindle Fire is because it's most likely going to be running the old 2.1 Eclair version of Android. For those keeping track, that's actually ten revs behind the current tablet Android release, 3.2 Honeycomb. There was 2.2 Froyo, 2.3 Gingerbread, 2.3.3, 2.3.4, 2.3.5, 2.3.6, 2.3.7, 3.0 Honeycomb, 3.1, and, finally, 3.2.

All indications are that Amazon has customized their version of Android, but still, that means you're essentially running something almost two years out of date.

Reason 2: It's not really Android

If you're interested in the Kindle Fire because it's an Android tablet made by Amazon, think again. Because Amazon is likely to be hacking it up and making it their own, anything you want to run from the real Android world may or may not run on the Fire.

Plus, from a more geopolitical point of view, Amazon is adding one more fork in the already twisted road of Android distributions.

On one hand, they're taking advantage of an open environment, which is what open is all about. On the other hand, they're specifically not working and playing well with others, to the harm of the entire ecosystem.

See also: The Android Alternative: Amazon's Kindle Tablet

Reason 3: No Netflix?

Netflix has had a pretty choppy history with Android devices. This isn't the company's fault. It's just that they pretty much have to make a new player for each new device, and that's a lot of coding.

If you visit the Amazon Appstore for Android, you'll notice there's no Netflix player. There are a few queue management apps there, but no actual playback player. This might not be by accident.

Since Amazon is going all out providing content through their own Prime and instant video services, they're unlikely to want to give Netflix a foothold into their environment. So, that means if you get the Fire, you might not be able to play Netflix movies or TV on it.

See also: Netflix split to set up Amazon streaming merger?

Reason 4: Who wants a BlackBerry PlayBook hand-me-down?

According to Ryan Block over at gdgt, the "new" Kindle Fire is really just a BlackBerry PlayBook with some new software. The Fire was apparently designed opportunistically by the same company, Quanta, that did the PlayBook -- and it's essentially the same hardware.

Now, I have to say I like the form-factor of the PlayBook, but we know the device hasn't really resonated with consumers.

Do you really want to buy hand-me-down hardware that's already failed in the marketplace once?

See also: No one will care that Amazon's Kindle tablet is a RIM PlayBook

Reason 5: This may be a "placeholder" device

We're also seeing indications that the Fire is being brought to market so Amazon has a tablet play -- not because this is the best design or hardware they could field.

If you've looked at how the Kindle itself has evolved, the original Kindle is a substantially more primitive machine than the current e-ink Kindle.

Most likely, Amazon is working on a far better device than the one they're announcing today -- and when they ship that, you'll feel bad that you bought this one.

See also: Next Amazon Kindle Fire tablet could come in a few months. Should you really buy the first version?

Reason 6: A new Nook is coming out soon

We're also hearing rumors that there's a new, faster, better, cheaper color Nook coming out in the next month or so, and that Amazon is announcing the Fire as a way of pre-empting that announcement.

The thing is, the Nook color has been something of a pleasant surprise, and it's likely that the new Nook color would be a substantial improvement on an already fine product.

Once you get a look at the new Nook color, you may regret your purchase of the Kindle Fire.

See also: Amazon's Kindle Tablet: Aimed at iPad or Nook Color?

Reason 7: It's probably going to be too expensive

Update: The rumors were wrong on this one. The Kindle fire is $199. As I mentioned below, that was the price to meet. Color me impressed. At this price, the Kindle fire may well be a game-changer.

Tablets are expensive hardware to produce. The iPad, which starts at about $500, is at the top of the line for what consumers will tolerate. As we saw with the TouchPad fire sale, it's only when tablets get down to the hundred buck range that they begin to really excite consumers.

We're hearing the Kindle Fire will be $250 or $300, and -- at that price -- it's just not enough bang for the buck. Plus, you know Amazon will also hold a Fire sale, and the price will come down repeatedly over the coming months.

Honestly, anything over about $199 is going to be too expensive for what the Kindle Fire offers.

Reason 8: No Android App store

While you'll probably be able to get all the apps you want from Amazon's Appstore, you will not be able to get apps from the canonical Google Android App store that should be available to all Android users.

That also means you're going to be getting special or custom or possibly nerfed versions of apps, because they're specifically meant for the Fire and not for the wider Android ecosystem.

Reason 9: Amazon might not be ready for this

The Kindle was clearly an appliance, in that it did one thing and did it marginally well. Tablets, on the other hand, are actually general-purpose computers. Sure, companies like Apple have tried to lock the machines down to meet their corporate doctrines, but the device still needs to be able to run a lot of different applications.

Amazon has never had to deal with supporting hardware that runs software other than their own. This is completely new ground for them. Granted, they've managed to create an entire ecosystem out of the Kindle format, but what happens when they have to deal with far more general app and compatibility questions?

I don't think this is going to be a deal-breaker, but if you think you're going to need support, especially for specialized apps, you might want to buy a tablet from a company with more experience selling general-purpose devices.

Then there's the question of supporting services. We already discussed Netflix. But what if you want to run Google Apps? What if you want to run DropBox, and that conflicts with Amazon's own cloud services? What if you want to use a Microsoft cloud offering? What if you also want to access movies and music bought from Apple?

If you want to use a service that competes with Amazon, will you be locked out of doing so on the Kindle Fire?

Reason 10: It's not an iPad

Well, you knew this was going to have to be mentioned, didn't you? After all, the iPad is pounding all other tablets into the ground. If you want a unified ecosystem with vast numbers of apps, along with a little snob-appeal, you're probably going to want an iPad, not some hand-me-down retread of the failed BlackBerry PlayBook.

Reason 11: You're going to need cash for the iPhone 5

And there's your penultimate reason. We now believe the iPhone 5 will be announced next week, and you know you're going to want to rush out and buy one. If you spend your money on a Kindle Fire, you might not have enough left to buy the iPhone 5.

Nah, you're a gadget junkie. You'll just get both!

Reason 12: You're going to buy too much from Amazon

Our own James Kendrick has another reason you might not want the Kindle Fire. He contends it'll be just too easy to buy more stuff. He may have a point.

See also: The Amazon Tablet may bankrupt me

Final thoughts

I guess the bottom-line is that if you like the Amazon services and pretty much want to be tied down to just that suite of services, you're fine with the Fire.

Otherwise, you might want to wait and see how others like the device.

Topics: Amazon, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

    My guess is that you might not have been invited for today Amazon "party". Secondly saying that reading ebooks on a backlit device is better comparing to Kindle... well.. that is it.. you must be joking. And just for the record I do have iPad and kindle.
    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

      @unleashed13 I agree. You have to compare apples to apples, and Kindle is marginally better than Nook imho, and substantially better than Sony. Also, mentioning the ipad is fair, but mentioning the fact that the iphone5 comes out next week starts to reek of fanboyism.
      • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

        My favorite is finding it dreadful to be tied to amazon services...oh you mean like apple does???
    • Seriously. What the heck.

      @unleashed13 I don't see how any thinking person with working eyeballs could possibly think that reading on an iPad or other backlit screen is anywhere near superior to an e-ink surface, even if it's been placed in inverted "nighttime" mode. Really, the Kindle Fire (and nook Color, et al) shouldn't even be compared to e-ink devices as an ebook device, because it's not so much an ebook reader as it is a mini-tablet. And at $200 it's much more tempting as a comicbook storage device (plus fun toy) than the nook Color I'd been eyeing...

      (In case I sounded ambiguous, I wholly agree with you, unleashed.) ^^,
      • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

        @SenorAlejandro I will say the lowest backlight level on my Galaxy Tab 10.1 actually makes it great for reading in the bed (no good light setup in my room for the kindle) but I do use both for reading almost equally.
      • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

      @unleashed13 <br><br>Some people have a problem, others don't. I don't like eInk, and I never have a problem reading on my tablet.<br><br>And, to the article in general...<br><br>1. Who cares, if it works.<br>2. Who cares, if it works. <br>Android isn't SO perfect that it couldn't do with a reskin, like Sense and TouchWiz, which both get better reviews than plain Android. Also, Honeycomb has it's problems, and at least you won't have to deal with Android upgrade foo.<br>3. Why do you need Netflix when Amazon gives you the same thing?<br>You're not doing so well so far. A quarter of list amounts to...pfft.<br>4. Okay, finally you make a point, but it's a weak one after seeing the device. It looks good and initial reviews are good.<br>5. Point to you, but those are just rumors. <br>6. More rumors, but still, point to you.<br>7. NA<br>8. Why do I see this as more of a reason TO buy one? You miss out on 400 fart apps. OMG, how will we survive?<br>9. You could be right, but knowing Amazon if they aren't ready for it on November 15th, they will be by Christmas.<br>10. Another reason in favor of buying one.<br>11. The only way I would take an iPhone5 is if they gave one to me. Old news, WP7 ftw.<br>12. Got me there.<br><br>So, the count? Out of 11...2 rumors, 3 weak points, "you'll buy too much" and "you really want an iPad"<br><br>Pathetic.
      • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

        @AudeKhatru Netflix has more than Amazon, but I read where Amazon may buy Netflix since they split the streaming and DVD services. I think Amazon should do like Hulu+ for its current TV streaming instead of a pay-per-view plan.
    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire


      He forgot to mention reading the book outside - oh that's right, the iPad turns into a mirror outside - must be a feature not a bug ;-)
      • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire



        <a href="http://www.sunjewelry.com">Engagement Rings</a>
    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

      @unleashed13 For reading, Kindle blows away iPad. I have both.
    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

      @unleashed13 The Fire has a backlit screen, too.
  • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

    The Netflix lockout alone is a deal-killer for me.
    terry flores
    • Netflix?

      Netflix? With everyone dropping that bait and switch service,
      now is the time for Prime on the Fire!
    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

      @terry flores Well I don't think Netflix plays on any 2.1 devices. Amazon failed by accident, not on purpose.
  • First question is: What is it?

    Everyone seems to be automatically comparing the Fire to the iPad without knowing really what it is. I don't think that Amazon is saying "This is just like the iPad." From the rumors I've heard so far, it seems to me that they will be saying "This is the next generation of the Kindle." Huge difference.

    If it's meant to be a reader, then it should be optimized to be just that - a reader. It's not a video game system. It's not a sound system. It's not an iPad. It's A READER. To compare it with a general purpose device is like comparing a flat head screwdriver with a Swiss army knife and saying you shouldn't buy the screwdriver because it doesn't have a compass.

    Let's take a deep breath and wait to see what Amazon WANTS this device to do for us. Then we can say where it passes muster and where it fails.
    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

      @markpartin2000@... +1
  • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

    A very well written and well thought out article, although I do detect a medium degree of biased [I]against[/I] Amazon and the Kindle device by the author. (Perhaps he has been snubbed in the past at some media event?)
    I for one love the Kindle. I love to read and that's why I bought it. Not to watch movies or surf the internet or read and write email. The device was designed to be an ebook reader and in that capacity, it's second to none. I can go an entire month without having to charge the battery, due largely to the fact that the Kindle doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles that I don't need. If you want to watch Netflix on the go, go buy a PSP.
    The Amazon Fire may not be for everyone and I don't know yet if I'll buy one or not. But if I ever do decide to, it'll be my decision, not some author who is being overly critical of a device he has not even seen yet. My decision will be based on how well it functions as an ebook reader, nothing more.
    • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

      @Pops715 You make some fair comments, but since there seems to be some thinking that I've got something against Amazon, that's not true, at all. I very much respect Amazon and what the company has done. They are a truly amazing company.

      As for the press event, personally, i hate going to press events. I also hate New York City, so there's a twofer. I've done about a thousand of them over my career and if I could avoid ever going to another, for anything, I'll be happy.

      ZDNet has been invited, although I don't recall if anyone has actually agreed to go. I'm down in Florida and there's very little that'd get me to leave here in September to go to NYC. So, no, I've got no hurt feelings about Amazon at all.

      I think that if the new device is just an e-reader, than that should, in fact, be how you evaluate it. But if it's shipping as a general-purpose tablet, that's a change in the game for Amazon.

      Stay tuned.
      David Gewirtz
      • RE: 12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire

        @David Gewirtz

        Definately reads like you have a chip on your shoulder re Amazon