November 22, 2011

721 words 4 mins read

First impressions of the Kindle Fire

Well, it took a while (because Amazon screwed up), but I finally got my Kindle Fire. When it was first announced, I was very excited and ordered it promptly. I continued to be excited about it up until Amazon screwed up my shipment repeatedly. Even through all my trials and tribulations, I was happy to finally get the device and put my grubby little paws on it. So here are my first impressions of the device:

Right off the bat, here are the few notes that I jotted down:

  • The device feels solid. It doesn’t have any noticeable give or flex.
  • It is a bit hefty; I haven’t actually weighed the unit, but the Kindle Fire feels about as heavy as the iPad 2 (which is roughly twice the size of the Kindle Fire).
  • The screen is quite nice — crisp and clear. The brightest setting is definitely bright, but the dim setting isn’t remotely “dim”.
  • The touch sensor is questionable. I had a few times where the device registered touches that I wasn’t intending. Most often though, the Kindle Fire didn’t register the press I was trying to make.
  • I’m ambivalent about the UI.
  • The power button on the bottom is in a bad location. You cannot rest it on a flat surface for fear of turning it on or off, and periodically when holding it in my hand, I would hit the button.
After I spent some more time with the unit, I continued to be unimpressed. The hardware might not be perfect, but it’s good enough. You’re only paying $200 for the tablet, so it isn’t such a big deal that it isn’t 100% perfect. It reminds me very much of the Kindle 1; it was a strange design that worked, but wasn’t necessarily “great”.

The real issue is the software. I don’t like the “cover flow” at all for a couple of reasons. First, it’s really hard to get the item I want to actually run. I drag back and forth to get to my app/video/whatever and 99.9% of the time it skips past the item I want, even if I stop dragging very deliberately. Second, sometimes it takes several “clicks” (or finger stabs) in varying locations to get it to acknowledge that I want to OPEN the item, versus just sort of moving about the list. Third, I don’t like that it puts everything in this list, especially Amazon media. Anyone can just power on the device and see what I’ve been up to with 1 flick, and this goes doubly so for the browser which does not have an icon, but instead is represented with a screenshot of the last page you were on. So in one flick any random person can see what I’ve been reading, what apps I’ve been using, what movies and TV shows I’ve been watching, and what web page I was on. Oh, and there is no way to get items off of that list short of deleting them from the device (which isn’t possible for everything).

Also, the “menus” are hidden in an annoying way. For example, maybe I’m playing Angry Birds at work or on the train and want to turn the volume down. That’s 4 clicks. I have to drag up from the bottom to get the toolbars to show. The click the “gear” on top for Settings. Then click Volume. Then adjust the slider. A 5th click to get me back to the app. There are other examples, but this is the best example I can think of offhand that shows how little UI usability design was put into the making of this device. Yes, it’s easy to get to your books… and that’s about where the ease ends.

Oh, and if I haven’t made it clear how little I care for the “cover flow”, let me mention this: It shows every single book you’ve ever bought — cloud or device. So all those trashy romance novels my mother bought on my account before she had her own Kindle? Yeah, they are right there on my homepage for anyone to enjoy who might happen to be checking out my Kindle. Seriously, just because I want my media doesn’t mean I want EVERYONE to have the ability to find out the same in a matter of seconds.