A little while ago my trusty Lenovo Yoga tablet was destoyed, as was my little LG. I was more than a little gutted. With not much budget to replace them with I bought a 7″ Kindle Fire HD.
When I first turned it on I have to say I was impressed. Great screen with easy to access functions. There’s all the popular apps available like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and WordPress in the app store so things started out well. But then when I got to look a little closer, many of the applications I need and in a way would expect from a device like this were unavailable. Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Keep, Google maps, Google Chrome… Spotted a theme? Yup – no Google!
This wasn’t all – Firefox is not available which is a pin as I use this as my default web browser and all of my favourites an history is synced to it. Then I found out that while I can install Netflix – it doesn’t work! Semi popular apps like Pinterest and StumbleUpon are also not available. So within minutes of unwrapping my sleek new Kindle Fire I feeling a tinge of disappointment. At this point I can hear cries of ‘so what? It’s just Amazon’s operating system right?’
No – this is where we really get to the heart of the issue and here’s why:
Amazon’s Kindle is Android based. That’s right, Amazon has taken Google’s own Android OS, hacked and fettled it to make it their own and in the process have kicked Google off it at the same time. I have to ask myself why this is, does Amazon hate Google? Maybe, but it’s a bit hypocritical to take the stack OS from a company you hate and then use it while locking them out. Or have Amazon wanted to make it their own? I’m not sure on this, in a way this makes Amazon worse than Apple for being technically introverted. The only thing that saves it a bit from this is it’s use of standard USB and Bluetooth. This though is marred by the fact that I can’t see a way to use my Google Chromecast with my Fire HD, which is another disappointment.
For me a clue to what’s going on and in some ways eases the confusion is when the power button is pressed and the standby screen comes on. This is annoying, every time you turn on the Kindle there’s adverts for anything Amazon. Books, Films, special offers, every time there’s something different.
What this means though is that whatever else the Fire HD is, primarily it’s a selling platform for good, apps and services. This can also be seem with Amazon’s Fire TV stick where games, token and films come at a pretty heft cost. The touch screen is responsive and it feels like a quality Android 7″ tablet, there doesn’t seem to have been much penny pinching with the build quality over a device that costs twice the price.
When you turn it on for the first time you notice is that Amazon have kindly set up and linked the device to the Amazon account that it was bought from, all of the books, music and films you have bought are instantly available.
The Fire HD works just like any other 7″ tablet and while the different home screens set up by Amazon give it a custom feel you don’t have to dig deep to find the Android roots. The stock web browser that come with it is called Silk – however it’s fooling no one becasue when the user signs into any accounts you the annoying security email comes it clearly thinks that it’s being signed into by Chrome.
The whole thing is still confusing to me, it’s good at what it does, but there’s so much it doesn’t do and does a reduced price tag make up for it? It all depend on how a user looks at it I think – if you’re a cynic that thinks Amazon is trying to get of Google then it’s crap tablet. But if you’re after something to read your books on, browse the internet and get you’re emails, then it’s an incredible e-book reader!