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source: Mandi Ehman

Kindle Fire Versus iPad: Initial Thoughts

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I don’t often buy the latest and greatest gadget right when they’re released.

Although I had an original Kindle, and I have both an iPad and an iPhone, I still have early versions of both of those devices, and I got all of them much later than many other people.

But I was so excited when Amazon announced the Kindle Fire — and impressed by it’s accessible low price — that I ordered one right away. And even paid the $3.99 extra for overnight shipping!

Which means that last Tuesday I got to be one of the first consumers to play with this nifty device!

To be honest, I was feeling a little stressed out and grumpy last week, and although I’d been so excited in the days leading up to the Kindle Fire’s delivery, I found myself frustrated by the differences between the Fire and the iPad and not really in the mood to try to figure them out.

Because of Amazon’s generous 30-day return policy, though, I decided to give the Fire a fair shot. I set my iPad aside (except for practicing our homeschool memory work because I haven’t taken the time to transfer all of that over to the Amazon Cloud yet) and focused on using the Kindle Fire.

At this point — just a few days later — I think I’m falling in love. There are still areas where the iPad outperforms, but there are others where the Fire wins hands down!

Kindle Fire Features I Love

  • I think my favorite feature of the Kindle Fire is its Android-like autocorrect. It’s probably the least glamorous of its functions, but when I’m sending emails or typing notes, I really, really appreciate the way this works. Rather than offering you just one autocorrect entry like the iPad, the Fire loads several possibilities as you’re typing so you can choose the one you want. And it has an option to remember your selections so that it improves over time. Since I am used to using a text expander on my computer, I’m really enjoying this feature and how much more functional it is than the autocorrect found in iOS products.
  • Another function that I really, really love is that when I’m loading a page on the internet and switch over to another tab while I’m waiting (we have slow internet, so I do a lot of multitasking), the tabs both continue to load simultaneously. The iPad will only load the page you’re currently viewing, and it can be very frustrating!
  • To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with the main home screen on the Fire. I love the bookshelf layout and that you can scroll to the side to see everything or scroll down for your favorites, but I hate that the icons aren’t all the same size; it messes with my type-A brain!
  • Because it runs on a Linux system, there’s no need to close apps on the Fire. They simply stay in an inactive state when you’re not using them, which means they’re ready and waiting but not draining resources. There’s also no need to tab the screen a bajillion times to close all of the apps your toddler has opened in the last 5 minutes.
  • Although it’s not an exclusive feature of the Fire, I also love Pulse, which is one of the only apps that comes preloaded on the device — and one I hadn’t discovered on the iPad. Pulse allows you to quickly see headlines for your favorite websites, blogs, magazines and more. You can download this one on a variety of other devices as well (and sync across all of them!), but I’m not sure I would have known about it if not for the Fire.

iPad Features That I Miss

While I’m actually really enjoying the Kindle Fire now that I’ve had time to get to know it better, there are a few features I am really missing:

  • While the iPad has physical volume buttons on the outside that allow you to quickly adjust the volume even when the screen is off, the Kindle Fire does not. To change the volume, you have to unlock the Fire, open the settings and then slide the volume slider. I like listening to music on it, but if the phone rings while I’ve got the volume turned up, it takes significantly longer to get it unlocked and turned down. To me, this is a huge drawback.
  • The size could potentially be another drawback. I actually like the size of the Fire for most tasks, but it doesn’t feel any lighter than the iPad. (It is lighter, but I suspect the weight per square inch is about the same, which makes it feel surprisingly heavy given its size.) The screen on the iPad is just about twice the size, and there are times it would be nice to have that extra space when viewing websites or pictures.
  • And finally, the Apple app store beats the Amazon Android store without question. Although I’ve found some great apps, there just aren’t nearly as many to choose from, and I suspect that it will be a long time before I am able to replace some of my iPad favorites!

At this point, I am leaning toward keeping the Kindle Fire as my personal device, while reserving the iPad as a family device for Sean and the girls and to use while homeschooling. I will continue to evaluate and personalize it over the next two weeks, and I’m confident that I’ll continue to discover features I love.

For someone who is debating between the two, I think the Kindle Fire is the obvious choice for someone who mainly wants a reader with options to browse the internet, check mail, listen to music, etc. For more heavier consumption or a devoted Apple user, the iPad may be a better choice…but with such glaring differences in their prices — $500+ for the iPad compared to $199 for the Kindle Fire — most users will be perfectly content with the Fire!

Have you had a chance to play with a Kindle Fire? What features do you love? What do you think it’s missing?