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Amazon Kindle fire misfires

Melissa J. Perenson | Nov. 16, 2011
All eyes are on Amazon's Kindle Fire to provide fresh competition for Apple's iPad 2, today's dominant tablet.

Even the Docs tab didn't behave as I'd expected. I thought it logical that all documents I've transferred to the device to show there, but only PDFs showed up there. The other Microsoft Word and Excel documents were only accessible via the included Quickoffice document viewer app, under the "Apps" tab. If you want document creation or editing, you'll have to step up to the full Quickoffice Pro or another compatible office suite.

Apps and the Appstore

App behaviors were all over the map. With no Google Android Market on-board, the curated Amazon Appstore is your sole source for apps, short of sideloading apps from another source--something I don't expect of the average Kindle Fire owner. But at launch, Amazon's Appstore was disappointing, and my experience with apps as a whole weighed down my impression of the Kindle Fire as a tablet .

For one, most of the apps I downloaded ended up looking as if they were phone apps blown out to fit the big screen. This a problem for any Android 2.2 or 2.3 tablet, which is why we don't recommend these tablets at this point. (Android 3.x Honeycomb tablets may have similar issues with legacy apps, but at least those tablets can also run apps optimized for tablets.)

The difference in experience between phone and tablet apps on a 7-inch screen can be huge. What's most surprising is that I'd have expected Amazon to handpick apps from its Appstore that best show off what the Kindle Fire can do. Instead, my random downloads produced apps with fuzzy, phone-ready graphics and menu design, and my searches revealed apps that won't even work right on Kindle Fire because Fire lacks the necessary hardware. Even Angry Birds wasn't ready for primetime here; two versions of Angry Birds launched upside down, depending upon how I held the tablet. Oops.

Kindle Fire Software: Clean, But Buggy

For as many thoughtful design touches as Kindle Fire has, I found just as many glitchy behaviors. In all, they speak to premature software, and some things that may, perhaps, be fixed with future software updates.

For example, book page turns didn't always feel smooth, but highlighting passages gave me no issues. Animations and graphics were jerky, but that carousel on the home screen is insanely zippy.The music player was well-presented and is an improvement over standard Android 2.x tablets, but the interface was at times inconsistent (tapping on a song in the cloud to do something with it brought up a jarringly Android-like menu). The Amazon-supplied on-screen keyboard has a good layout for typing, but I nonetheless found myself prone to a few more errors than I'm used to on other 7-inch Honeycomb tablets.

 

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