updated 11:05 am EST, Mon November 14, 2011
Amazon Kindle Fire seen working best for price
Amazon on Monday started shipping the Kindle Fire a day early. Its Android 2.3 tablet reader could now reach its earliest buyers the same November 15 date it was supposed to ship. The device comes in one 8GB version for $199.
Early reviews were unusually mixed for the device and saw it as no danger to the iPad, even if it did well for its price. The Chicago Sun-Times' Andy Ihnatko called it a "marvelous device" whose seven-inch size was, despite Steve Jobs' comments, well-suited to media. He had complaints regarding the interface, though, which had a signature Android sluggishness and had an imprecise and sometimes non-communicative layout.
The New York Times' David Pogue was considerably more critical. Along with a harsher reaction to the interface, which "does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad," he disagreed entirely with the notion that the seven-inch screen was suitable, likening it to a worst-of-both-worlds option.
"There is Page View, which shows the original magazine layout -- but shrunken down too small to read, and zooming is limited," he said. "Then there is Text View: simple text on a white background. It's great for reading, but of course now you're missing the design and layout, which is half the joy of reading a magazine."
A Consumer Reports review was unusually glowing and claimed that it wasn't just responsive but at times too responsive. It mostly glossed over interface issues, however, and didn't comment on the appeal of the different magazine views. It, like some others examining the Kindle Fire, saw the $199 price as overcoming any issues of screen size and app variety.
Balance came through a look from The Verge's Joshua Topolsky. It liked the interface but called it buggy, and singled out both the converted BlackBerry PlayBook hardware as well as the inherently limited selection of the Amazon Appstore as problems. The examination appreciated the desire to create an original interface but also warned that the Kindle Fire could be a dead end without long-term support and could damage Android by splintering the platform.
"For an OS that's still playing catch up to iOS, and one which is plagued by fragmentation in its main, fully supported app store, the introduction of a completely separate store on a completely separate product which developers now have to to consider seems relatively awful," Topolsky said. "I respect Amazon's desire for a complete and clean ecosystem, but the divide it's going to cause -- particularly for smaller developers -- could have a chilling effect."