All about the Kindle Fire
What is the Kindle Fire?
The Kindle Fire is a 7" multi-touch, wi-fi capable tablet that's primarily designed to be an entertainment device, channeling content from Amazon.com's considerable virtual warehouse to your hands. A lot of people mistakenly consider it simply an e-reader similar to Amazon's other Kindle models, but it is so much more than that. In addition to being a reader for books and magazines, it's also a music and video player, has an impressive array of apps available, and can speedily browse the web.
The Kindle Fire shares many features with most other tablets, and, at $199, is an inexpensive entry in the tablet market.
What is the Kindle Fire not?
Although the Kindle Fire does share many characteristics with other tablets, including the iPad and the Asus Transformer, it is lacking in a few big areas. It doesn't have a camera, for one thing, but whether or not this is important really depends on the user, and whether or not the user already has a decent camera available on their mobile phone.
The screen size is much smaller than the 10-inch "standard" screen on most tablets, which can make it difficult to do heavy-duty work or extensive typing. The lack of Bluetooth capability makes adding on a full physical keyboard impossible, which may be a big deterrent to people looking to get some work done or type up a novel on the device.
In short, it's not an iPad-killer, or a killer of other more traditional tablets. As stated above, it's primarily an entertainment device, which will be exactly what some people are looking for. Others will want to consider another tablet.
Kindle Fire tips & tricks
At first glance, the 8gb storage space on the Fire may seem like another area in which it's lacking when compared to other tablets. But any Amazon content you purchase can be stored for free, forever, in "the cloud." This means if you've already read a book or have no current use for an app, you can delete it from the Fire itself and have it available should you need it again. There's simply no need to have a lot of apps, videos, or books cluttering up your device if you have no immediate use for them.
Free App of the Day
Unlike most Android tablets, the Kindle Fire doesn't have access to the Android Market (well, it can... but that involves rooting the Fire). Instead, it gets its apps from the Amazon Appstore, which doesn't actually have as many apps as the Android Market. One cool benefit of the Appstore is that everyday, an app that you'd normally have to pay for is offered up for free. Many times, the free app of the day isn't anything to get too excited about, but sometimes you'll get a real gem at no charge. Since it doesn't cost anything, it's usually worth grabbing it if you think there's any chance you may be able to use it one day. If you don't like it or have an immediate use for it, just delete it; it'll always be available from your free Amazon cloud storage.
The Fire's Home Screen
Anyone familiar with the Android OS will no doubt be in for a surprise upon first seeing the Kindle Fire's home screen, as it's very different from the iPhone-inspired home screens that most Android devices have. Along the top of the home screen is a search box (allowing you to search both items on the Fire as well as the web) atop a menu of options like "Newstand," "Books," "Music," etc. Under that is the Carousel, featuring your most recently used items, apps, books, etc. Finally, underneath the Carousel is a bookshelf to which you can add your favorites. Touching the settings button next to the battery icon at the very top of the screen brings up the quick settings menu, allowing you to change volume and brightness, connect to a wi-fi network, and more. The difference between the Fire's customized home screen and the normally flexible stock Android version can be jarring, but it's actually quite intuitive and doesn't take long to get used to.
The Kindle Fire really shines when paired with an Amazon Prime membership. At $79 a year (which breaks down to less than $7 per month), it's a great value that gives you access to thousands of free movies and television shows (that can be watched on the Fire, your computer, or on your TV), free two-day shipping on Amazon.com physical products, and the ability to borrow one Kindle ebook a month from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Simply borrowing one book a month might be enough to get you your $79 worth, not to mention the other benefits of the membership. The Fire includes one free month of Prime for you to check it out.
This is just a brief overview of what the Kindle Fire has to offer. I'll be going into greater detail on various Fire features in future hubs, including recommendations for apps and essential ebooks that everyone should own. If you're a Kindle Fire fan, let me know in the comments below.