It is believed by many people that the Kindle Fire has been a real competitor for Apple’s iPad since its release. In fact, although the iPad has had more sales for the first three quarters of 2011, Amazon’s newest Kindle has sold more in the final quarter of the year then the iPad has. The Kindle Fire sold many, many copies during the holidays this year, but should people have saved their money and instead bought an iPad? We here at TechPopper have had the opportunity to use both devices for a fair amount of time, and will be comparing based on three categories – hardware, software, and price.
The Kindle Fire features a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 resolution screen. The iPad features a 9.7 inch, 1024 x 768 resolution screen. At first glance, the iPad looks prettier, but appearance isn’t really a factor when it comes to calculating the usefulness of a tablet.
The size of the Kindle can be either a good or a bad thing. Because it’s smaller, it’s much easier to wrap your hand around. Because the back is also made out of rubber, it’s easier to grip, and I feel less worried about dropping it. Also, because the tablet is smaller, it makes it easier to store in smaller areas. It’s much easier to fit the Kindle inside of a small bag, which isn’t really possible with an iPad.
The screen design does not come without its flaws, however. Playing games and watching videos on the smaller Kindle screen is not as enjoyable as it is with Apple’s bigger, higher resolution screen. Additionally, the bottom of the Kindle (in portrait mode) is slightly thicker then the top. Apple’s iPad is completely symmetrical, and I believe all tablets should be that way. Another strange design choice Amazon made was to put the headphones and power button on the bottom of the device. This choice makes it easier to accidentally turn off the device, and makes it more uncomfortable to listen with headphones.
The iPad 2 features two cameras, a rear facing camera, and a front facing camera for video calling via Facetime or Skype. For people with smartphones, this isn’t really an issue. Not having any camera on the Kindle cut costs quite a bit, and the cameras they could have potentially put on the Kindle probably wouldn’t be that great anyway. Just know that if you plan on video calling someone on the Kindle Fire, it won’t ever be possible.
The Kindle Fire only comes with 8 gigabytes of storage, and like the iPad, has no slot to add any additional storage. The iPad has 3 different storage capacities, 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes, or 64 gigabytes. With a tablet being able to store so many different file types, such as music, e-books, applications, videos, and more, having a comfortable amount of storage is a necessity. At first glance, only having 8 gigabytes of storage, for some people, would be enough reason not to buy one. Luckily, Amazon has implemented their cloud based service greatly into the Kindle Fire, and currently, they are offering unlimited cloud storage for free (which is quite a big leap from Apple’s 5 gigabyte free cap). Unfortunately, to access data in the cloud, you have to be connected to an internet source, and the Kindle doesn’t support 3G connectivity. It’s much more convenient to have everything directly on your device, which is much easier to do on the iPad.
At the time of writing, the iPad ships with iOS 5.0 and the Kindle Fire ships with a heavily modified Android 2.3. I’ll leave the operating system comparison for another article.
Amazon’s browser for the Kindle Fire, called Silk, was supposedly going to be one of the fastest mobile browsers yet. It has a feature that is supposed to accelerate popular pages, that are cached on Amazon’s servers. However, tests have shown that it barely has any effect on page loading times. For right now, Mobile Safari is just as fast as Silk, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Silk is improved in the future
Hands down, the Kindle Fire wins the contest for best e-book reader. It’s not necessarily that iBooks is worse then the Kindle app, but the Amazon bookstore has so much more to offer then the iBooks store does.
This is where Apple has a major advantage. The app store for the Kindle is not even comparable to the app store of the iPad. The Kindle has about 16,000 applications available at the time of writing, and the iPad can currently run over 750,000 applications. Additionally, the overall quality of the applications on the iOS app store is much higher then the quality of applications on the Kindle app store. Most of the apps on the Kindle Fire were designed for Android smartphones, and were resized to fit the Kindle. It just doesn’t work good.
Perhaps the only reason the Kindle Fire is even worth considering is because of its price. At $199, that is only 2/5 of the price of the cheapest iPad. “You get what you pay for” definitely holds true to both of the devices I have compared in this article. The Kindle has very little storage, no cameras, and lower quality equipment. If the Kindle Fire price had been set to $500, the company would be making no profit at all, because the iPad is better in almost every aspect. The iPad has more power, better software, better hardware, and a better user experience then the Kindle Fire. For the quality of the product, however, $200 isn’t such a bad device.
The Kindle Fire is simply overall worse then the iPad. But, because of it’s much lower price, it’s not really a competitor. The Kindle is for people that want a tablet like experience, but can’t afford something great like the iPad. The smaller screen makes media such as books more enjoyable to read, but the screen is not nearly enjoyable for viewing videos or playing games. The Kindle is missing a lot of tablet like features, such as a camera, microphone, and useful built in apps, but it’s still nice. If you have the money, the iPad is without a doubt better to buy then the Kindle Fire, but for those on a tight budget and want a tablet for general usage, purchasing a Kindle Fire isn’t such a bad idea.