My First Experiences With The Amazon Kindle Fire

Snapshot of my Kindle Fire playing a video from YouTube. The name of the musical piece is "Beethoven Violin Romance" beautifully played by Ann Fontanella. Shot taken with my ole Canon PowerShot A720 IS. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

I pre-ordered my Amazon Kindle Fire on October 7, 2011.  I received it in Panama on November 23, 2011.  During that period, I was reading everything I could lay my paws on.    As usual, there were good, bad, and ugly reviews; it all depended on how well you did at the party.

Let me start this review by saying that the Kindle Fire is a minimalistic gadget.  Nothing flashy and stylish about it.  The Fire is dressed in black and sports no adornment.  There’s not even an Amazon logo on the front.  Only the grey-on-grey branding and CE certification info on the back give any clue which way is up, or down for that matter.

At the bottom of the gadget you will find a 3.5 mm stereo audio jack (which will accept external speakers), micro-USB 2.0 (for charging and file transfer), and a small power button.  On the opposite end, are two modest top-mounted stereo speakers.  The Kindle Fire is slightly smaller than a DVD case and slightly larger than a Blue-ray case.  It has a great built quality and felt very solid in my hands.

When I first started using the Kindle Fire, I thought I would be climbing a stairway to heaven.  This was not the case.  My first disappointment with the gadget was that it was aimed at the U.S. market exclusively.  At least for the time being.  Being in Panama, I was unable to download any movies, TV episodes or music from Amazon´s Instant Video Web site.

When I tried to stream the video, “Steve Jobs:  One Last Thing”, the following message hit me on the head like a red brick:  “Video Playback Not Authorized.  We have detected that you are not located within the U.S.  Due to licensing restrictions, Amazon Instant Video customers must be located in the United States when viewing videos online.”   I sat still and cold on my seat.

This U.S.-centricity brings some immediate limitations to potentials users outside of the United States which have been aroused by this affordable tablet.  You can’t, repeat can not, rent or buy videos using your foreign Amazon account—even ones with a zero dollar price, like TV trailers.  All attempts to download software—including free apps, popped up a message, “The Amazon Appstore is not yet available in your region.”  The Android market is inaccessible to all, at least not without hackery.

This limitation killed one of my main reason for buying an Amazon Kindle Fire—streaming movies using my Netflix account.  The Netflix Apps would not work—not even my Panama Netflix subscription could be used.  I called Netflix over the phone and asked if they had any plans on making the Netflix app available for Latin American users.  They said, “We’re  were working on it.”

 Amazon divides everything based on media type:  Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps, and Web.  At this moment, I’m off-limits regarding downloading Amazon’s periodicals, music, videos, or apps.   Some applications originally included in the gadget will work, others won’t.  For example, Pandora Internet Radio won’t work in Panama, yet the E-mail app worked just fine.

Email setup was very easy—it took about a minute to set up my main Yahoo account, and I was able to send a test message to another account as well as receive and reply to other emails.  However, it was not a pleasant experience.  The screen was too small for typing on the digital keyboard.  I found it to be too sensitive and difficult to correct errors.  Lots of useful productivity is lost while composing E-mails.  Another major disappointment.

Surfing the Web was less than satisfactory.  Everything is too small on the screen.  I found frequent tap errors and accidental activations.  Scrolling can feel erratic.  I also found huge lags in response after pressing the command buttons.  However, most of the time the operating system was very fast, even though the Android 2.3 OS was originally designed for mobile phones; not for tablets.

I enjoyed streaming YouTube videos from the Web.  The screen looked like a small movie screen.  The image was staggeringly crisp and bright—it’s the best feature of the Amazon Fire.  The gadget has a 7″ multi-touch display with IPS (in-plane switching) technology and anti-reflective treatment, 1024 x 600 pixel resolution at 169 ppi, 16 million colors. The speakers did not have a nice listening volume.  I could not enjoy orchestral music; maybe this problem can be solved attaching external speakers or using adequate headphones.

I found surfing the Web cumbersome and confusing.  Maybe it’s because it’s the first time I’m using a tablet.  The Silk web browser was not as fast as Amazon has boasted.  It’s fast, but not so outstandingly fast that I would brag about it.  I was able to stream several TV Internet sites such as Bloomberg, CNN and MSNBC with satisfactory results.  The volume was somewhat better than streaming YouTube videos.  I wonder why?

Where the Kindle Fire really shines is with e-books.  It has a backlit screen which is very convenient if you are reading a book with poor lighting.  The fonts are brisk and clean on a snow-white screen.  I enjoy reading my books using the Kindle Fire.  I would say, it’s the best feature the tablet has.  It’s cozy to be able to read my books outside my office—specially on the back porch where it’s nice and cool during the late afternoons.  The same applies to streaming TV web stations anywhere in the house.  The volume seems to improve with certain Web sites.  YouTube unfortunately is not one of them.  Sigh…

Though Amazon’s founder and Chief Executive, Jeff Bezos, says the Kindle Fire is a “premium product” some pundits have complained that it is not as responsive or capable as an iPad.  I can understand that, just by comparing the price tag of both products.  For $199.00 there’s so much you can ask for.  However, I feel the software is below par.  I think it was rushed to the market, just in time for the holiday season.  It’s possible that after the rat race of the holidays is over, we could receive a software upgrade improving the overall experience of the tablet.

If you enjoy reading e-books, reading/sending a few e-mails now and then, and streaming YouTube videos, the Kindle Fire would be right for you.  If not, save your money and go for an Apple iPad or for a low-priced notebook with a full keyboard.

Currently I’m reading the gadget’s User’s Guide to acquaint myself with all its rated capabilities.  After coughing $199.00 for this baby, I plan to extract every single drop of satisfaction I can possibly get.  Good Day.

10 thoughts on “My First Experiences With The Amazon Kindle Fire”

  1. I’ve eagerly been waiting to hear your report on your new toy. What a bummer that it isn’t living up to your expectations. The reading part is good. The only complaint I have with my Kindle is that it’s NOT backlit so I need some light source in order to read. Saturday night I discovered I could rent movies with my Apple account to be viewed on my computer. Only problem is it took over 12 hours to download the one I chose so I won’t be doing THAT again.

    Oh, well, nobody said life was going to be easy.

  2. Hello Richard:

    I read this morning that Amazon is planning to launch a software upgrade of the Kindle Fire to address several problems encountered by many users of the gadget. I’m expecting that some, if not all of the problems I faced, will be corrected.

    Yeah, waiting 12 hours to enjoy a movie, is a bit irritating to say the least.

    Take Care,


  3. I really had to dig through a lot of stuff to figure out if the Kindle Fire would be usable in Panama. Amazon was certainly not forthright with that information. Not even any fine print to read. After finally finding a couple of blogs that seemed to be written by intelligent people, it was clear that most of the reasons one would buy a Kindle Fire couldn’t be accessed here. Such a disappointment for those of us outside of the S…especially the ones who bought one.

  4. The Fire seems to be pretty much what the first Kindle was, i.e., an instrument meant only for use in the States. As well, at this point, the Fire is only Wi-Fi, not 3G. As the old saying goes, time went by…. and then Amazon came out with the international Kindle in Wi-Fi and 3G, which is what I have in Quito, and it’s worked great, just about anywhere I’ve gone in-country. I suspect that the Fire will have the same capabilities one of these days, but Amazon will have to work things out with the MPAA et al, regarding downloads of movies, etc. Finally, I would note that I can connect my regular Kindle to my PC and do downloads that way as well, i.e., over the inet, and then download on to my Kindle. I gave my daughter a Fire for her birthday earlier this month and she’s coming down to Quito for Christmas. I’m gonna experiment with her Fire while she’s here, to see what we can do with it via my PC. If something really astounding happens (in a positive way, I might say!) I’ll report in. Saludos

  5. You can side load apps onto the fire via VPN on your computer. Not as convenient as using the fire, but doable. Also google kindle fire outside USA and you will find many who have gotten around the app limitation. As for using amazon prime, one would need a VPN router. Making your $199 tablet close to the price of an iPad. One side note on Netflix I have it on an iPod touch (panama account) and it worked fine.

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