Friday, October 02, 2015

The £50 Amazon Kindle Fire 7" tablet

I spanked £50 of birthday vouchers on one of the new cheapie Amazon Kindle Fire tablets - just the little 7" one - very similar spec to the current Google Nexus 7 tablet. 
It's very clear that they're selling it as a loss-leader on Amazon Prime and the Kindle Store etc. There is no way they can build a 7" Android tablet for around 10% of the cost of an iPad!

I've forced myself to put the 10" iPad aside for a couple of days and use this and for the most part I've been really impressed. Part of the exercise was also to get a bit more familiar with Android and although Amazon describe this as "Fire OS5 Bellini" but it's really Android 5 Lollipop with Amazon's skin. This is fine for the most part except for the fact that Amazon and Google don't get on and so you don't get the Google Play Store. There have been a couple of apps which aren't yet on the Amazon Store and so they aren't available on the Amazon tablets. Most significantly Dropbox - hmm, bit of a problem.
However - as a tablet OS it is nippy; apps launch quickly, the screen swipes and scrolls nicely and makes for a very nice experience. It's a lot lighter than the iPad at 300g and so is much nicer for reading in bed. The fit and finish is much like the Google tablets and considerably better than other sub-£100 "one-hung-lo" brand cheap Android tablets. It only comes with 8 gigs of memory, but they throw in a 32gig SD card (or they were for pre-orders) and since Android manages all of that it's really not an issue.

So far it works well with all the Bluetooth gadgets I've tried (a couple of speakers and a keyboard) and it hasn't dropped off any of the wireless networks I've attached it to (and I can't say that about the iPad). It has a much lower resolution screen than the iPad but I've only noticed that on the Facebook app.
In terms of resolution the camera is not great - I took a bunch of photos on a nice sunny day in London and they all look a bit like 'phone camera pictures from ten years ago!

Another area where it scores over iOS is that you can see the file system - USB cable (standard micro-B connector; you probably have several of them already - especially if you have a normal book-reading Kindle). It makes extracting photos or dropping MP3s, documents etc onto the device a doddle (can't do that on an iPad!). Another very cool (and non-Apple feature) is the profile selection from the lock-screen. On the subject of the lock-screen you get adverts (I've only seen books so far) but clearly this is where some of the economy comes from. 
So; top-right on the lock-screen you see icons with names. If you've added additional profiles multiple people can unlock the gadget and it gives you all your stuff; your Amazon accounts (Kindle books, Amazon music etc) as well as a new profile for email (POP3, MS Exchange, IMAP, Google etc). Again, not something Apple has ever been able to do.

So, Pros
  • Profiles
  • File System
  • Standard Connectors
  • PRICE!
  • No Google App Store
  • Screen resolution (only in some cases)
  • Camera resolution
BUT, 10% the price of an iPad! I'll probably root it and stick regular Android 5 Lollipop on it when I can an afternoon to spare. It's not quite an iPad but I could have ten of these things for the same price!

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