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Kindle Fire: First Impressions

November 15, 2011, 8:20 pm · Filed under: iPhone, Mobile

I work with a bunch of iPhone geeks. After all, what we do is build games for the world’s most profitable smartphone. When I got an HP TouchPad (at a fire sale price) a while ago, folks were curious, if a bit dismissive. To say my iDevice-loving coworkers had a different reaction to the arrival of my Kindle Fire would be an understatement. Everyone wanted to hold and play with it. And not give it back.

Kindle Fire, brand spankin'
Purty, and set to Greenwich Mean Time

Fire versus iPhone
Fire versus iPhone

This isn’t going to be an exhaustive review. I just don’t have the time. (Didn’t you just read that I work for a games company?!) But, I wanted to write a quick post with my first impressions because just as many of my coworkers wanted to see the Fire, I’ve had a bunch more requests for comment on teh Twitterz since posting a photo of my new toy. So, here goes…

It’s smaller than I expected.
The Fire is closer to an oversized Android phone than an undersized iPad.
That’s a good thing.
My primary use case is reading Kindle books on the train and at the end of the evening. I read a bit on the commute home tonight and found the size well-suited to it. I could comfortably hold the Fire in one hand and see plenty of clear, sharp text per page. Not sure what else I need in that respect.
It’s also exceptionally well-built.
The Fire feels solid in my hand. The first reaction of one of my coworkers was that it was “heavy.” Unlike my supermodel alter ego, I take this as a compliment. It’s not like it feels made of lead. It’s just, well…solid. (Not to bag on the TouchPad, but it had this annoying fit and finish problem where you could press on the back of the device and feel the flimsy plastic separate from the innards.)
The interface is not Android.
Yeah, I know it’s based on Android and there are a couple of hints of that heritage if you dig deep enough. But, the main interface is pretty clever, maybe a little too clever. It’s a bunch of bookshelves. (Amazon sells books. Get it?) I found it a little harder than it should have been to get the coverflow-like UI to settle on the book I wanted. I hope I get used to it.

That’s about all I can think of right now. If I have other reactions in the next few days or weeks, I’ll add to this post. Getting a Fire? Got one? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

Update, the first

A mere hour and a half after posting this, I realized I missed something important:

The web browser seems fine.
I read reports of Amazon’s scheme for proxying web pages with some skepticism. I am not a fan of Opera Mini, for instance, because it breaks the web in unpredictable ways. I didn’t really expect the Fire to do the same based on my understanding of what it’s doing under the hood, but was compelled to test it out nonetheless. Of course, I loaded up my personal site and blog. Both looked and worked as expected, but I’m not doing anything particularly fancy here. CNN.com worked great (including playing videos on the site). Facebook’s mobile web site also performed admirably. It’s not an exhaustive test, but so far so good.

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