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Initial Thoughts on the Kindle Fire

So, a few weeks back my Kindle Fire arrived and I started jotting notes as I opened it and used it. Here's the collection:

  • The un-boxing was surprisingly pleasant: minimal plastic, lots of recycled elements, no user-manual (it's on the device!). The package was about 2.5 inches tall and about 2 inches of that was empty, with a small cardboard elevating the kindle above the empty space that contained a small USB cord.. Why ruin the experience with all that empty space?
  • The USB's a "wallwart" with a micro-usb on the end. I'm super excited that the device uses the current standard micro-usb b as its source of power and connectivity but what a waste to send me a cable connected to a wall-wart. I'd be way happier with something like this wall-usb and standard usb cable.
  • I now have learned that this wallwart USB outputs more than normal power, so it can't be a normal device. That If it uses different power I would almost rather have a different plug just to make that clear (though apparently the size lets me power it up slowly via computer if I'm in a bind). I wish it would take normal micro-usb power form a normal cable even if that means slower charging.
  • The power button is on the bottom right next to the USB port and headphone port which makes it easy to accidentally press it when you connect/disconnect your headphones/usb plug. To solve this, I've started using it upside down which means I type my password upside down when I unlock it. Of course the screen flips once it's unlocked, but now the sound comes out the "bottom" and gets my stomach messy with it's messy, messy sound.
  • The screen is pretty awesome. Very bright and crisp.
  • I had an iPhone and switched to a Droid Incredible and love the Droid Incredible philosophy of having dedicated buttons for back, home, volume, and context menu (I don't use the search nearly as much). Kindle Fire doesn't have those dedicated buttons, but two slideup/down control areas. The slidedown control area feels similar to the droid incredible, but the slideup one doesn't. Getting it to appear while reading a book was tricky at first, but I feel like I'm getting better and will soon be OK with it. Still: it's not as good as dedicated buttons.
  • The Droid Incredible (Android 2.3) responds to a "swipe down" to pull down the top control area - Kindle Fire doesn't. Breaking UX conventions, without a good reason, is bad :(
  • The home page navigation is a shelf concept, which feels weird compared to the icons+folders of most Droid/iPhones. I wonder if I will get used to this. The organizer in me really really despises having the shortcut to the Amazon store App right next to a book.
  • Flipping through items on my shelf is super awkward. It's hard to get it to land on a specific item which is kind of important since that's how you access the item. I find myself ending up one ahead/behind of where I want to be and then flipping back and forth and still not getting it right. I can only imagine how horrible this is for elderly and others with poor finger dexterity.
  • The Amazon marketplace feels empty in a weird way. It's like going into your favorite restaurant and the menu is full of dozens of things but they took your favorites and the most popular food off the menu. There's no Twitter app, but Ubersocial and Seesmic and a ton of crappy twitter apps are there. There's no Google maps, but there is Mapquest (!?!?!). There's no Google reader or Google plus or gmail or... OK, I get that Amazon wants to be Google free for some reason, but there's no way Mapquest is going to cut it. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.
  • I love the photos on the lock-screen, very pretty.
  • I read a review that said page-turning was jerky. That person must be a jerk. The page turns were fine. I don't notice any slowness.
  • That review also complains that the Fire browser is slow. I definitely was surprised at the flow of browsing. Usually the page loads incrementally so I get a feel of progress. On the Fire it seems to POP a bit more. You "go" to a page, wait a bit, and POP there it all is at once rendered for you. This isn't universally true, but I definitely got that feel on a lot of the pages. Comparing the Fire to my laptop on the same network the laptop was obviously faster by somewhere between 10% and 50%.
  • The relatively small local storage means you have to choose which files to download or remove from local storage. I wish that this were all managed the way RAM is managed on smartphones: fill the local memory with the stuff you think I'm going to want and remove bits and pieces of things I haven't accessed in a long time. For example, if I'm half-way through a movie that I started 4 months ago then start by deleting the first half of that movie and as I run out of local space maybe get rid of the whole movie from the local storage.
  • Streaming services kinda suck. Even if I let an entire movie pre-load on pause the movie gets deleted if the machine sleeps or locks so I can't, for example, stream the movie, pause, get on the bus-without-wifi, and start the movie. Kinda lame.

Overall I love it. I look forward to software and licensing-contract updates to fix some of these problems! I look forward to more ubiquitous wifi/4g and larger flash storage to fix some of the longer term ones in a Fire "2.0."

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