There are two methods for showing you what matters to you on a computer screen – an alert to come up in the middle of your screen that you have to click away, or a signal made in some area of the screen (usually dedicated to this kind of content). The iPad and Kindle Fire HD have similarities here, but both show signs of needing considerable improvements – at least for my type of use. This is Part 2 of my look between them (Part 1 was posted some weeks ago), where I look a bit closer at how I get around the devices, and how I get to the point of getting to do stuff.
The KF-HD has a small screen with nearly the same size bezel as the iPad. One of the things that I expected, since it is a newer device, was for it to have the gestures within the UI to match the main screen scrolling that I was seeing. Unfortunately, this is a case where getting around the KF-HD is just a lot more difficult than it needs to be. It doesn’t matter if you are holding it landscape or portrait, the KF-HD has this annoying thing where you need to tap a very small tab at the bottom or right of the screen to bring up a menu (Home, Back, Menu, Search, and Favorites are the buttons usually, sometimes one more, depending on app). Part of this is because there is no kind of home button, as there is with the iPad. But, Amazon should have really taken the same approach that RIM BlackBerry with the Playbook and just enable navigational gestures throughout the entire system.
This idea of missed opportunities to smooth UI interactions is also present when you go from the application launcher to the rest of the system. As I talked about earlier, the home screen for the KF-HD shows you a menu at the top for the basic items (very much designed liked the Amazon website). And then below that you are given a most-recently-used listing of applications, books, music, and videos that you’ve watched. Everything is on one list (good), sometimes thing show up on that list that you’ve not opened (not good). And by default, all of your books end up showing up on the listing at the end of it (weirdly bad). Shame that there is no way to gesture into and out of this listing, because you are then left with putting your most used apps on the Favorites listing – in a sense, replacing the MRU feature that you get on the iPad when you double-tap the home key/gesture up from the bottom of the screen.
Thankfully, Amazon uses quite well the notification area (as do most Android participants). Getting notifications for just about anything from any application is great in the drawer, and much cleaner than Apple’s try for similar. What I like even better is how apps that run in the background (music and Skype for example), will show in an segregated area in the notification area to be somewhat independently controlled. I’m doing a lot more with music on the KF-HD since many of my purchases have come from Amazon, and this has been pretty neat (I never used iTunes for anything other than those unwilling times to sync before over-the-air updates came along for iOS).
At this point, I’m getting along with just using the KF-HD as I did the iPad. Its just not the same though. I can read and share items just fine. Its another thing to get into the creation aspects. Part of that comes in the apps – I’m still trying to figure out a decent HTML editor that works with Dropbox, and Skitch is the only drawing app I’ve put on here. And part of that is the hardware – the screen is great to read, but nearly horrible to sketch on with or w/o a stylus (yea, I’ve now got one), and for all the fun of having micro-USB and micro-HDMI connections, the former when connected into my phone doesn’t show the Kindle as a mass storage device, making me have to use Bluetooth, Dropbox, or my N8 in web server mode needed to pass files between them. I think this will get better, but its in part the Kindle. Its really almost like trying to push it beyond its Amazon catalogue leanings is something Amazon has worked against, despite the KF-HD being just about pretty here.
I have put the KF-HD next to an iPad Mini and have to say at this point, I made the smarter call. Even with my qualms about gestures and apps. I got a better value, and overall for my usages, a better deal. I’m tempted to look at the 7in Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, because I would be getting a similar Android experience, with the addition of micro-SD and SIM card support. And I think that will stay on the listing, because Samsung seems to do things on the tablet side that really speaks more to the Microsoft Courier kind of thinking I have with this type of device.
I think I’ve got one more in me to talk about the differences between the Kindle FIre HD and the iPad. I’m not sure about the KF-HD just yet. Its ok, but not perfect. I wonder if there’s something in the way of an upcoming update that looks at things like hanging apps, gestures, screen responsiveness, etc. and pushing things forward a bit. Not so much to be a better tablet, but to make better on the idea that Amazon has more to gain by me being on the device and enjoying the experiences of putting both my tasks and my time through their facilities.