10 Things You Won’t Be Doing With the Amazon Fire

These days there are two phrases that are making me crazy: “Android Fragmentation” and “Amazon FireTablet“.  Both of them are deceptive and largely incorrect and this article goes about setting the latter one straight.

I’d like to point out that even Amazon themselves do not call the Fire a “tablet”.  In fact, if you look over the entire Fire site, the only time you’ll see Tablet mentioned is by reviews that are quoted.  Does that seem strange to you?  It should.

Instead of picking apart tech specs and such, I’ll simply outline ten things you won’t be able to do with a Kindle Fire that you SHOULD be able to do with an actual tablet.

What’s my end game?  Getting the Amazon Fire off the table as a competitor against the iPad and true Android tablets such as the Asus Transformer.  Why?  While I’d love to see Apple lose market share, I don’t want the same thing to happen to Android tablet manufacturers; some are doing such a great job that to call the Fire a tablet is a huge slap in the face.

These are in no particular order and should certainly not be considered an all-inclusive list.

Number Ten: Google Apps

It might go without saying, but first up – no Google apps.  Before you shrug that off, let’s make sure you know what you’re missing: Gmail, Maps, Navigation, Reader, Google Plus, Calendar, Talk, Voice, Chrome (when it comes), Earth, Sky and several more.  Even an iPhone has more Google apps than you’re going to be able to run on a Kindle Fire.

Number Nine: Google Market

In effect, you’re going from hundreds of thousands of apps down to about ten thousand apps.  Lack of Google Market also imposes other restrictions from a developmental point of view.  Will Amazon Apps allow in-app purchases, for example?  How many other restrictions will be imposed on developers that have to build apps for the Kindle Fire?

Number Eight: Pushing a Button

That’s right.  There are no physical buttons on the Kindle Fire (except a sleep/wake nub).  Even the Nook Color has a home “n” button.  No volume controls?  Really?  Yes, you have to use soft buttons for everything including volume control.  One could argue that Ice Cream Sandwich uses no physical buttons, but you can bet your bottom dollar that most (if not all) ICS devices will have volume rockers.  For a “tablet media device”, not having volume control seems like a huge mistake.

Number Seven: Wireless Devices

You can forget about Bluetooth devices like headphones, keyboards and game controllers.  Apparently the volume on the Kindle Fire isn’t very loud, so you will need headphones to consume media.  Guess they will be WIRED headphones.

Number Six: Increase Your Storage

Any real tablet would be laughed off the planet for having 8GB of unexpandable onboard memory.  Sure sure, you’re expected to STREAM everything (despite only having WiFi has your streaming mechanism) – but 8GB (apparently only about 6GB is usable) is still horrifyingly anemic.  No means to increase storage is going to be a huge issue for anyone buying this product as a “tablet” device.

Number Five: Enjoy a Widget

It’s hard to argue that one of Android’s best features is the widget.  Keeping all your information right up front is part of the joy of being a little green robot follower.  There will be no widgets here.  I guess if you wanted an iPad, you wouldn’t be out anything by this loss.

Number Four: Customizing

The power of Android is that you have full control over layout, launchers and other items to personalize the product as your needs see fit.  What if you’re not an Amazon Prime subscriber and have no interest in Video content on this product?  Much like the locked in gaming consoles, you’re not going to be able to hide or squelch areas of the interface you don’t want or use.

Number Three: Playing Your Own Content

While early reviews don’t touch on this, it would appear that your own content will not be welcome on this device (although possible to side-load).  Want music?  Upload your stuff to Amazon MP3 Cloud.  Want videos?  It better be in Amazon’s collection online.  Want your own epub/mobi/etc content?  Not sure that’s even possible.  While this could be fixed with software updates to the OS, it really looks like the sacred walled garden that Apple loves, but Android users despise.  Time will tell on this front if you can hack your own content (videos, mp3s, PDFs, etc.) onto the device.

Number Two: Escaping Silk / Onboard Apps

Amazon doesn’t want you using an unfiltered, unbridled internet browser.  They have made it very plain that they have decided that the best way to get web content is through their proxy servers.  Early reports indicate that this “service” does very little to improve the quality or speed of delivery of content to the device.  Early reports also indicate that the browser itself is clunky, slow, and doesn’t have the best response time in the UI department.  Normally, the innate browser defects of a tablet are fixed by simply finding another browser you like (Opera, Dolphin, Skyfire or a number of others) – but, those are available on the Google Market.  Can you get an alternative browser on Amazon’s App store?  On an Android device you can … however, Amazon has already said that the Amazon App store will be “filtered” for apps that are only fit for the Fire.  Will they allow them?  My guess is: no.

We aren’t just talking about the browser either.  Can you escape the generic, featureless onboard music player?  Video player?  Doc viewer?  Will these products be allowed in the Amazon App Store?  Can I have DropBox? Heaven FORBID you want to watch you own HD content without conversion using the insanely powerful MX Video Player or other tool.  What about streaming content from other providers?  My Subsonic server?  Pandora?  Spotify?  Why would Amazon want you to use these apps …?  They wouldn’t; and they have the power to stop you from using them.

Number One: Use True Tablet Apps

With most “tablet optimized” apps requiring Honeycomb and soon Ice Cream Sandwich, you can just say goodbye to using real Tablet optimized apps and games.  As ICS becomes the norm on tablets (and I believe it will – and very fast), the Fire will continue to use “cell phone” apps instead of “tablet apps”.  You can forget about hardware accelerated gaming, too.

I could have made this list a lot longer, but you get the idea.  I think a lot of people are excited about a “$200 iPad”, but they are in for a rude awakening.  I think a lot of people are excited about a “$200 Android Tablet”, but they, too, are in for a huge disappointment.

This product will have a distinct, niche market – and that is of a color eBook reader that dabbles in media playback (as long as you’re a good consumer of Amazon’s, that is).  Those buying this device as a true tablet are simply kidding themselves and would be better off putting that $200 toward a nice Android tablet liked the Asus Transformer or – yes, I hate to say it – an iPad – because the Kindle Fire is not a true tablet nor do they advertise it as such.

For some, it will be enough.  For others, they are going to be out $200.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+