Since 1995, I've had a great deal of brand name loyalty to Amazon.com. The online retailer is the first place I ever visit when I am interested in a product and probably end up making my purchase from Amazon well over 90 percent of the time. I probably feel about Amazon the way other people feel about Apple. I've just never embraced Apple products, which may help explain my enthusiasm for the Kindle Fire. This post may come off sounding like a big promotion for Amazon, but it's difficult to write a review regarding the Kindle Fire without addressing the content and services available from this retailer.
Music in the Cloud
For me, as an Amazon consumer, the big selling point of the Kindle Fire is the access to my media content via the cloud. Earlier this year, Amazon introduced cloud storage for not only computer files, but for music files. Right now, I have about the equivalent of a large clothes closet crammed full of CDs and DVDs. I took advantage of the early promotions to get 20 gb of cloud storage for a year. With the promotions, I think this cost me about $5, and certainly it was no more than $10. Regular price for my plan is $20/year and music files do not count toward the 20 gb. Any mp3 music purchased from Amazon may be stored directly to the cloud drive - or downloaded to my computer at the time of purchase or later. So far, I have more than 2,000 songs stored on my Amazon cloud drive and I've barely started uploading all of my music.
Music is, and always has been, a big part of my life, so it's really nice to have my music collection available to play songs in the background on any computer, anywhere, with the Amazon Cloud Player. The Cloud Player is also available for Android devices.
For the last year, I have absolutely loved being able to carry more than 300 ebooks on my Kindle Keyboard - right in my purse. There are thousands of free ebooks available on Amazon, Google Books and other online sources. It's great for transferring PDF files of those old county history books to a portable device. The Kindle Keyboard has been promoted for having "e-Ink" display - which comes close to resembling the printed page. There is no glare in direct sunlight. I've found it very comfortable to read books on the Kindle Keyboard. The Kindle Fire has a back lit display that more closely resembles a computer screen. So far, I've found reading on the Kindle Fire just as comfortable on my eyes as the Kindle Keyboard. In fact, the Kindle Fire would be my preference in a low-light situation. You could actually read a book in an unlit room with the Kindle Fire. Even with a portable light, it's extremely difficult to read the Kindle Keyboard in a dark environment.
Movies and Other Video Content
Just to give you an idea of the type of movie fan I am, over the years, I've managed to collect every film awarded the Best Picture Oscar. But I'm not a film snob, I can enjoy something like Vegas Vacation just as much as Citizen Kane.
More than a year ago, I started a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. Interesting marketing technique: pay $75/year to get Free shipping. Well, I purchase enough from Amazon.com that I liked the idea of getting my merchandise in two days as compared to 10 days when I selected the normal 'free' shipping method.
Perhaps knowing that the Kindle Fire was on its way, Amazon made an ingenious move by including online viewing of thousands of movies and television programs available at no additional charge to subscribers of Prime. I'm not saying that watching a movie on my laptop or the Kindle Fire can be compared to watching on my HD television. But for catching up on films I may have missed or re-watching some of my favorites, I find the streaming quality quite acceptable. The availability of this content for $75/year is a good selling point. This is $6.25/month average, compared to the Netflix online viewing subscription, which is advertised at $7.99, but with tax runs about $8.50.
Last weekend, I rented Larry Crowne, the new film with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Rental from Amazon was $3.99 and streaming quality on the Kindle Fire was fine. Right now, the Beatles' first feature film, A Hard Day's Night, is playing on the Kindle Fire as I compose this blog post. This particular film is via my Netflix subscription, using the Netflix app for the Kindle Fire. Again, excellent video and audio quality. On most of the films I've sampled, the audio is much better if you use ear buds or other type of headphone device.
For most videos from Amazon, you may pay to rent a film or television show for 24 hour or 48 hour rental; some titles are available to purchase and download. Purchases may be downloaded to the Kindle Fire (or your computer), yet they remain stored in the Cloud on Amazon. You can easily move your media content back and forth between the Kindle Fire and the Cloud. I downloaded my purchased copy of All the President's Men to my Kindle Fire. Again, the quality is great. As I frequently have overnight travel for my "day job," I like this feature because much of the time, there's not much to interest me on motel room TV channels.
As mentioned in one of my earlier posts in this series, I've been able to watch Legacy Family tree webinars and other genealogy videos on the Kindle Fire. My friend, Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames, told me that the iPad does not play any videos using Flash. So this may be one area where the Kindle Fire has a leg up on the iPad.
Applications for the Kindle Fire are designed for Android devices. There are thousands available, many for free, many for a low price. I've been playing around with these applications a lot this week (which probably explains why I've only read about 50 pages of book content!).
Being a news junkie, I've selected a few apps that access the mobile feeds from many news providers. My favorite is US Newspapers by Langtolang Inc. It comes with links to major providers already included, such as CNN, People, USA Today. I've added my local newspapers and other news providers as well. This one is Free.
A Radio app I like is called TuneIn radio. Not only does it include all of my local radio stations, but also any station in the world that has online streaming. So - I can transport myself to Nashville, L.A. London or Sydney with just a tap on my Kindle Fire. I can't imagine how giddy this would have made me when I was 13!
Many apps for social media are available. I've set up some that will notify me of incoming email in both Gmail and Yahoo Mail. With TweetCaster, I have finally embraced the power of Twitter. On a mobile device, this social networking tool finally makes sense to me in a way it never did using it online or even with Tweet Deck.
Weather, news, sports, music, games - there's dozens of apps to appeal to anyone's taste. I even tried out Angry Birds, but it just doesn't move fast enough for me!
I have also signed-up for trial subscriptions to Smithsonian and Vanity Fair magazines. The reading apps for these magazines provide the option of reading an article at a time by tapping on the table of contents, or you can scan through the pages just as if it were the printed magazine, complete with ads.
What I am hopefully optimistic about is that the genealogy companies will be developing apps for the Kindle Fire. Let's hope that Ancestry.com will be coming out with an app similar to what they have created for the iPad.
A few words about battery life
For casual web browsing, game playing, reading and listening to music, you can expect the Kindle Fire to go about eight hours. Turning off the WiFi while reading a book will add some time. I've found that a full recharge from about 10 percent battery life to 100 percent takes about four hours. You can continue to use the Kindle Fire while the device is being recharged. The AC adapter/wall charger that comes with the Kindle Fire may not provide a long enough cord in some settings.
Please note than live streaming a movie over WiFi runs down the internal rechargeable battery very quickly. But a fully charged device should easily last through a feature length film.
The Downside - maybe, maybe not
When making a purchasing decision, someone who has the need to be connected to the internet 24/7 may feel restricted by the Kindle Fire being a WiFi only device. This is not a deterrent to me. I will primarily be using the online connection while at home, over my own WiFi network. There is more than enough reading, music and game playing on the device to occupy me during those long periods in waiting rooms and other brief times when I'm just passing time. I can easily connect once I'm back in WiFi territory. My guess is that future versions of the Kindle Fire may come with wireless connectivity.
Related posts from LongLostRelatives.net:
Kindle Fire For Genealogy
Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? First Look
Kindle for Genealogy
Kindle for Genealogy Redux
Disclaimer: links to Amazon.com are via my affiliate relationship with the site.