The Kindle Fire is threatening to set the world on fire. Thought a Kindle Fire FAQ would help.
What is the Kindle Fire?
Kindle Fire is a Kindle Tablet from Amazon. It is a 7″ Tablet that is optimized for watching movies, surfing the web, checking and sending email, playing games, listening to music, and reading.
Think of it as ‘an iPad for the rest of us’ or ‘an iPad near-equivalent for $199’.
Should I get a Kindle Fire?
It depends on your needs. It depends on whether you prefer to see actual reviews before buying.
Kindle Fire seems quite a good device (very good for what it’s meant to do) and $199 is a tempting price. That being said, it’s best to gather as much information as possible. Which this Kindle Fire FAQ will help you with.
Should I get a Kindle or a Kindle Fire?
If you would like a device primarily for reading – get a Kindle Touch for $99.
If you want a device that does lots of things – please read the next few questions.
Should I get a Kindle Fire or a Nook Color?
You should wait for B&N to announce a Nook Color 2. It should be sometime soon i.e. within the next 2-3 weeks.
If you like Amazon and the Kindle Fire seems compelling then you can go with it. However, even if you pre-order, my recommendation would be to keep an eye out for Kindle Fire vs Nook Color 2 comparisons once Nook Color 2 is announced.
Should I get an iPad 2 or a Kindle Fire?
Should you get a second generation Apple Tablet that is $499 and also doubles up to show people how well-off and original and unique you are?
Should you get a first generation Amazon Tablet that is $199 and also doubles up as an easy way for Amazon to let you buy all sorts of content from Amazon?
They are, for all practical purposes, completely different devices. Kindle Tablet isn’t going to give you the Status/Money Signalling Benefits that an iPad 2 will. Kindle Tablet is also a first generation device and has a markedly smaller range of Apps available.
If you can afford both – then an iPad 2 is probably a better choice. If the price of the iPad is making you think twice – then the Kindle Fire is probably a better choice.
Please note that both are closed and neither is going to satisfy you very much if you like to tinker around with your device.
Tell me more about the Kindle Fire – What are its selling points?
Kindle Fire is very impressive for a $199 Tablet –
- 7″ IPS color screen. This is a very good screen with 1024 by 600 pixel resolution and 169 ppi pixel density. It also has two finger multi-touch and an anti-reflective treatment.
- Lots and lots of content – lots of magazines, over 100K movies and TV shows, lots of Android Apps, over 1,000 children’s illustrated books, around 1 million books from the Kindle Store.
- Quite Light at 14.6 ounces (413 grams). Pretty compact – 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″ (190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm). Makes it easy to hold in one hand (though probably not for long) and easy to carry around.
- Very good value for money. Some analysts are even claiming that Amazon is losing $50 per Kindle Fire sold.
- A pretty powerful dual-core processor from Texas Instruments.
- The user interface, based on everything we have seen so far, is fast and simple and easy to use.
- Gorilla Glass display means more durability and less scrapes and scratches.
- Built-in Browser that will let you access Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. There is support for Flash too.
- Built-in Email App.
- WhisperSync (automatic syncing across devices) now extends from Kindle Fire to Kindles and TVs. The point at which you stopped reading a book or stopped watching a movie is synced across devices.
- Kindle Fire is better for Children’s Books and Textbooks than the Kindle. Mostly due to touch and color.
- Free Cloud Storage for Amazon content. Doesn’t really make up for the limited 8 GB space and lack of SD card.
- There’s a USB port. You can transfer files from your PC or Mac to the Kindle Fire. You can also charge is via USB.
- Support for Flash.
- You could stretch it and say a free month of Amazon Prime is a benefit.
Those are most of the main Kindle Fire selling points.
What drawbacks does the Kindle Fire have?
Let’s see –
- It’s not cutting-edge in terms of the hardware. For example: The multi-touch is only two finger multi-touch.
- There’s no 3G. That means you have to find a WiFi network to get web access.
- The battery life at 8 hours (7 hours of video playback) is a bit shorter than ideal.
- 8 GB memory will fill up very quickly. There is no SD Card slot which is a major pain. The free Cloud storage is nice but it’s only for content bought from Amazon.
- At 14.6 ounces the weight is not optimal. Note: It’s lighter than Nook Color but it’s still a bit heavier than ideal.
- There’s no camera so that if you wanted to miss the birth of your grandchild and watch it over your Tablet instead – you couldn’t.
- The design is a bit bland.
- It will not play DRM protected media bought from elsewhere. So ePub books from Sony, B&N, and Kobo won’t work and neither will music files that are DRM protected.
- No plug-ins in the browser.
- Netflix doesn’t have an app for it though Amazon has said Netflix is enthusiastic about adding an App.
- It’s a very customized version of Android (Gingerbread-based Honeycomb variant of 2.3 – which is even more confusing than Split Browser Amazon Silk). That means updates only when Amazon does updates.
- It does not have an eInk screen and will not be readable in sunlight. If the anti-glare layer is anything like the Nook Color’s anti-glare layer it won’t make much difference.
- It seems that there is no Text to Speech capability which is a definite negative.
- The USB port is the type that is used to connect with your PC and can’t be used with general USB devices. It will let you charge your Kindle Fire and will let you move files from PC to Fire and back. However, you can’t plug-in something like a camera or a USB keyboard.
Overall, it’s clear that Kindle Fire is not a $500 Android Tablet or a $500 iPad. It is, however, very impressive for $199.
What’s all this Split Browser/Amazon Silk nonsense Amazon keeps talking about?
Amazon has figured out a way to make browsing websites faster when using the browser on the Kindle Fire.
In a nutshell:
Instead of loading the parts of a website one by one (i.e. first the picture from one place, then text from another, and so forth) – Kindle Fire’s browser lets Amazon’s Cloud load the entire website to the Cloud and then gets the entire website in one go from the Cloud.
It also makes intelligent guesses of what page you might want next and preloads those pages. This makes surfing faster.
It’s like doing all your shopping at one supermarket (with a personal helper) in 30 minutes instead of visiting 10 different 7/11s and taking 2 hours to walk around and 1 hour for the actual shopping.
Is this Amazon Silk stuff a big deal?
We don’t really know. It promises to be significant (though probably not life-changing). We’ll know once the Kindle Fire actually arrives.
Your WiFi network speed is probably more important.
You know what is puzzling though – Why did Amazon go to all this trouble to talk up this feature when it could just call it ‘Faster Browsing’? Why is Amazon going to all this trouble to explain the technology underlying it when no one really cares?
Is this Amazon Silk thing a privacy nightmare?
Have no idea.
Depends on what Amazon does with the data and how it anonymizes data. It’s sort of impossible to anonymize perfectly so that’s another thing to keep in mind. Every single site you visit will be through Amazon’s Cloud and there might be sites you don’t want anyone to know you visit (for example – health stuff).
Kindle Fire FAQ – Common and Uncommon Questions
Can my Kindle Books be transferred over?
Yes. It’s a Tablet and it has a Kindle App (probably a version of Kindle for Android). You just connect to your account and download whatever books you like.
Note: You cannot transfer the actual files from your Kindle to Kindle Tablet – Kindle Books have to be downloaded separately for each separate device or app.
Does it have Apps? How Many? Does it have App X?
Yes, Kindle Tablet will have access to Amazon’s App store for Android.
There are ‘thousands of apps’ according to Amazon. Every day one paid app is made free.
At the Amazon Android App Store page you can see what apps are available and can also search to see if the app you want will be available.
Is Kindle Fire screen as easy on the eyes as eInk? Can it be read in sunlight?
No. No. It’s a LCD screen – very similar to a computer. The higher pixel density makes it prettier and IPS gives you a wider angle of view. However, it is not easy on the eyes like eInk. It also is hard/impossible to read in sunlight.
Can i use Kindle Fire as a phone? Does it have Skype?
Kindle Fire has no microphone so you can’t use it for Skype or as a Phone.
Does the Kindle Fire browser support Flash?
Will Kindle Fire support ePub? Will it support Nook Books or Nook Reading App or Google Ebooks App?
Is there an SD Card slot on the Kindle Fire? How do I transfer files over?
No, no SD Card. You can transfer files via USB.
Will Kindle Fire support PDF and Word?
Yes. You can read documents in PDF and Word. For editing there are apps like QuickOffice and Documents To Go in the Amazon Android App Store. The ones with better functionality are usually paid apps.
What formats does Kindle Fire support?
Documents and Books: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, DOC, DOCX.
Audio: Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV.
Movie: MP4, VP8.
Picture: JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP.
With Apps you might be able to extend to more formats.
Will Kindle Fire support Excel and Powerpoint?
Amazon’s Android App Store has apps like Quick Office that allow opening and editing Excel and Powerpoint.
Is the Kindle Fire screen back-lit?
Do I get a discount if I own a Kindle already?
Will Kindle Fire have Collections/Folders for Books?
Probably not. It will use Kindle for Android and that doesn’t support Collections yet.
It might get added by the time Kindle Fire ships.
Does Kindle Fire come with Bluetooth?
To the best of my knowledge – No. Amazon certainly doesn’t mention it anywhere.
Is there a contract for the Kindle Fire?
If you want Amazon Prime (free 2-day shipping on orders from Amazon, free streaming movies) then you have to pay $79 a year.
Is there a docking station for the Kindle Fire? Is there a physical keyboard add-on for the Kindle Fire?
Will there be an on-screen keyboard?
Does the Kindle Fire have GPS?
I have Questions about Amazon Silk (the browser on the Kindle Fire) – Where can I find answers?
At Amazon’s Amazon Silk Help Page.
Can we buy a Kindle Fire if we’re outside the US?
Not at the moment.
Does Kindle Fire have HDMI capability?
No. It does not have HDMI out.
Can we plug in USB devices like USB Keyboards into Kindle Fire?
No. The micro-USB B type connector can only be used for moving files from your PC or Mac and for charging from your PC or Mac.
This means you can’t plug in a flash drive (USB external drive) or something similar.
Note: There is one thread claiming that USB host support is present on Kindle Fire. However, I seriously doubt it. Will update this section if this feature is confirmed/denied officially.
Will Kindle Fire be available at brick and mortar stores?
No idea. Given that Amazon sells Kindles at Staples, Best Buy, and lots of other stores it’s quite possible. On the other hand, if Kindle Tablet sells out then Amazon won’t be able to sell it through Brick and Mortar stores.
Does Kindle Fire have anti-virus protection?
No. If you only buy apps from the Amazon App Store for Android then you should be fine.
If you start side-loading apps or hacking the Kindle Fire then you might introduce an app that has a hidden virus. You might also introduce something problematic if you’re downloading files from the Internet and transferring them over.
You can use an app called Lookout to scan apps. However, that’s outside my area of expertise.
More Kindle Fire Questions?
Leave a comment and if possible, will add an answer.
Thanks to everyone at the official Kindle Forums for all the questions and answers.
You can find the Kindle Fire at Amazon for $199. It ships on November 15th, 2011.