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Kindle Fire in an iPad Household -- Some Thoughts

Discussion in 'iPad General Discussions' started by jsh1120, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. jsh1120
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    jsh1120 iPad Addict

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    In an effort to (a) relieve some of the demand on the family iPad 2 from the three members of our household (including our seven year old) and (b) to expand the functionality of my wife's beloved Kindle (and elminating the dreaded "lights on in the bedroom while she's reading an e-ink display" problem, I've added a Kindle Fire to the household inventory of four computers, an iPad, and two Android smartphones. Thought others might find our impressions worth noting.

    () Is it an adequate substitute for an iPad? Let's get this out of the way. The answer is no. The screen is half the size of the iPad. No bluetooth so no true keyboard or wireless speakers. No camera. No microphone. Limited app selection. etc. etc. All in all, I'd say the experience is analogous to trying to substitute an iPad for a powerful laptop. Some requirements can be met. Some can be finessed with workarounds. Some are simply beyond the scope of the device. All in all, I'd say it provides 80% of the functionality of an iPad (sometimes just as good, sometimes less successfully) at about 40% of the price of a wifi iPad. Is it an upgrade from an earlier generation Kindle? Probably yes. Unless, of course, one wants to retain the light weight of a dedicated e-reader and the e-ink display.

    () No 3G. Not a problem for my household. I use a 4G/LTE mobile hotspot that provides net access for a laptop, iPad, and the KF simultaneously. (Should I need it.) And our home wifi network is very very fast. Others, of course, may tether with their phones or find that the absence of 3G access is a deal breaker.

    () Web Performance. In general very good. Comparable to the iPad over the same network. I have some strong suspicions about early reviewers' negative comments but I won't clutter this post.

    () UI Design and Performance. Very different from the iPad but just as rigid and unyielding to customization. On the other hand, the KF can be "rooted" and customized. The most recent models of the iPad don't have a jailbreak (yet and maybe never.) As with the iPad some apps are limited to only one orientation (typically portrait.) It's a PITA if you have the KF on a desk/table just as it is with the iPad. But the iPad has fewer such annoyances.

    () Form Factor. The screen is about half the size of the iPad with attendant limitations (especially in web browsing on desktop websites.) On the other hand, it weighs 30% less than the iPad and can be easily slipped into a purse, briefcase, backpack, or even an overcoat pocket without special accommodations.

    () Parental Control. Despite the complaints in this area, the KF surprisingly provides features lacking on the iPad. A free app available in the Android App Store (Kids Place) enables setting up a "sandbox" of enabled apps for a kid without allowing access to other apps on the system. As far as I know, there is no equivalent feature in the iPad ecosystem. Not perfect by any means. It would be useful, for example, to segregate books in the same manner. Not possible. And of course, if one enables web access for a kid via this app, there are no restrictions on the sites accessed (identical to the iPad.) Complaints about kids spending $$$ on Amazon products without parental consent, by the way, are nonsense. Multilevel protection available there.

    By the way, this single feature is a BIG PLUS for the KF compared to the iPad for those who want to share the device between a parent and a kid. Apple should be ashamed that it does not support an even better set of "sharing" features in a device that costs two and a half times as much.

    () Hardware issues. Awkward placement of the power switch and headphone jack on the bottom of the device. Yes, you can turn the device "upside down" but it's a PITA and some apps don't reorient properly. Lousy speaker, even worse than the iPad. But through headphones or wired (no bluetooth remember) speakers, the audio is excellent.

    () Movies and other video. The KF is excellent. Quite competitive with the iPad given the 16x9 aspect ratio ideal for movies and the excellent screen. And of course, for those who care, Flash is supported in the browser.

    () Available Apps. No comparison in terms of volume, of course. But many of the most popular apps are available and work well. A "free app a day" is a nice promotion in Amazon App Store. Where the iPad shines (imo) is in availability of apps that appeal to narrow niche markets. Helps to make it more than a mass consumer device. The KF is not in the same class. I doubt it will be. And if the apps available from Amazon aren't enough, sideloading from other sites adds thousands of other Android apps.

    () Content Creation. No contest. Take the constraints of the iPad and multiply them by 10. Other than emails (with good support for attachments via K9 mail), the KF is not competitive.

    Overall impressions. Would I trade my iPad for a KF? Of course not. But that's in part because some of my requirements for content creation are simply impossible to meet with the KF. Is it a good "entry level" tablet? Depends. I imagine that many users will "outgrow" its limitations fairly quickly. Others may find that spending hundreds more for what they consider "bells and whistles" is silly and will happily sacrifice 20% of the potential functionality of the iPad for the 60% savings.

    But at least for this forum, a more relevant question is whether to purchase another iPad or opt for a KF. That's a silly question for single folks. Unless you're a gadget freak or an Android hacker, I can't think of a reasonable rationale for having both devices. But if your household has several members who compete for the iPad, it's an important question. And on that score, at least for our household, there's no question that the KF is a better choice. It leverages my wife's investment in content she already owns for her Kindle. It provides a great platform for my kid to explore and play without making her feel that she's being shortchanged when dad won't let go of the iPad. I was frankly surprised that the KF is easier to set up for her needs (without impacting other users) than the iPad. That alone is a significant advantage.
  2. skimonkey
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    skimonkey Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you, Jsh1120-your comments are always very well taken and informative! :)
  3. tlbaker
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    tlbaker iPad Ninja

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    Love it!! For 200 bucks I think it's a nice little device. I played with my friend's kindle for a little while
    and it was fun. Has flash so I was able to view my Facebook kittentoob video without a problem. ;)

    Thanks for the write up!!

    Sent from my Verizon Black 64GB iPad 2 With IOS 5.01Update From NYC using iPF
  4. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    I'm still liking my KF for reading books -- better size than iPad. My husband uses KF more, but only to play Angry Birds, lol. I like exploring Android apps on KF (my only Android device so far).

    My KF speaker is louder than on the three iPads in my household; wonder whether it's just luck of the draw.

    The KF seems well-made. I dropped it on a tile floor with no ill effect, and I don't have it in a case or anything.

    For 200 bucks, it's a nice gizmo, but it's definitely kludgier than iPad.

    The 8GB storage is limiting. I've had to erase stuff repeatedly to load other stuff. Cloud storage is iffy, because if my wifi connection hiccups, music is cut off.

    Fun to mess with it, but I'd still buy an iPad if I could only afford one.
  5. skimonkey
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    skimonkey Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Do you think the 8gb of storage would work for a 75 year old mom who likes to read and play 3-4 games. I am guessing yes, but am concerned.
  6. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    Think it'd be fine. I had a bunch of audiobooks and apps on my KF, and it wasn't like I needed them on there; just would've been convenient. For book reading, it's easy to archive books and load fresh ones. I've been using Kindle books for several years and think it's the best book service by far for reliability, so I wouldn't sweat letting Amazon store books in its cloud. She could always keep a stash of unread ones on it for times when away from wifi and she might be in the mood for something different.
  7. skimonkey
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    Thank you, KayKayKay!! She is so excited!! I am picking it up for her this week!!
  8. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    Very cool. I hope she gets lots of enjoyment from it. With iPad, we're spoiled. I think if KF were my first tablet, I would've been pretty happy with it. And if it turns out it doesn't work out, nothing lost if you can return or exchange it.

    IMO, one of the best features of Kindle books is how many devices you can read them on.

    Some people prefer e-ink / non-backlighted devices, and for such users Kindle e-ink devices are still great gizmos. Amazing how much they've dropped in price, too. The better so more people can enjoy them.

    I'm really glad to see how quickly ereaders and tablets have multipled since Amazon and Apple stepped up. I hope to see many more.
  9. skimonkey
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    Yes, I agree with you KayKayKay. It really is nice to see the different ereaders available--love having choices!! Thank you again, both you and JSH1120!
  10. drb_52
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    Thanks for the thorough review jsh1120. Actually, I am considering getting my wife a KF.

    If you don't mind, I have a few questions that you or others may be able to help answer.

    One of My wife's hobbies is entering contests. Unfortunately, this exposes the Windows laptop to just about every virus/ trojan/etc. that some creep has found time to write and pleasure in distributing. I have done some research and, like the iPad, the consensus is that the KF is not likely to be infected. Any real life experience here or opinion?

    Another hobby is photography. The KF has a mini USB connection and the literature says it is for connecting to a computer. The information says nothing about being able to download pictures/movies/documents from an SD card or camera via the USB. Do you know if this is possible?

    Could the USB connection be used to attach a drive (USB or hard drive) for additional storage or downloading content?

    My wife enjoys reading and will use the KF for that too. But, she will primarily use it for web browsing/blogging and entering contests. Do you think the KF will be comfortable to use in this way for an extended time?

    Thanks.
  11. jsh1120
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    drb_52,

    All good questions. I can answer some now and will post answers to the others when I confirm.

    () As far as viruses/malware/etc. is concerned, one should distinguish between attacks meant to harm your device and those designed to harvest personal information about you. Though there is much discussion of Android devices being the target of new attacks as the use of the OS increases, I'm rather skeptical. (Much of the information comes from those who sell software designed to "protect" systems from such viruses.) If you use the device as it was meant to be used, i.e. not rooted and not hosting software from unknown sources, I don't think there's much to be worried about. What you do have to worry about is providing personal information for "contests" and how the email addresses your wife submits might be used. But in that, even the iPad is a potentially vulnerable device. (It's worth noting in this context that I'm amazed how concerned people are about supplying information like a credit card number over the internet yet will go to a restaurant and hand their card to a waiter/waitress and never think twice.)

    () The Kindle Fire does not include a usb to mini-usb cable in the package. I haven't gotten around to digging up such a cable in my house to test it yet but I'll be doing that in the next few days. Once I do, I think I'll find what I know to be the case for other Android devices, i.e. you can transfer images to the data storage (recognizing that we're not talking about a huge amount of stuff. I don't expect to find that an un-rooted KF can host external storage as if it were part of the Android OS.

    () As far as browsing/blogging/entering contests is concerned, keep in mind several points. The screen small. Not as small as a cell phone, but small. Accessing desktop websites is possible but there will be much more "scoping around" than on a larger display. Blogging and entering contests will call for entering data. I don't do much of that even on the iPad. I prefer the dual 23 inch monitors sitting in front of me now. And when I do use the iPad for that, I have to use my bluetooth keyboard about 99% of the time. I hate onscreen keyboards. But if your wife isn't as picky as I am and can deal with the small form factor, she'll be fine.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  12. Kaykaykay
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    I'm careful about credit card use in general. One of the pluses of iPad and other mobile devices: You can easily check your credit card account at any time, lol.

    drb: I haven't loaded any movies or photos to KF. For my uses, I'd find the KF very limiting for those, because there's limited storage. YMMV. Cloud isn't reliable enough for my uses for those.

    I'd also not buy KF for heavy Web typing. I find myself hitting the wrong keys on KF more often than not. I can do better on iPhone or iPod touch. Must be the keyboard design, plus my fingering (I'm petite and have small hands, though). Again, YMMV.

    It wouldn't hurt to buy one and have your wife try it out, then return if she's not happy with it, if iPad is out of budget.

    From what you described of her uses, I'd save up for an iPad instead and make her much happier.
  13. drb_52
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    Thanks jsh1120. The contest entry forms are limited to name, email, maybe phone and address. My wife knows not to provide any other information.

    Just this morning, she lost a blog she wrote because I've got anti-virus & anti-spyware loaded on the laptop. That happens to her occasionally and I feel bad about it. But, she knows what happens when the thing gets infected. We don't use it for much else.

    The small screen is my biggest concern. And apparently, no ability to add an external keyboard (unless the USB connection can be used for that too).

    I'm looking at other tablets too. But most of the larger ones are almost twice the cost of the KF and the reviews are not too good.

    We tried to use the iPad for her contests, but a surprising number use Flash.

    Thanks again.
  14. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    drb, you and I posted at the same time, so you might not have seen my last post.

    If Flash is important, along with considerable typing, your wife probably would be better off with a netbook or notebook, with good virus protection.
  15. drb_52
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    Thanks for the help kaykaykay. A netbook is just a small laptop and my wife is already using the laptop. I would like to get her an android tablet so we don't have to worry about the virus issues and she won't have compatibility issues. I guess I'll keep looking. Thanks for the advice.
  16. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    Word was last year that Amazon would put out a bigger, better tablet this year, so maybe check or wait and see?
  17. twerppoet
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    Thanks for the review, jsh.

    I will continue to resist buying one (it's not always easy) and save my money for the next generation iPad. ;)

    Strangely I find it easier to resist buying one when I'm fiddling with it in the store than when I'm reading about it. I don't think Amazon has perfected their reality distortion field yet, it only works at extended ranges.
  18. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    Since you already have an iPad, you're not missing much unless you want a smaller, kludgier tablet with Android, unless you're the kind of user who would root the crap out of it and turn it into a phaser or something, lol.
  19. jsh1120
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    Interesting you say that. I've had the opposite reaction. The KF's available in stores are crippled, unable to access the internet, etc. I was more impressed by one purchased by a friend and the latter impression has held with ours. I think the sample versions in the stores have a prototype version of the OS, not updated, and problematic at best. As noted, though, I can't really see why anyone would want both an iPad and a KF unless it's a case of multiple users in a household or the form factor of the iPad just doesn't work for you when you're on the go. The iPad is still the tablet that rules them all. But there's a very large niche for the KF.

    It would help, of course, if the iPad were not such a PITA for multiple users to access. I've noted before that my biggest disappointment with the iPad was the lack of support for individual user accounts. The KF doesn't fully support that functionality but it comes much closer than the iPad (and that was a complete surprise to me.) Along that line, my wife noticed this evening that when she opened a book on her KF it informed her that the book was being read on her other Kindle. It then asked if she would like to change the page to the stopping point on the other Kindle or retain her place. Very slick if more than one person is using the same account with different devices to read the same book. Even slicker was the fact that since the Kindle cannot determine one's actual location, her KF provided information about the point where the other Kindle on her account had reached in Greenwich Mean Time.
  20. twerppoet
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    I admit, if I got it, it would just be a toy. I've always had a weakness for gadgets. After the first week it would probably end up buried under a pile of books or other less identifiable debris. ;)

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