The Trouble With Tablets (And Reviewing Them)

As you’ve no doubt guessed, I’ve been spending copious hours with my brand new Kindle Fire since it was released last month. During this period, I’ve been gathering and organizing my thoughts about the device in the hopes of reviewing it. However, that turned out to be a much more difficult task than I originally imagined. Not only have my feeling about Amazon’s tablet shifted drastically as I’ve been using it, but there are so many aspects of the device to discuss that I was quickly overwhelmed. I’ve written thousands of words about it, none of which you will ever see.

In all my frustration with writing this review, I found Paul Thurrott (who is quickly becoming my favorite tech journalist) had the opinions that most closely matched my own. So rather than spend another few hours trying to articulate my thoughts on the Kindle Fire, I’ll direct to his articles on the device:

Amazon Kindle Fire Review

How Amazon Can Fix the Kindle in 2012

With regard to his second article, I 100% agree that two of the biggest shortcomings of the Fire are lack of storage space (which an SD card slot would have mitigated) and hardware buttons (although I don’t think needs to be a dedicated “Back” button, personally). But he also fails to note a couple of other key aspects that – in my opinion – detract from the overall experience. Amazon’s music service is great, but cloud player is still atrocious from a UI standpoint. It’s cumbersome to use, the desktop software for uploading music does not work as well as it should, and from an design standpoint, the whole UI is just ugly. Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all developed mobile music players that not only work better, but – for lack of a better term – look a hell of a lot nicer aesthetically.

The app situation on the Kindle Fire is perhaps even more troubling. There are quite a few of the top-tier apps available on Amazon’s store, such as Pandora, Evernote, Pulse, Netflix, and games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies (which all work great on the 7-inch screen). But there are also significant holes in the library, not just compared to Apple’s selection for iOS but Google’s Android Marketplace as well. I’d hoped that the app situation in particular would have improved in the month since launch, but it’s still just as terrible; what’s worse, it’s always going to lack key Android apps like GMail and Google Maps, which is definitely to the Kindle’s detriment. There aren’t even proper apps for Twitter and Facebook!!

I really do love my Kindle Fire, but Amazon really needs to improve the device in the coming months. The device definitely fills the gap left by my iPod Touch, but when I buy a smartphone next year, much of its function and utility will become redundant. Perhaps then I’ll be better off just buying an eInk Kindle, since most of what I’m using the Fire for is reading.

Which – as the title of this post says – is the trouble with tablets.

Presently, however, I’m very glad I have my Kindle Fire: next weekend I’m flying down to LA for Dance Dance Resolution, and the only entertainment I plan to carry with me on the trip is the Kindle.