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Amazon Kindle Fire: all you need to know

Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet has officially landed, and it’s stirring up quite the storm on the interweb with its Android bells and whistles and super-low price tag. But is it right for you? Take a look at our rundown of the best Kindle Fire features you’ll be enjoying when it eventually launches in the UK.

Amazon Kindle Fire: Price

This is the big one, the thing everyone’s talking about. We’d heard a while back that the Kindle Fire tablet would launch on the cheap, but dismissed the rumours of a sub-$200 launch price as just more rumours. We should have listened. The Kindle Fire will launch in the states for a mere $199 (£125-ish) savagely undercutting every other Android tablet on the market by literally hundreds of pounds. How is this economic wizardry to be achieved? Amazon will be employing the same tactics as it uses with its regular Kindle, selling the Fire at a loss while making up the difference in content sold through Amazon.


Amazon Kindle Fire: Content and Apps

Amazon is, of course, the biggest provider of all sorts of entertainment media in the world. For Fire users, this will translate into a one-stop shop for all their tablet-ing needs, with Amazon providing music, ebooks, films, TV programmes and, most recently, apps as well. While the Android Market has always been a bit of a divided experience, Amazon will create the first true Apple-like experience for downloading content with everything under one cavernous roof. At the moment, there’s still a way to go before it catches up with Apple App Store for sheer quantity of apps.


Amazon Kindle Fire: Size

In keeping with its Kindle e-readers, the Kindle Fire keeps its screen on the small side, measuring in at seven inches diagonally across. If we were feeling cynical, we might say that’s actually because the Kindle Fire is really just a BlackBerry PlayBook with an Amazon logo instead of a camera – the Fire is after all also made by Quanta Computers, who made the Playbook. The small size also translates into a tablet that’s 50% lighter than the iPad, making for what we imagine to be quite comfortable one-handed usage. Whatever the reason, Amazon’s first association in people’s minds is with books, so keeping their first tablet to about the size of a paperback is either shrewd design or lucky happenstance. Which brings us to…


Amazon Kindle Fire: Design

While Sony has gone off the rails and down the embankment with the design of its S and P tablets, Amazon appears to be playing it safe and sticking with the ye olde flat-screen-black-bezel school of tablet design. However, it has snipped out a couple of the more superfluous tablet staples that its competitors have been crow baring into their tablets – gone are the cameras, and so too the microphone. Also absent is a 3G version; Amazon have clearly imagined the Fire as a home tablet for watching video, browsing the web and reading books and magazines. So it might lose ten percent of the people who are interested in video calling and e-mailing on the go – so what? For everyone else, the Fire does everything they want a tablet for at half the price.


Amazon Kindle Fire: Apps

The Kindle Fire will launch in the US ahead of the UK, but we’re grudgingly used to that when it comes to tablet technology. The one silver lining in the case of the Fire tablet (and it’s a pretty fine one) is that currently the Amazon App Store is also non-functional in Blighty, meaning we wouldn’t be getting the full Amazon Fire experience were we getting a simultaneous release anyway.

However, once the Fire and the Amazon App Market do launch, Fire users will have access to some 250,000 Android apps, all via Amazon’s mighty web portal. Picking up a Fire also buys you 30 days of Amazon Prime usage, the £50-per-year extra that offers free next day delivery on your Amazon shopping and, more interestingly for tablet owners, free streaming of films and TV direct from Amazon.


Amazon Kindle Fire: Verdict

There have been so many tablets that have aspired to topple the iPad, and while the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola XOOM are really the first solid Android alternatives to Apple’s ubiquitous wunder-tablet, you still need to go out of your way to find reasons not to plump for the slicker iPad 2 with its vast app selection. The Fire tablet, on the other hand, is so ridiculously cheap that new tablet buyers will have to ask the reverse question: what is it I like about the iPad 2 that justifies spending an extra $200? Although we have to say, iPad and Fire users will be very different types of consumers.

We’ve not gone hands-on with the Fire yet, so obviously there are gremlins that could still be lurking in that dainty shell, but here are the three things we do know: it’s based on the PlayBook, it runs Android and it’s half the price of its nearest competing tablet. That sounds like a win to us.


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