Amazon dropped a truckload's worth of Kindles today — from touchscreen models to ultra cheap ones. The Kindle that stole the show? The Kindle Fire tablet, of course. Now that we've had some time to ponder over what we saw today, we're coming back with features we love — and features that worry us — about the Fire. Somebody get some water, it's hot in here!
3 Killer Features
1. Amazon Silk
Undoubtedly, the Kindle Fire is a content-focused tablet. It will sell tons and tons of units because it has all the elements that a tablet device needs to succeed: newspapers, magazines, e-books, music, videos, apps and games. That's great. But the Kindle Fire also has a fast Web browser — the Amazon Silk.
Silk is a cloud-accelerated Web browser that crunches all of a website's elements with Amazon's powerful EC2 cloud service that a normal Web browser would normally lift on its own. The end result? Websites that load at speeds exponentially faster than with a regular browser. It's not new stuff, Opera's done it for a while now with its mobile browsers, but with the brawniness of Amazon's cloud farms, it's going to be better than any previous attempts.
2. Free Amazon Cloud Backup
Amazon's Kindle Fire comes with 8GB of internal storage. Of that 8GB, 2GB is allocated to the OS and 6GB is usable. So, really, you only have 6GB to store your content on. Not a problem, Amazon says: the company provides free backup to the Amazon Cloud and stores most of your content such as music on it.
At the moment, there's no cap on amount of content that can be stored in its cloud. That means it's unlimited (at least until Amazon decides to add storage caps), for now.
3. WhisperSync For Movies and TV Shows
One of the best features on the Kindle e-reader is the ability to sync bookmarks and notes automatically. Amazon realized how useful the feature was and is expanding it to movies and TV shows. If you watched half of a movie on your Kindle Fire during lunch and want to finish it up on your Internet-connected HDTV or computer when you get home, you can. WhisperSync remembers where you stopped on the Kindle Fire and resumes from there on another device.
It all happens wirelessly — no sync cables. The iPad could learn a thing from this.
3 Things To Worry About
1. Relying On The Cloud
Storing everything up in the cloud is great. You don't need to pay more for a higher capacity gadget, but at the same time, the cloud can fail. It can be hacked. It can go down for maintenance.
It's happened before and not just with Amazon. Google and Sony have both been victims of the cloud. The other problem with the cloud is that it's not accessible when your Kindle Fire isn't connected to the Internet. Should I decide to stash my entire music collection in the cloud, it's completely inaccessible if the Wi-Fi is flipped off. And how often do you have steady access to Wi-Fi when you're not at home?
2. Amazon's App Store Is The Only App Store
We're sure you've heard all about how Android is supposed to be an open-source platform and how it's led to all this crazy fragmentation by different companies skinning and modifying it, but Amazon's sort of closing it off. You see, the Kindle Fire is powered by Android, but it doesn't look like it. That's because Amazon heavily modified Android 2.3.5 to look different. Gone are all the miniature app icons and in its place are carousels that sit on a bookshelf. One shelf for e-books, apps, movies, music, etc.
The issue? Although the Kindle Fire is powered by Android, it doesn't have access to the Android Market. The only way to get content is through Amazon's walled garden of services. Only apps that go through the Amazon Android App Store will work. It's possible that somebody will come along and crack it open like the Nook Color was and open access to the Market, but officially running the thousands of Android apps already on the market is a no-go for now, unless something changes.
That said, our own Kevin Hall, who has a Droid Charge in his pocket, praises the Amazon application store as one of the best places to get apps besides at the Market. Amazon offers a free paid app daily, and already has a pretty robust lineup.
3. No 3G And No Cameras
The Kindle Fire comes in one model: Wi-Fi. That's it. Amazon touts that you can get an e-book, magazine or newspaper in under 60 seconds, but you can't get it anywhere — at least anywhere you can't get Wi-Fi. So if I'm just sitting in the park and want to browse the Web or download a magazine, the only immediate solution is to hop into a Starbucks and "steal" some Wi-Fi. Sucks. A $250 Kindle Fire 3G would have been a nice option. At that price, it'd match the Nook Color and leapfrog it with 3G. It's far from official, but we're going to go out on a limb and say Amazon decided no on 3G because downloading movies and music would suck up wireless bandwidth like crazy. Amazon's never charged a data plan for its 3G, and it's not starting now. (Hopefully.) Who knows, maybe it's even a concession made for Silk.
In order to cut costs, Amazon decided to pass on cameras. No front or back cam. That means, no Skyping and definitely no augmented reality apps. Bummer. A tablet without cameras is well, kind of like a piece of wood. The Kindle Fire is a consuming device, but come on, no cameras? It's 2011. Does at least one VGA camera on the front really cost that much?
Say Hello To The Whole Kindle Family
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