Kindle Fire HD is very impressive, 10 reasons to hold off on buying it just yet

Disclaimer: All this is written without actually using Kindle Fire HD and thus isn’t really worth anything. Please keep that in mind.

Amazon did five things with Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ I really didn’t expect:

  1. Amazon made a device that can go head to head against the iPad 3. It might not win (it’s highly unlikely) but it has a fighting chance. Detach whatever allegiance you might have and whatever you might know and feel about the respective companies. Detach the price too. Now take a look at both devices – look at them as a new user (unprejudiced by strong tech beliefs) would look at them. It’s not an easy choice. Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ almost match iPad 3 on the screen and would be easier to handle. So, for a new user, it’s not an easy choice.
  2. Amazon made a better Tablet than Google Nexus 7 (of course, your opinion might differ). I would have put the chances of that happening at 0%.
  3. It showed it has courage. It’s one thing to skirt around the iPad or to clone it. To go up against it and aim to make ‘The Best Tablet … Period’ – that is commendable.
  4. It brought the new devices to market at a more ridiculous Value to Price ratio than even Google Nexus 7.
  5. Amazon made Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ available internationally, at launch.

It was very disappointing to see Amazon refuse to go up against iPad in 2010 and 2011. Kudos to B&N for showing there is a non iPad market. Thankfully that forced Amazon into the Tablet Market. And now we have this – Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE taking a shot at the title of ‘The Best Tablet’.

How do we look at the Kindle Fire HD without biases?

All the tech coverage is so unfamiliar. Everyone is looking at Kindle Fire HD through different colored glasses. Varying expectations, varying belief systems. Varying concepts of what a Tablet should be, what it could be, and what it definitely should not be.

It’s very difficult.

The one very interesting thing is that the biggest weakness (in terms of media coverage) for Amazon was that the press (who are mostly wedded to and weaned on Apple products) would ALWAYS compare the $499 iPad with $199 Kindle Fire and NEVER mention price. That weakness is gone. Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE can go up against iPad 3.

10 Reasons to hold off on buying Kindle Fire HD

Although I’ve bought both the 7″ and 8.9″ models, it’s for purposes of writing Kindle Fire HD reviews. If I had to buy one for personal use I’d hold off for a few reasons -

  1. iPad Mini and Nook Tablet 2 aren’t revealed yet. iPad Mini is rumored to be announced in October and Nook Tablet 2 is rumored to be revealed by end of September.
  2. Ads. Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ havs Ads. As of now there is no option to remove Ads. If the option is added in future it will most certainly cost $20 to $35. It’s strange that Ads weren’t mentioned throughout the Kindle Fire HD announcement conference. Please Note: Amazon wants miniAmazon.com stores – so it might NEVER give the option to remove these Ads.
  3. No one has used a Kindle Fire HD yet. Everyone writing how magnificent it is – Is basing it on 5 to 10 minutes spent at a news conference. We don’t know what the hardware and software will be like when USED IN REAL LIFE.
  4. The amount of hype around the launch is incredible. Amazon has done a masterful job of building up hype and Steve Bezos (Freudian Slip) showed Microsoft/Nokia/Motorola/Google how to actually launch a device. Even Apple people were saying it was magnificent. Hype = Making a very good product seem great.
  5. There is no killer feature. Let me repeat that – After getting off the Kindle Fire HD high it struck me as astonishing that there wasn’t any one feature I could point to as – This is THE ABSOLUTE KILLER FEATURE for which you should get Kindle Fire HD. Of course, the same applies to every Tablet. Reality is – No one yet knows of what Tablets are BEST for. We attribute qualities to them that Phones and Laptops and PCs possess in far greater amounts.
  6. There are lots of information holes. $50 for the first year for LTE. What after that? First 250 MB for free. What after that? Ads. That might or might not be removable. Any other surprises? How about Bing being the default search engine on all Kindle Fire HDs. Google hasn’t fully registered the left-handed slap and Mr. Bezos already has the right hand rushing in.
  7. All those features you wanted in the Kindle Fire – where are they? Are they included? Volume Buttons? Page Turn Buttons? Power key on the Top? Folders? No More Carousel Torture.
  8. Availability Date for Kindle Fire HD 8.9″. It’s November 20th. Delivery is November 28th. That’s a long, long time away. Nearly 3 months. A lot might change by then. There might be an updated iPad for all we know.
  9. Faster WiFi and Faster Processor are UNPROVEN. Remember Silk Browser – More like Sandpaper Browser. So the Dual Everything MIMO JIMI JIMO WiFi has to first prove itself as 41% faster. Same for the processor+graphic processor which is supposed to be faster than Tegra 3 (whatever that means). I wish companies would use language that made sense – Our Processor is faster than the Road Runner and our WiFi Card is quicker than Speedy Gonzales.
  10. No SD Card Slot. You can’t expand your memory. Cloud Storage is a myth because you need WiFi or 3G. If you use 3G then you have to pay for all that ‘Free in the Cloud’ storage in terms of bandwidth. WiFi isn’t available everywhere. So you have a device that you can watch movies on in HD. It’s 16 GB of memory. That’s enough for 5 to 8 HD movies. That’s it.
  11. Bonus: Still No Text To Speech + Accessibility Concerns. Kindle Fire doesn’t have Text to Speech and Kindle Paperwhite has no Audio. Is Amazon moving away from the feature completely? It certainly seems so. It does have 100,000 Audible titles to sell. So Text to Speech is probably NEVER coming to Kindle Fire.

I’m leaving out all the articles of faith like DRM and ePub and other things that normal users neither understand nor care about (is the bootloader locked down? tighter than your shoelaces?).

Kindle Fire HD SEEMS TO BE a super, super Tablet. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ SEEMS TO BE a worthy challenger to the iPad 3.

SEEMS TO BE.

So we have a paradox -

  1. Kindle Fire HD looks absolutely amazing and seems to be great value for money.
  2. We don’t know enough of the details and the details that are coming out (Ads) are awkward surprises. We don’t have enough data yet. In fact we have ZERO user usage data.

My categorization would be – Kindle Fire HD seems like a very good buy PROVIDED the promised features deliver in real life usage. That we’ll know only after Kindle Fire HD ships. If you’ve ordered already, you’ll have 28 days to return Kindle Fire HD if it doesn’t match your expectations. If you haven’t ordered yet, it’s best to wait and see what REAL users like you and me think of it.

6 Responses

  1. >>>As of now there is no option to remove Ads. If the option is added in future it will most certainly cost $20 to $35.

    It’s $30 to remove wee monochrome ads from eInk Kindles. You’re fooling yourself if you think it’ll be cheaper than that! I really expect about $100 more to remove the ads. Because they are larger and in color and Bezos will probably make more from them.

    The killer feature for some people will be to rip Open webOS on it (said possibility is six months away, alas…).

    And after reading your post, it just hit me: what’s the physical connector on it? Is there a USB port? I just checked — yes, a USB 2.0 port. No 3.0. Hm.

  2. When you are doing a “hands on” review, will you please evaluate the ability to use Google Calendar on the KF HD. Also any problems using the keyboard on the 7″ KF HD.
    Thanks

  3. As usual, you make some excellent points. Here’s my take using your numbers:

    1. The iPad mini is immaterial, at least as a value proposition,unless one is a Cupertino fanboy. You will pay more for inferior technology: 1024×768 screen, slower processor, etc. If you want Apple and can’t swing $399 for a big boy iPad, the Mini is for you.

    You and I simply disagree regarding the Nook’s relevance. I see it as a niche product. I don’t care how good the technology is, B&N’s ecosystem is so limited that it’s a non-starter for me. There is nothing B&N can sell me that I can’t get for less, especially with the demise of the Agency 6 model, at Amazon or Google and a great deal I can’t get at B&N, period.

    I don’t see the partnership with Microsoft changing anything because Microsoft isn’t going to undercut the market for its own tablets to help B&N. Will there be a solid market for the Nook tablet? Sure. But if you are worried about the Fire’s not being able to access Google Play — the most-cited argument against buying it — why would you opt for an even more restricted Nook?

    2. I’m used to the ads. They are unobtrusive. I hardly notice them. My Google apps are ad-supported unless you pay extra, which most people, like me, don’t. Not a big deal for most people.

    3 & 4. Good points.

    5. As you said, no tablet really has a “killer feature.” They are media consumption devices. The Surface may be the first one that actually can be sold on the basis on productivity.

    7. Who is “you” in that sentence. If people bought the original Fire despite the lack of volume buttons and the presence of “carousel torture” then, perhaps, most people don’t care. And if they do, waiting won’t change anything. With respect, this is a list of things you (?) don’t like, not a list of reasons to wait.

    8. The wait is for the 8.9″ Fire HD. A lot can happen, but only a few things are likely to happen: the iPad mini, the new Nook Tablet, and more to the point, the Surface. I’ve already noted why I think that the first two are immaterial but the Surface is a real factor. If Microsoft is aggressive in its pricing, then the Surface is a viable, if not compelling, alternative.

    6 and 8. Agreed.

    10. At this point, only B&N among the larger players provides for SD storage. Maybe they will continue to do so but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t. Tablet makers want to lock you into their ecosystem, hence the lack of SD storage and dependence on the Cloud. Is this good?: Not really. But it’s the way things are. You can choose to buy a tablet or e-reader knowing this or not buy one. My point is that the whole tablet thing is a series of trade-offs. The more developed the ecosystem, the less likely the manufacturer will provide options for local storage.

    Calling Cloud storage a “myth” is a kind of like calling “Kindle Review” a “myth.” Neither is “real” without internet access.

    11. Agreed. While e-reader audio and text-to-speech are features I never use, I don’t get Amazon’s game here. Actually, I do: they want me to buy both a Paperwhite and a Fire HD.

    • Very good points.

      I would disagree with you on the Cloud Storage part. It’s one of the biggest fallacies i.e. that moving all your data to the cloud is better. Companies want to do it because –

      1) They get lock-in.
      2) It leads to devices becoming less important and the network/service becoming more important. Which means they can charge.
      3) They can do recurring charges – which is the most ridiculous thing ever. Instead of buying a $100 hard drive you pay $10 per month for ‘Cloud’ storage. Even over a year it’s a losing deal.

      Cloud storage is just trying to get people’s laziness to lead them into spending more and getting more locked in.

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