Initial Impressions of the Kindle Fire HD from an iPad Vet

Well, that “need-a-new-gadget feeling” has evolved into me attaining a new device – the Kindle Fire HD (KF-HD). Its an interesting change for me, and I think in the end, this might be close to the ethos of computing that I am looking for. Its not perfect, and well, as early impressions go, neither am I. Here’s what I think of having a catalogue for a computer rather than a blank canvas (so far).

The Kindle Fire HD that I purchased is the 7in edition. I’d been thinking a lot about portability and how I maneuver with content on the iPad and have elected to get back to something smaller rather than larger (the iPad 1st gen I own has a 9.7in screen).

The screen is something that made me smile in initial impressions, and has so far not let me down any. Despite being smaller, it packs in more pixels, making everything clearer. Add to that the screen’s reluctance to show me my fingerprints in regular use and you have easily a reason why the upgrade (yes, I am calling it that) works well.

The KF-HD continues the trend of having very few physical buttons – power and volume up/down being it. However, these are some of the hardest to find and use buttons. The ability to drag down from the top of the screen to get the system drawer to control volume, locking the device, and other items is good. But, that does me no value when its off.

I’ve stuck with the 16GB size for a tablet. My iPad had only 4GB used in two (2) years of time. I don’t see changing this much. Though, this initial month giving me access to videos and such with Amazon Prime has me thinking that I might push my luck here at some point. The system shows there’s an SD card present, but no way to [easily] get to it. I wonder what could be done with that if I could.

I’ve not put a case, cover, or screen protector on this. I don’t plan to do the latter either.

There’s a camera (!!!). Seriously, I’ve only wanted a [front] camera so that I could Skype/video chat with my niece/God kids and better do some of the virtual courses that I teach. I’m content with the quality of the video in using Skype, and totally don’t using the camera outside of that and possibly a few Evernote-specific applications. There’s HDMI-out too, but dang it if it uses a different adapter than my Nokia!

No clear battery thoughts yet, except that its in no way as long-lasting as the iPad. I expected this in part. But, am not driven to conclusions yet since I just bought it. If it makes it as long as my phone does on the heavier days, I might be ok with that. Just knowing that I can use the same charger for my phone and the tablet is a relief for me and my magic bag (the bag of cables and such I carry).

Lastly, Amazon has a device which reminds me of my Nokia mobiles in how it sees and latches onto WiFi access points. Besides simply finding them a lot faster than my iPad, it seems to hold onto it better as well (there are two antennas in the KF-HD for this compared to just one on the iPad). It cannot connect to my N8’s JoikuSpot hotspot because its an ad-hoc network – that’s going to effect a few things.

I’m not a big fan of Android, and part of that went into my challenge in deciding for this, or waiting for a tablet that would be served with using Maemo/MeeGo and cobbling applications and services together. At least for now, I’m not feeling bad about the decision, mainly because I see very little of Android, but a lot more of Amazon.

I really like the carousel UI. As a most-recently-used interface, it just makes sense. I’ve even grown used to the recommended apps which appear under the carousel when holding the KF-HD in portrait mode. It does feel like I’m skipping over that person in the store that keeps asking “can I hep you” when I see those recommendations and keep doing what I want to do though.

However, there are no gestures. I very much nearly went to the BlackBerry Playbook because these devices are really glass panels that feel much better when my fingers glide on them, rather than be tapped on. Therefore, getting from one application to another is a case of sliding up the menu panel at the bottom and clicking on the app in Favorites to where I (smartly) use it like the iPad most-recently-opened-app drawer.

Books, Music, and Videos… then go think about Apps. If you come into the KF-HD any other way, you will be disappointed. That’s to say that things like the browser, calendar, and email are there are ok, but you can clearly see that they have been pushed to the back of action on purpose. I get it, and I’m going to see about breaking Amazon’s paradigm/method into my own.

Speaking of the browser, I’ve spent time in and out of it. Its kind of refreshing not to deal with Web-views inside of applications (iOS). At the same time, I had to remember to do things like enable encryption for the Silk browser since I’ve enabled its acceleration. That makes the browser stall on opening links and pages a good bit. Ahhh, the friction of feeling something like secure. I’ve not added Flash to the browser – don’t care to as its on my mobile when needed. Moving content from the browser to Evernote, Pinterest, or elsewhere is as easy as it should be. This is refreshing.

I’ve settled on Skitch by Evernote for now for drawing items. Like Adobe Ideas, it offers a simple user interface. Unlike Ideas, it doesn’t zoom. It does save directly to Evernote (which will come in handy for Bible Study notes). I’m not sure the final resolution, nor how I will fare with UI design just yet. So far, I’m just going to take this piece of use quite slowly.

Other than that I’ve added Pinterest, YouVersion, and Nokia Maps to the LF-HD. Nokia Maps because I do occasionally need to visualize directions before putting them on my mobile. Shame though that it doesn’t seem like I can log into my Nokia account and therefore send points and routes right to my mobile. Nokia and Amazon should have addressed that point – but I can see where there might be an issue with doing so since its a native app and there doesn’t seem to be a Nokia services API anymore apps like this could use.

Other Thoughts Thus Far
I don’t know if I will keep the ads on the Kindle Fire HD or not. Frankly speaking, its not something that disturbs me at this point. I’d rather get rid of the recommendations on the carousel – or at least replace them with something specific for the app highlighted on the carosel like what’s done for the Email, Contacts, and Calendar apps.

I actually think that owning the KF-HD will put me back onto my smartphone a bit more. My iPad is going to my g/f until she gets a 3rd gen iPad of her own. I’m going to be forced to use the smartphone as a primary mobile again (for better and worse). And I’ll have to figure out how to do things like further develop on my All Books Project and update my TiddlyWiki on the mobile web server. Still, I feel like this isn’t a half-bad idea for moving forward for me. Yes, I’ve considered and haven’t thrown out the idea of the Galaxy Note II. That really could be an eventual solution. But, I prefer having a real open source OS for my phone and Jolla or Firefox OS will get that nod when the time comes.

What’s been most interest has been the reading, sharing, and noting aspect of things. I’m intrgued at how I’m reading a bit more comfortably than I had with the iPad so far. Even as far as typing this on my iPad and having the KF-HD beside me with Flipboard open, it feels like a much better reading expereince on the Kindle than the iPad (blaming the screen).

Will I keep both? Honestly not sure. But, I can say this much, I’m going to evolve a bit more beyond just this. That much is certain.

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