Kindle Fire HD Features Review

Kindle Fire HD comes with a lot of different features. I’ve wanted to do a Kindle Fire HD Features Review that focuses on what things you can do with the device. In particular, what things each feature allows you to do, and how well. As opposed to a Kindle Fire HD Review that talks about technical specifications and hard-to-understand things.

Well, here’s my Kindle Fire HD Features Review.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – HD Screen

The Kindle Fire HD Screen is a big advantage over iPad Mini and Nexus 7. Kindle Fire HD screen is roughly equivalent to the Nook HD+ screen. There are some Samsung Tablets with better screens, but not in this price range (to the best of my knowledge).

The Kindle Fire HD has a 1200 by 800 HD display that is 7″ in size. It has In-Plane Switching technology to ensure good viewing from any viewing angle. It supports 720p HD video.

It also comes with a polarizing filter and anti-glare technology. Note: The anti-glare doesn’t work with sunlight. LCD screens in general are not suited to reading in sunlight. Amazon makes  a big deal of this but I don’t see how this is noticeably better than any other Tablet screen in sunlight. All LCD Tablet screens have glare.

The screen is also a 10 point capacitive touch screen. So, if you do find any app or webpage that requires using more than 2-3 fingers at a time, the 10 point touch screen would be handy.

What things does the 1200 by 800 HD display help with -

  1. Watching Movies. Movies are very sharp and crisp.
  2. Watching Photos. Photos look amazing on the Kindle Fire HD screen.
  3. Reading. A very high screen resolution means text can be very sharp.
  4. Reading Magazines. The Kindle Fire HD screen makes for great photos and magazines look great.
  5. Playing Games. Lots of games now come in HD versions. The Kindle Fire HD screen suits these HD versions perfectly.
  6. Pretty much anything that requires a high-definition screen. Nearly anything you do on a Tablet will require one or both of sharp, crisp graphics and sharp, crisp text. Since Kindle Fire HD screen ensures both, it greatly enhances your overall experience.

There is also a downside – Apps and Games and Movies and Photos that are of lower graphic/image quality look terrible.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Kindle Fire HD Dolby Speakers

Amazon put a lot of focus on making great speakers for the Kindle Fire HD. It succeeded. Kindle Fire HD speakers are better than all other Tablet speakers (7″ and 10″). They are even better than many laptop speakers.

Kindle Fire HD has custom Dolby Digital Audio. This automatically adapts to whatever you are doing, and optimizes sound accordingly. It also adapts when headphones are on.

Kindle Fire HD has dual driver stereo speakers on both sides of the Kindle Fire HD display. This creates a wider sound-field and really delivers great sound.

The Kindle Fire HD product page has additional detail.

Kindle Fire HD Speakers are best in class, and they help with -

  1. Movies. A much better experience as the sound is great. Combined with the excellent screen, this makes Kindle Fire HD the best 7″ Tablet to watch movies on.
  2. Music. Kindle Fire HD is the best tablet for listening to music. The sound is good and strong even without headphones.
  3. Games. Some games have excellent music and game sounds. Having a good pair of stereo speakers really enhances the experience.
  4. Audiobooks. Kindle Fire HD is the best tablet for audiobooks. The Speakers are great. Since Amazon owns Audible you get easy access to a wide range of audiobooks. You also get integration features like Immersion Reading. Finally, you get special offers on audiobooks when you buy the eBook from the Kindle store.
  5. TV Shows. As with movies, Kindle Fire HD is the best 7″ Tablet to watch TV.

The screen and the speakers are two big Kindle Fire HD strengths. They affect most of the things you’ll do with a tablet (especially the screen), so it’s a smart move by Amazon to invest heavily in them.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Ease of Use

Kindle Fire HD is much simpler to use than Tablets that come with stock Android (the original, untouched Android OS). It, however, isn’t as simple as iPad.

Here are some things that make Kindle Fire HD easy to use -

  1. It’s simple and intuitive. Amazon makes everything simple and straightforward.
  2. All the complexity of Android is hidden. If too much technology overwhelms you, then Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD is great. All the features are easy to access. Most of the complexity and settings are hidden away (they are available, for the most part – just hidden away to avoid overwhelming you).
  3. There is no setup required. Kindle Fire HD comes pre-registered to your Amazon account. Definitely a good thing since lots of new Tablet buyers run into problems at the registration stage.
  4. Intuitive Interface. Well, the interface is definitely easy to use. One downside is that Amazon focuses too much on ‘Recommendations to buy other things from Amazon’.
  5. 1-Click Shopping. Surprise, Surprise. If you want to buy stuff from Amazon, it’s very easy. To be fair, a lot of retailers make it hard and/or inconvenient for you to buy things you want to buy. Amazon doesn’t.
  6. Read-To-Me. For books where Publishers haven’t turned off the feature, you can have Kindle Fire HD read you books (only for English language books).
  7. Recommendations. This is actually a negative as they are almost like Ads.
  8. Bluetooth support. You can connect wireless accessories like stereo headphones and speakers and keyboards. At the same time, there are not many Kindle Fire optimized Bluetooth accessories.
  9. HDMI out. There’s a built in HDMI port that lets you view videos and photos on your TV.

Overall, Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD both do a good job of this (hiding Android’s complexity). If you can afford it, then iPad Mini is the simplest and most intuitive device to use. If not, then Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD are the next choices.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Fast WiFi

Amazon claims that Kindle Fire HD’s WiFi has two advantages -

  1. It has dual WiFi antennas that come with MIMO technology (multiple in, multiple out). This is supposed to make Kindle Fire HD WiFi 33% faster than iPad Mini WiFi, and 65% faster than Google’s 7″ Tablet. I haven’t noticed any great difference – perhaps you have to measure it very precisely to notice the difference. However, the WiFi on Kindle Fire HD is good.
  2. It supports both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz. This is a real advantage. Often you’ll want to switch to 5 Ghz because you have a lot of devices that support both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz and 5 Ghz is less congested. However, your tablet will force you to stay with 2.4 Ghz. With Kindle Fire this isn’t an issue.

On the speed aspect, I don’t notice any big difference between Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, and Google Nexus 7. However, support for 5 Ghz makes the Kindle Fire HD the winner in WiFi.

How does supposedly faster, dual antenna, dual band WiFi help?

  1. It helps a lot in terms of convenience since you can use the 5 Ghz band.
  2. It helps with web surfing. For most webpages you won’t be able to tell the difference. However, for bandwidth heavy sites like YouTube it’ll make a big difference IF Kindle Fire HD WiFi really is 33% better than iPad Mini (have no way of confirming this).
  3. It helps when streaming movies. Movies, when streamed, take up a lot of bandwidth. So the Kindle Fire HD WiFi should, in theory, make Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, etc. much better. Note: In reality the limitation will probably be your bandwidth speed. Also, I don’t find any discernible difference between Nook Color, Kindle Fire HD, Nook Tablet, Nexus 7, etc. So the supposed 65% improvement over Nexus 7 might be academic.
  4. It helps when streaming music or Internet Radio. Since music and radio take a lot less bandwidth, the improvement here will probably not be noticeable.
  5. Where the WiFi will shine is if you are watching HD content on a very fast connection. In that case, the Tablet’s WiFi speed will be a limiting factor and Kindle Fire HD’s supposedly faster dual antennas might have the edge.

To be quite frank, I don’t know whether this is more of a marketing thing or a real Kindle Fire HD advantage. I haven’t seen any clear improvement. With the screen and the speakers the difference is easy to see/hear. With the WiFi, I don’t notice anything that seems better over other Tablets.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – 1.2 Ghz Dual processor with Power VR 3D Graphics Core

Kindle Fire HD boasts the following features to improve performance -

  1. Fast Dual-core Processor.
  2. Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core.
  3. Tuned graphics pipeline and touch-handling software for faster responsiveness.

The dual-core processor is a 1.2GHz OMAP4460 processor. It isn’t really better than the other 7″ Tablets. Nook HD has a Texas Instruments 1.3 GHz dual-core processor with 1GB RAM (courtesy Wikipedia). Nexus 7 has a Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core chip and 1 GB of memory. The Tegra 3 is 1.2 GHz.

Kindle Fire HD’s processor is not as fast as the Nexus 7, and is a bit slower than Nook HD’s.

Not sure about the Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core. Nexus 7 is absolutely amazing on games, even resource intensive 3D games. So Nexus 7 has the best Processor for games.  For movies and TV and for general speed there wasn’t much difference. All tablets are good. Sometimes Nook HD can be a bit sluggish. However, Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 are both fast nearly all the time.

Note: For general UI smoothness the iPad is best.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Content Ecosystem

One of the big advantages of the Kindle Fire HD is that it comes with a rich content ecosystem -

  1. 1.2 million books. Amazon does have more books and cheaper prices than any other book store. Out of the 1.2 million books, 180,000 are Kindle Store exclusives. Note: Most of the exclusives are Indie Author titles. Keep in mind that there are not very many ‘exclusives’ that are new bestselling books.
  2. Public Domain Free Kindle Books. This is the same as any other store.
  3. Kindle Owners Lending Library (you get it free if you are a Prime Member) lets you loan out any out of 270,000 titles. However, most of these are indie author titles. There are just a bit over 100 NY Times bestsellers (past and present) included and the Harry Potter titles.
  4. 100,000 Audiobooks. Amazon owns Audible and that allows it to integrate audiobooks better, and also to make audiobook use smoother.
  5. 400 Magazines.
  6. 120,000 Movies and TV Shows for Rent and Purchase.
  7. 35,000 Movies and TV Shows for Free if you get an Amazon Prime Membership.
  8. 20 million songs.
  9. 50,000 to 60,000 Apps for Kindle Fire HD. This is quite a bit behind Apple and Google and Nook HD (700,000 or more apps for each).

Please Note: This is US centric. Outside the US Amazon’s content availability drops dramatically (except in books). If you are outside the US, Apple iPad is your best choice.

Inside the US, Amazon offers a really, really strong content ecosystem. It’s not as good as Apple. However, it’s better than everyone else. Note: Microsoft has a very strong ecosystem too. However, it doesn’t yet have any 7″ Windows 8 Tablets.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Exchange Email, Calendar, and Contacts

It’s interesting that Amazon would mention this as a strength/feature. Its support for all of these features is mediocre at best.

  1. The Facebook App is not very good. There is Facebook integration in various places but it’s not stellar.
  2. The Email App is mediocre.
  3. Twitter support isn’t very good either.

Some of this is a function of Amazon’s App Store still being small. This means that it doesn’t get priority with either the companies (Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo) or with developers.

Some of this is a function of Kindle Fire HD not having a rear facing camera and it being difficult to access the front facing camera. There’s no built-in Camera App which is a royal headache.

iPad is much, much better. Nexus 7 is also better.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Front-facing HD Camera

Amazon made a few mistakes with the Kindle Fire HD’s camera -

  1. There’s only a front-facing camera. There’s no rear-facing camera.
  2. It only comes up within Skype and in a few apps like Facebook. There’s no dedicated Camera App.
  3. The quality and resolution aren’t very high.

The net result is that Kindle Fire HD is not good at all if you’re looking for a Tablet that will let you take photos quickly and easily.

Kindle Fire HD Features for Families & Kids Review – Kindle FreeTime and Kindle FreeTime Unlimited

Two very interesting Kindle Fire HD features are Kindle FreeTime and Kindle FreeTime Unlimited -

  1. Kindle FreeTime – Lets parents set limits on how long kids can use Tablets. Lets Parents set limits on how long individual features (movies, reading, etc.) can be used. You can also set what titles are available to Kids (Note: Haven’t confirmed this last part).
  2. Kindle FreeTime Unlimited – This is a subscription service for kids. For a monthly fee, you get unlimited access to thousands of books, games, educational apps, movies and TV shows selected for kids aged 3 to 8. It starts at just $4.99 a month. For Amazon Prime members, it starts at just $2.99 a month.
  3. Note: An additional family friendly feature is the sturdy build of the Kindle Fire HD and the strong Gorilla Glass screen. While the sturdiness of the build takes away from the looks, it certainly makes for a stable tablet. The Gorilla Glass display is very strong too and much more resistant than normal glass to breaking.

The combination of these three things make Kindle Fire HD really good for kids. Nook HD has a Profiles feature and also allows choosing what content is available (based on age of your kid(s)). However, Kindle Fire HD’s Kindle FreeTime Unlimited makes it, arguably, the best choice for Kids.

An argument in favor of the iPad would be that the number of Kids Apps available on iPad is much larger, and that the quality is higher. It is also much more intuitive for kids to use. Perhaps iPad might be a better choice for your kids if you have a larger budget.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Amazon Prime, Kindle Prime Instant Video, Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

When you buy Kindle Fire HD, you get a free month of Amazon Prime. You can continue Amazon Prime for $79 a year. Please Note: This is a SEPARATE and ADDITIONAL cost. This isn’t included in the price of the Kindle Fire HD.

With Amazon Prime you get -

  1. Free 2-Day Shipping on lots and lots of items sold at Amazon. A really, really useful feature if you order from Amazon.com regularly (or might start doing that).
  2. Kindle Prime Instant Video. This is free streaming service that offers 35,000 Movies and TV Shows. The range isn’t as wide as Netflix. However, it’s decent.
  3. Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. You get one free book loan a month out of 260,000 included titles. Most of the books are from indie authors and smaller Publishers. A few big ones like the Harry Potter books are included.
  4. Lower Price of $2.99 per month upwards for Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.
  5. Perhaps other benefits I’m not aware of.

Overall, Amazon Prime at $79 is very useful if you already use Amazon. The Kindle Prime Instant Video and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library aren’t worth it if you aren’t going to use the free 2-day shipping.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Buy Once, Read Anywhere

Amazon actually does a very good job of allowing you to use your content on other devices.

Amazon claims – books, videos, apps, audiobooks, games, and music that you buy for your Kindle Fire HD can also be enjoyed on Amazon apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, game consoles, TVs and more.

Books and Videos and Audiobooks and Music can definitely be accessed on other devices via Amazon Apps.

These various Amazon Apps let you access books and videos and music and audiobooks across your devices. For books you also get your place in the book synced. It also adds a level of security – if Amazon stops making Kindle Fire HD (who knows), or if you lose your Kindle Fire HD, then you can just use another device to access your content.

Not sure about apps and games. Those are only accessible on Kindle Fire HD and on Android Devices that allow installation of the Amazon Android App Store.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Amazon specific Services like Syncing

Amazon has added some nifty services to Kindle Fire HD. These include -

  1. X-Ray for Movies and TV. You can pause any scene and instantly see which actors are currently on the screen, jump to other movies in which they star, and explore.
  2. X-Ray for Books. You can tap any page to get more details on the book and characters from sources such as Shelfari and Wikipedia. Since Amazon just bought GoodReads, the data from Goodreads should also eventually find its way to the X-Ray for Books feature.
  3. Immersion Reading. Synchronize Kindle book text with the companion Audible Audiobooks. Almost 15,000 such ebook+audiobook pairs are available.
  4. WhisperSync for Voice. Switch seamlessly between listening to the Audible Audiobook and reading the Kindle ebook version.
  5. WhisperSync for Movies. Sync your place in a movie across your Kindle Fire HD, your TV, your iPad, and more.
  6. WhisperSync for Books. Sync your place in a book across your Kindle Fire HD, your eInk Kindle, and various Kindle Reading Apps.
  7. WhisperSync for Games. Saves your game progress in the Amazon cloud. You’ll not lose an unlocked level or saved game – even if you delete the game.

These are very useful features. They save you time and bother. Amazon started the trend with WhisperSync for Books. It’s great to see it has continued it with WhisperSync for Movies and WhisperSync for Games.

The X-Ray feature for Books and Movies also comes in handy sometimes. With its acquisition of GoodReads, Amazon has added a valuable new data source. That should make the X-Ray for Books feature even better.

So, overall, these little features definitely add to the value proposition of the Kindle Fire HD. Note: Various Tablets have their own little value-add features. Amazon perhaps has the best set of add-on features.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Audiobooks from Audible

Kindle Fire HD lets you access over 100,000 audiobooks from Audible.com. Amazon owns Audible.com and this allows it to do several things other Tablet makers can’t do very easily -

  1. Offer the Audiobook version of a Kindle Book you’re buying for a discount price.
  2. The Immersion Reading feature (available for 15,000 titles). Kindle Fire HD will play an audiobook and turn the pages of the corresponding Kindle Book in sync.
  3. The WhisperSync for Voice feature. Kindle Fire HD will let you switch seamlessly between reading the Kindle Book and listening to the Audible Audiobook.

Overall, this makes the Kindle Fire HD the #1 choice if listening to Audiobooks is one of the Top 4 things you’ll do on a Tablet.

Kindle Fire HD Features Review – Closing Thoughts

Kindle Fire HD is a very good tablet. While the iPad is still the clear leader, there’s a good argument to be made that, for non tech-savvy users, Kindle Fire HD is the #2 choice. Given that iPad is $499 and iPad Mini is $329, the Kindle Fire HD at $199 is very attractive for prospective Tablet owners.

Google’s Nexus 7 and B&N’s Nook HD are better choices if you want the 700,000 Apps of the Google Play Store. The major drawback of both is that they don’t have as wide a content ecosystem in the US. Nook HD software is still unpolished and the Google Play Store integration in Nook HD is a work in progress. Nexus 7 is neither intuitive nor user-friendly for non tech-savvy users.

That leaves Kindle Fire HD as a strong #2 Tablet choice for non-technical users, in my opinion. If you can’t afford the iPad Mini, and don’t want to wait 2-4 months to see what the next generation Tablets and Windows 8 Tablets are like, then buying Kindle Fire HD is a good choice.

Is Kindle Fire HD killing Nook HD? Is it iPad Mini? Nook HD at $125 now

B&N is now offering Nook HD for $125 and Nook HD+ for $145. These are coupons mailed to B&N Members.

Have Kindle Fire HD and iPad Mini hurt Nook HD so badly that, even after adding Google Play Store, B&N still has to sell Nook HD for $125?

For reference, $125 is about the same as the Kindle Paperwhite with Ads ($119).

Is Nook HD really just $125?

Yes, B&N is sending out coupons to B&N members advertising Nook HD at $125 – that’s $74 less than the launch price of $199. It is also offering Nook HD+ at $145 – a massive $124 less than the launch price of $269.

For reference -

  1. Kindle Fire HD is $199.
  2. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is $269.
  3. iPad Mini is $329.

Additionally, B&N has already added Google Play Store to the Nook HD and Nook HD+.

It’s pretty much a Fire Sale now.

Why has B&N been forced to drop Nook HD to $125?

Nook Color and Nook Tablet, the two predecessors to Nook HD, were sold for $199 for the first few years after release. The price never even approached $125.

Nook HD is at $125 just 7 months after release.

B&N has already added Google Play Store to Nook HD. That should have led to a boost in sales. However, this latest move i.e. dropping the prices of the Nook HD and Nook HD+ massively, suggests that B&N is either not selling many Nook HDs OR that B&N sees some reason to do a massive stock clear-out.

Let’s consider the possibilities -

  1. Nook HD might not be selling well DESPITE adding Google Play Store.
  2. B&N might have found out that a very good, very competitive iPad Mini 2 or Nexus 7 2 is arriving soon. It might have decided to clear out stock now, while it still can.
  3. B&N might have terrible marketing and awareness. Most people might not even realize this is a good option.
  4. B&N might have found out that Amazon has something really massive lined up for Kindle Fire HD 2. It might have no option other than to clear stock quickly before Kindle Fire HD 2 arrives.
  5. Nook HD might have sold really, really badly during the last holiday season. Which would mean that even if adding Google Play Store increased sales, B&N still has a lot of stock left. This would force it to keep driving prices lower to try and clear Nook HD stock.
  6. B&N might be switching to Windows 8 Tablets. It might be clearing out stock of Nook HD and Nook HD+ to prepare for this change. Google Play Store might be a parting gift to existing Nook HD and Nook HD+ owners.
  7. B&N might have seen that people buying the Nook HD with Google Play Store are STILL buying books and movies from B&N and still earning B&N money. It might have decided to go all-out in gathering up recurring customers.
  8. Perhaps B&N was overly optimistic and/or didn’t plan for an iPad Mini when ordering Nook HD and Nook HD+. Perhaps it has enough units left that it needs to sell a few million of them.

It would be really interesting to get some insight into exactly why B&N has dropped the Nook HD to a ridiculously low $125.

Why is Nook HD facing such hard times?

Perhaps I’m missing something. I don’t understand how we have -

  1. $199 Kindle Fire HD expanding to 170 countries.
  2. Nook HD at $125, which is a comparable Tablet, doing terribly. How could it be doing terribly even after adding Google Play Store?

Is Amazon selling a lot of Kindle Fire HDs? Why is it not running any sales? Did Amazon do a much better job of anticipating sales correctly?

Did B&N make some fundamental mistakes that stalled sales?

It’s not clear why two comparable devices would diverge so wildly in success.

It would be interesting to know what you think the reasons are for Nook HD being on a fire sale while Kindle Fire HD seems to be on fire.

What impact will a $125 Nook HD have on Kindle Fire HD?

It’s hard to say.

Obviously, addition of the Google Play Store doesn’t seem to have done enough for Nook HD sales.

What impact did Nook HD adding Google Play Store have on Kindle Fire HD Sales? It must have slowed sales at least a bit.

What impact will the new $125 Nook HD have on Kindle Fire HD sales? Surely, a $125 Nook HD with Google Play seems more attractive than a $199 Kindle Fire HD with no Google Play?

Are we missing something here? Why is B&N dropping prices so massively?

Kindle Fire HD Pain Points

Kindle Fire HD has, by all indications, been selling well. Kindle Fire is, according to various surveys, the #3 best-selling tablet after Apple and Samsung. Kindle Fire was #2 in the US in the 2012 Holiday Season.

It’s worth taking a look at Kindle Fire HD Pain Points. It’ll give us a better idea of areas in which Amazon can improve Kindle Fire HD and mount a stronger challenge in the Tablet Wars.

Please Also See: Kindle Fire HD Issues & Workarounds post that covers Top 10 Kindle Fire HD Issues.

Kindle Fire HD Pain Points – Top 9 Kindle Fire HD Pain Points

Please check out the Kindle Fire HD Issues & Workarounds post for solutions to most of the below issues. In this post we’re just covering a quick suggestion or workaround.

  1. Flash. This might be the #1 Pain Point. The Situation: Adobe has ended support for Flash on Android devices. This means that you have to search around and find a browser that supports Flash. You can also side load Flash from elsewhere. Solution: Amazon should include Flash with the Silk browser and should work with Adobe to extend Flash Support or create an End of Life Release that keeps working on Android. Dangers: Flash security vulnerabilities. Workaround: See forum thread for Flash on Kindle Fire HD. Also see the section below for Amazon’s solid move to support Flash on Kindle Fire HD.
  2. Books from other eBook Stores. This comes up surprisingly often. Lots of users want to read books from other stores. Solution: Sideload an Android App for B&N or Kobo to your Kindle Fire. This is mostly a case of users not knowing this is already possible.
  3. Computer (PC or Mac) doesn’t recognize the Kindle Fire. Another very common issue. Solution: For Windows you have to make sure you have drivers that support MTP (the new file protocol Android 4.0 uses; Kindle Fire is built on Android 4.0). You can do this by updating Media Player to the latest version. For Mac you can get a file transfer utility. Mac users need to install a free app, Android File Transfer, to complete a USB transfer. Visit android.com/filetransfer and follow the onscreen instructions (Thanks to Kindle Forums). For PC and Mac you can also try PTP mode (Camera Mode) instead of MTP (you can change this in Settings).
  4. WiFi doesn’t work with Kindle Fire HD. Very, very common. This problem is hard to diagnose. Restarting Kindle Fire HD and restarting router will occasionally fix it. Sometimes you will have to tweak the Kindle Fire’s settings. Tweaking the router settings might help. This varies a lot from case to case. Workaround: Check out Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD WiFi FAQ.
  5. Email isn’t working right. Solution: Amazon to devote SERIOUS time to making email work very well and smoothly. As we see with the Camera issue below, Amazon sometimes forgets areas and features that don’t directly lead to more purchases from Amazon.
  6. Camera functionality. The in-built Camera on the Kindle Fire HD is hidden. A few apps like Facebook and Skype can use it. However, there’s not really any in-built Camera App. Solution: Add a PROPER camera app that allows taking photos, taking videos, using a timer, and other features. A nice bonus would be photo sharing features and email sharing and photo printing wirelessly to printers.
  7. Battery & Battery Charger Issues. There’s something about tablets and chargers and batteries. Lots and lots of people run into one or more of – Charger not working, Kindle Fire HD not turning on, Kindle Fire not charging, Charge Indicator showing wrong amount, Charger port is loose. Potential Solution: Amazon could invest some resources into strengthening the charger and charging hardware and making the battery and battery life indicator more dependable. Not saying it’s bad – just that it can be and should be improved. Potential Workaround: Treat your charger carefully BEFORE problems develop.
  8. Apps not side loading. This is a strange one. Amazon rather generously (considering it hurts their own content sales) allows side loading of apps from other stores. A lot of people run into problems with this. Perhaps better instructions would help people. Can’t really think of a proper solution.
  9. Kindle Fire HD will not turn on. Surprisingly common. Listing this separate from the Battery Issues since it’s so common. Potential Solution: Charge for an hour or two. Unplug. Press and hold the power button for 20 seconds. This is from the Frequently Asked Questions thread.

Kindle Fire HD Pain Points – A Workaround for Flash

Here’s a solution for Flash from Laura M. Dean -

With the latest update for the Kindle Fire, Amazon has added a feature to Silk called the “Experimental Streaming Viewer” that should allow many Flash-based videos to be played on the Fire.  I have tested it with CBS, NBC and ABC, and it works.  More info:

Go to the Web tab > Menu > Settings > Accelerated page loading > turn on.

This will turn on two other settings:
– Enable Flash Forward
– Prompt for experimental streaming viewer

Complete information is here, including how to use the viewer:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&nodeId=201010090&tag=thrshoguideaa-20#flash

Hopefully this works.

Kindle Fire HD Pain Points – Thoughts

It’s very surprising to see a few things -

  1. Flash is a major advantage for Kindle Fire HD over iPad. Amazon shouldn’t ignore it. The move to make the ‘Experimental Streaming Viewer’ is a good move. Amazon needs to do a lot more. This could turn into a major competitive advantage over iPad and also over other Android Tablets (since Adobe has stopped Flash support for Android).
  2. Android File Transfer App for Mac should be bundled with Kindle Fire. As should drivers for MTP for Windows 7 and Windows 8. It’s very strange to get a new device and then not have it work with your PC. Plugging Kindle Fire into a PC or Mac should start off a launcher that asks you whether you want to install drivers and/or the file transfer utility.
  3. Not sure what the solution for Kindle Fire HD WiFi issues is. Every single device runs into WiFi problems. Note: And, of course, for people who run into a WiFi problem, the only one out of their devices not working will be that one. It’s Murphy’s Laughing at You Law.
  4. Camera – These are two fundamental Tablet Use cases. It’s strange that Amazon (and B&N) ignore the Camera. At what point is Amazon going to understand – No one cares what YOU think, only what they want to do with their Tablet. Basically, a LOT of people wants dual cameras of good quality on their Tablets.
  5. Email – Having email not work well is completely unacceptable. Any amount of effort Amazon can put into this would be worthwhile. At least 25% and perhaps as many as 40% of Tablet owners would prefer a Tablet with a very solid, stable, works-all-the-time Email Client/App.
  6. Battery & Battery Charger issues. Again, every device seems to run into battery issues. Not sure if a solution exists.

Overall, Kindle Fire HD does slightly better than Kindle Fire 1 did on pain points. However, there are still way too many pain points. It’s very encouraging to see Amazon add the ‘Experimental Streaming Viewer’.

What are your Kindle Fire HD pain points? What things would you most like fixed and/or added?

Would Google Play, Google Apps be a negative for Kindle Fire HD Owners?

It’s very interesting to see the reaction of existing Nook HD and HD+ owners to the addition of Google Play to Nook HD and HD+.

How Nook owners react to Google Play is important and relevant because Amazon MIGHT (and the key word is MIGHT) add Google Play to Kindle Fire HD at some point of time in the future. It has to either add Google Play or cut the price or come up with some other means to compete effectively.

Kindle Fire HD needs to find some competitive advantages.

The 30-40-30 Divide – Some Nook Owners actually don’t want Google Play

While the reaction in the Press has been almost unanimous.

Nook HD with Google Play is now the best Android Tablet. Nook HD with Google Play is ‘One of the Best’ Android Tablets now. Nook HD is so open its battery and processor are falling out.

The reaction from users, actual users who paid $199 to buy the Nook HD before it had Google Play, is mixed.

  1. Approximately 30% love it. They think it makes Nook HD and HD+ a better device. Some of them talk about buying more Nook HDs for their family. Note: These are people who think it’s a definite improvement. They seem to be veering towards either splitting purchases between B&N and Google or shifting over to Google.
  2. Approximately 40% like it but prefer the Nook Store. What does that mean? They like having Google Play as an option. They still consider the in-built Nook ebook store and the Nook Videos Store and the Nook App Store as their first choice.
  3. The most interesting group are the 30% who don’t like the change. There are many reasons (which we’ll get into later). However, there is a very clear group of users that doesn’t like the addition of Google Play.

Let’s start by understanding the pros and cons of adding Google Play to a device. This will set the tone for the rest of the post.

What Google Play actually brings to the Tablet

There are a lot of good things about having Google Play added to a Tablet -

  1. Choice in App Stores. You get the existing App Store plus you get Google Play.
  2. Choice in eBook Stores. You get apps for Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Blio, etc. via Google Play. Suddenly your device can access all the major ebook stores. Kindle Fire HD owners would be able to buy and read books from B&N and Kobo and any ebook store that makes an Android App.
  3. Choice in Movie and Music Stores. You get Google Videos and Music. That forces the device maker to improve their own offerings.
  4. Wider Range of Apps. Amazon’s Kindle Fire Store has 50,000 to 60,000 Apps. Perhaps 500 to 1,500 of those are top quality. Android Store has 700,000 Apps. Perhaps 3,000 of them are top quality, optimized for Tablets, and not yet available in Kindle Fire App Store. An increase from 1,500 top quality apps to 4,500 top quality apps is a tripling and very significant. This is especially important if you want a niche app or a local app. Those are mostly made for Apple App Store and Android App Store.
  5. Official Google Apps. If you want GMail or Google Maps or another official Google App, now you get it.
  6. Lots of Free Apps. Android is an advertising based platform. Amazon is a mix of advertising and paid. The number of free apps in the Android Store is massive. So you can now, if you choose so, stop paying for apps completely.
  7. Increase in Value of the Tablet. The resale value just went up because there will now be a lot more people interested in the Tablet.

There are, unfortunately, some bad things about getting Google Play (it might be hard to believe, but it isn’t all unicorns and puppies) -

  1. The inclusion of Google Play is only allowed if a bunch of Google Apps are also installed. Some are set as defaults. These Apps are a problem because they run in the background and do all sorts of strange things. They send data to Google’s Cloud and download ads and eat up battery life. Nook owners have reported huge decreases in battery life (cut to 1/4th, cut to 1/2). Decreases that went away when these Nook owners disabled the default Google Apps. Note: This is possible due to Nook HD and HD+ having a profiles feature that lets you disable apps for certain profiles. Not sure if a similar feature exists for Kindle Fire HD.
  2. The default browser gets replaced by Chrome. This is perhaps a requirement for getting Google Play store. This creates two problems – you are switched to a browser you might not be familiar with, the Tablet version of Chrome is terrible (it’s the only version I’ve used). It’s interesting how many Nook users are switching to another browser (over 50% of them). Makes me wonder how Chrome managed to get a large market share on the Desktop.
  3. Google Play has more high quality Tablet optimized apps (4,000 or more versus 1,500 or so for Amazon Store). However, the signal to noise ratio is poor. You have to weed through 700,000 Apps to get to those 4,000 Apps. At least with the Kindle Fire App Store you know there’s some level of curation. Finding 4,000 top-notch apps in a store of 700,000 (approximately 1 out of 200) is a bit of a pain. By comparison, in the Kindle Fire App Store, you can find 1,500 top-notch apps out of the 60,000 available (1 out of 40). So it’s roughly 4-5 times tougher to find good apps in the Android Store.
  4. Google Play Store is not curated. Hello Viruses & Malware! Google Play Store is Open. You can just write your app, bundle any virus or malware you like into the App, and submit it. There’s no human curation or human check. Recently, tens of millions of Android devices got the ‘Bad News’ malware through Android Apps. You need an Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware program. Which has to run all the time to work well. There goes performance and speed.
  5. Loss of Familiarity. You go from the nice closed Amazon ecosystem that you are used to, to an ecosystem that’s very open and a bit wild. Google software is very aggressive about things like checking for updates. There are lots of options everywhere. It’s a lot more technical. It’s not as user-friendly. One thing that Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD did very well is hide a lot of the complexity and make things dead simple to use. Add back Google Apps and Google Play and you run into problems. Firstly, it’s new and unfamiliar. Secondly, it’s not that simple to use. Thirdly, the Google Play store and apps will clash with the Kindle App Store and Apps for resources.
  6. Google gets to track you. Keep in mind that this is a company that hopes to one day ‘tell you what you should do, even before you realize it yourself’. It gets a wealth of information about you and your behavior. You can minimize this by not using a Google browser and by avoiding the in-built Google Apps. I doubt Google has access to user data from non-Google Browsers and from non-Google Apps.
  7. Lots of Android Apps track your data and sell it. Since the focus is on free Apps, it creates incentives for the developers to find other ways to make money. One is Advertisements. Another is In-App Purchases (watch out if you have kids). The most dangerous is ‘Selling User Data’. There are lots of companies willing to buy user data profiles and user data. Quite a few Android developers do collect and sell data. A study found that even some of the big brands do this on Android.

As you can see, it’s not all peaches and cream in the Open Land of the Free Everything.

Whether it be the battery life and wireless costs of apps running in the background and downloading ads. Whether it be the privacy lost as apps track you and upload your usage data. Whether it be the always running Google Apps and their own data collection. Whether it be the risk of viruses. You’ve suddenly gone from a nice, safe ecosystem to a wildly open and openly wild ecosystem.

Revisiting the 40-30-30 Divide

Now, the 40-30-30 divide makes more sense -

  1. The first 30% either don’t care about or don’t know about the hidden costs of having Google’s Open and Benevolent App Store. For them, all that matters is the wider choice of apps, and the fact that most of them are free.
  2. The second 40% like having the choice. However, either due to familiarity with, and preference for, the in-built App Store, or due to a good understanding of the risks of the Android Store, these users prefer the in-built store. Google Play is just a good second option.
  3. The third 30% are the users who either just don’t need, or just don’t like, the Google App Store. Perhaps some of them understand the drawbacks of having an uncurated, open, and wild App Store and the downsides of always running Google Apps. Perhaps they simply don’t like the trade-off.

What was stunning to me was that 70% of Nook HD owners didn’t care very much about the addition of Google Play Store. Even more stunning was that 30% of users disliked it. Sometimes we take what the tech press preaches as gospel. Then we’re hit by actual users’ reality.

Of course, we aren’t addressing all the people who will buy Nook HD and HD+ now, due to the availability of the Google Play Store. Perhaps millions. However, if we look at the 1 million or so users who bought Nook HD and HD+, it’s very interesting to see that Google Play matters a lot to only 30%.

Perhaps it’s self-selection bias. Those most likely to get a Kindle Fire HD or a Nook HD are probably the users who care least about the Google Play Store.

Whatever the reason, the reaction of Nook HD owners to Google Play Store might hold some important lessons for Amazon.

Existing Kindle Fire HD users might not care very much about Google Play Store

If Kindle Fire HD owners are similar to Nook HD owners (and there is a lot of similarity), 70% of Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire owners don’t care very much about having Google Play Store.

30% of existing Kindle Fire HD owners might actively dislike the addition of the Google Play Store. 40% might not care very much whether or not it exists.

It’s important to note that all/most of these users bought Kindle Fire HD knowing that it didn’t have Google Play Store.

Thus, the question changes from

  • What should Amazon do to compete with Nook HD? Should it add Google Play Store?

to

  • What percentage of future Kindle Fire HD owners want Google Play? What percentage consider the lack of availability of Google Play Store on Kindle Fire HD a deal breaker?

My assumption would be that only 30% of current Kindle Fire HD owners, and only 35% to 40% of prospective Kindle Fire HD owners, care deeply about Google Play Store.

That’s a pretty big number. No company in the Tablet Space can afford to turn away 35% to 40% of prospective customers. However, what’s really surprising to me is the other part of the equation.

  1. That 60% to 65% of people who will EVER buy a Kindle Fire HD or any Kindle Fire don’t care. They simply don’t care enough about Google Play for it to be a deal breaker.
  2. That nearly half of these people consider the absence of Google Play and Google Apps on the Kindle Fire HD a good thing.

Of course, there’s another twist. What type of customers is Amazon after? Does Amazon want Google Android type customers or does it want Apple iPad type customers?

Adding Google Play might be the death knell for Amazon’s hopes of competing with iPad and iPad Mini

In the above discussions we’ve considered ‘People looking to buy an Android Tablet’.

What about ‘People looking to buy the Best Tablet’?

That’s where things get really interesting. All the negatives of adding Google Play Store to the Kindle Fire HD matter to these people.

Quick Reminder – Google Apps are preinstalled and forced on users, Chrome browser is forced on users, it’s difficult to find high quality apps in the Google Play Store, there’s a risk of catching viruses and spyware, Google and some Android Apps track you and take your information.

Additional Note: Most Android software is not intuitive or user friendly (including Google’s own Apps). It’s not just the always running and always collecting data aspects, it’s also the lack of ease of use and the lack of simplicity.

These are all things that might not matter much to users looking for ‘The Cheapest Tablet with the most Free Apps’. They matter a lot to users looking for ‘The Best Tablet with the Best Experience and the Best Apps’.

Quite interestingly, users who want quality, and who are willing to pay for quality, are much likelier to want to avoid the downsides of the Google Android experience. That makes a lot of sense.

Please Note: It’s not an indictment of Android. Android is excellent for users who are tech-savvy or who are OK with the model of Free Software supported by advertising and data collection. Android is great for a particular set of users. We’re talking about a different set of users.

Users who are willing to pay $250 and $350 and $450 and $550 for Tablets. Well, they might not be too happy if Amazon moves away from the curated, safe, no-hassles ecosystem of Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and moves towards Google’s Open and Chaotic ecosystem.

In fact, they probably want the exact opposite – For Kindle Fire HD to become easier and higher quality and more curated. To save them even more times and hassle. To be even more intuitive.

Think about the idea Tablet Experience if you don’t have tight budgetary restrictions and aren’t technologically inclined – Extreme Ease of Use, High Quality Curation, Complete Protection against Malware and Viruses, More Simplicity, No Hassles, Not having to think too much to get things done.

Amazon has to pick who it competes against

I think Jeff Bezos had the right idea when he started the whole ‘The Best Tablet … At Any Price’ iPad vs Kindle Fire HD comparison last year.

He just had the wrong Tablet.

The Kindle Fire HD is still a long ways from competing against the iPad Mini and the iPad. Let alone winning. However, setting up the ‘Kindle Fire HD vs iPad’ comparison was excellent for a few reasons.

  1. It set the bar high. Why compete against the 2nd best Tablet when you can compete against the best.
  2. It creates a lot of buzz. The Press are all in a tizzy that someone would dare compete with their darling Apple.
  3. It goes after the best customers. Those who are willing to pay for quality in hardware, software, ecosystem and experience.

It’s interesting to notice that Microsoft is doing something similar. Surface Pro and RT aren’t aimed at the Android crowd. They’re aimed at the corporate and high-end markets.

Perhaps more and more companies are realizing that it’s better to get 80% of the Profits and 20% of the Overall Market. Let someone else take all the customers of low profitability. Perhaps companies are realizing that if Samsung can use Apple’s model to start eating up Apple’s profit streams, then so can they.

Amazon has a very interesting decision to make as Android gobbles up more and more Tablet Market Share. As B&N and other players capitulate to the Little Green Peeping Tom Robot. Does it want to replace Apple? Does it want to split Apple’s market? Does it want to replace Android?

Kindle Fire HD’s future direction, and its survival, will depend on what option Amazon chooses.

Kindle Fire HD thoughts – 10 Kindle Fire HD musings

Just Kindle Fire HD thoughts that have been on my mind -

  1. If Amazon is making a Kindle Phone 3D with holographic screen technology, and it is a big IF, then it would make sense to make a high-end Kindle Fire HD with the same technology. Surely, in a world where everyone is looking to Apple for innovation, and where Apple is stuck thinking flat design and thinner casing are innovations, a Tablet with holographic 3D technology would be a hit. It might even get some hipster baristas and ‘look, I can bump other Samsung Phones’ people to switch allegiance.
  2. Is Amazon too late to the smart phone market? TechCrunch shares a Gartner Report that says 75% of Smartphones shipped in Q1 were Android, with 30% being Samsung. Apple had 18% market share (although perhaps 57% of the profit share). Total sales were flat. So Kindle Phone might run into a few big problems – The Market stops growing, The Market has too much competition, There are entrenched ecosystems. On the other hand, it’s such a huge market. There also doesn’t seem to be any REAL innovation going on (things like Siri and bumping phones and NFC don’t seem revolutionary to me). It’s like we’re in 2007 and need a new envisioning of the phone. The actual Smart Phone Market Share Report from Gartner is worth reading – the tables are fascinating.
  3. Is Nook HD stealing Kindle Fire HD Sales? With B&N having added Google Play to Nook HD and with the Mother’s Day Sale at $149, Amazon was forced to reduce the price of the Kindle Fire HD to $179. However, that was just a Mother’s Day discount plus it doesn’t seem enough. Google Play is a big deal. Kindle Fire HD might need a permanent discount. At some point Amazon will have to make a move. Perhaps a permanent price cut to $159. Perhaps add Google Play. Amazon might be super reluctant to open up its ecosystem to Google, so the price cut seems the path it will take.
  4. Will the new Google Nexus 7 2 steal Kindle Fire HD Sales? If the rumors hold up, Nexus 7 2 will be a pretty compelling device. IGN claims a 1920 by 1200 screen resolution, a NFC chip, wireless charging, a HD front camera, and a 5MP rear camera. All this while keeping the price at $199. That screen sounds interesting and wireless charging doesn’t sound bad either.
  5. What iPad Mini will Apple release? How will it impact Kindle Fire HD? If Apple really releases an iPad Mini Retina this year, it will definitely have significant impact on Kindle Fire HD sales. Perhaps worse are the rumors that iPad Mini Retina is being delayed to 2014. Why? Because the rumors claim Apple will release a cheap iPad Mini 2 to make up for the delay of the iPad Mini Retina. A cheap $229 iPad Mini 2 would do a lot more damage to Kindle Fire HD sales than a $349 Retina iPad Mini.
  6. Amazon has a lot of patents that could be used to supply technology for future Kindle Fire HDs. The Foldable Tablet patent. The Gesture Recognition One. Eye Tracking. Advertisements inside eBooks. Amazon also bought Liquavista (Color eInk Technology for Color Kindle) and that screen might make it to a future Kindle Fire HD.
  7. There were rumors that Microsoft was looking to buy B&N’s Nook division. The rumors also claimed that Nook eReader and Tablet sales were a combined 10 million units. What does that say about Kindle and Kindle Fire sales? It suggests a range of 18 million to 30 million total sales for Kindles and Kindle Fires. Amazon still uses ‘millions of Kindle Fires’ when talking about the opportunity for Kindle Fire App developers. Why would it miss the opportunity to crow about ‘tens of millions of Kindle Fires’? Could Kindle Fire sales be less than 10 million? I would have thought perhaps 12 to 15 million Kindle Fires have been sold so far. Perhaps it’s less.
  8. At what point does increasing screen resolution for Tablets become too much? Kindle Fire HD has 1280 by 800 and it’s pretty good. Nook HD has 1440 by 900 and it’s better but not by much. If Google Nexus 7 2 really has 1920 by 1200 screen resolution that would mean it has roughly the same screen resolution on a 7″ Tablet as the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+ have on 9″ Tablets. Is it even meaningful? Do we really need to be able to see every eyelash?
  9. Is Wearable Computing going to arrive in 2014? How will it impact Kindle Fire HD and Tablets? There are very strong rumors that in addition to Google Glass we’ll see wearable computing from multiple other companies (Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Apple). We already have some smart watches available (the Pebble is one). Will these cut into Tablet sales? The argument is that they will be much more convenient and portable than Tablets. That they will have the ‘New’ and ‘Cool’ factor. The counter-argument is that the screen size will be too small.
  10. What is Amazon’s pain threshold for Kindle Fire Tablet Sales? Let’s suppose that wearable computing becomes big and/or some revolutionary new Tablet arrives (no, not with scented page turns). Kindle Fire HD Sales slow down. Would Amazon stick with the Kindle Fire? For how long?

The last point is one that’s been on my mind. Nook HD is rumored to be the last B&N Tablet. The opening up of Nook HD and HD+ to Google Play is already a capitulation of all the investment B&N put into the Nook. What if Amazon faces the same situation in 6 to 12 months? Kindle Fire HD sales slowing down. Unsold stock. Would it capitulate? Would it keep fighting the Tablet Wars? For how long?

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