Terrance Heath

Burned By the (Kindle) Fire

Filed By Terrance Heath | December 15, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bad reviews, e-reader, Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, product reviews, usability issues

A couple of months ago, I mused about possibly getting a Kindle Fire. Ultimately, I ended up getting a Kindle Touch, and I'm glad I did.

Well. Having read the latest news on the Kindle Fire, I’m even more glad I opted for the Kindle touch.

Amazon Kindle FireThe Kindle Fire, Amazon's heavily promoted tablet, is less than a blazing success with many of its early users. The most disgruntled are packing the device up and firing it back to the retailer.

A few of their many complaints: there is no external volume control. The off switch is easy to hit by accident. Web pages take a long time to load. There is no privacy on the device; a spouse or child who picks it up will instantly know everything you have been doing. The touch screen is frequently hesitant and sometimes downright balky.

All the individual grievances -- recorded on Amazon's own Web site -- received a measure of confirmation last week when Jakob Nielsen, a usability expert, denounced the Fire, saying it offered "a disappointingly poor" experience. For users whose fingers are not as slender as toothpicks, he warned, the screen could be particularly frustrating to manipulate.

...All this would be enough to send some products directly to the graveyard where the Apple Newton, the Edsel, New Coke and McDonald's Arch Deluxe languish. But as a range of retailers and tech firms could tell you, it would be foolish to underestimate Amazon.

Wow. Kinda glad I dodged that one.

Even at $199, I’d be upset about spending that much on a product only to end up being disappointed. The privacy issue, I think is huge. Not that I’m one of those “husbands ..looking at a dating site when they said they were playing Angry Birds,” that the article mentions, but given that I sometimes forget gadgets and leave them lying around until I come back (usually within minutes) and retrieve them, I’d be worried that just about anybody could pick it up and see what I’ve been up to.

I’m not up to anything I shouldn’t be, but -- like most people -- there are some things I prefer to keep private.

The other problems, especially the lack of external volume controls are something I noticed on the Kindle Touch as well. But I think of the Kindle Touch as primarily a reading device, not a media device. (I do have one audio book on my Kindle Touch, that I got for free via one of the special offers that pop up on my screen, but I’ve yet to listen to it.) So it doesn’t bother me as much. But on a device that will be used as a media player, I think external volume controls should be included. And hitting the off switch by accident would have to be annoying.

Now Amazon says it will have a software update coming in the next couple of weeks, and it’s likely that in the spring there will be a new version of the Kindle Fire itself. This is one of the reasons why I tend to be an early adopter when it comes to software, but not so much when it comes to hardware. The latter usually cost enough that I want to be sure that the bugs have been worked out before I spend my money. That was my pattern with most of the gadgets I’ve bought so far. (I resisted the Kindle until the third generation came out.)

And even if there’s a new and improved Kindle Fire by the spring, the latest rumors are that the iPad 3 could be out as early as February. So, I think continue to save my money for the iPad 3, instead of the Kindle Fire.

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