This weekend I spent some time getting to know the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ for the first time. We didn’t get along too well. At first glance I thought, “Hmm, this thing doesn’t look half bad.” It was a decent size and was not all too thick (or thin) and hey, it came from the people with the smile on the box (I make fun of that commercial every time I see it–it’s just funny the way he says smile). Anyway, that is about the full extent of anything nice I can say about this device (and I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the Kindle as much as the iPad). I’ve had an iPad in some form or another for years and I have to say at this point I could never ever make the switch to a Kindle Fire, even the HD. So, here’s my thoughts on the device:
First of all, the home screen is terrible, in my opinion. There is a text menu across the top (think File, Edit, Help, etc…) to help you navigate through the device. Little text is not a good user interface choice for a touch device. It works, yes, but it isn’t very visual… why not make an attractive target for someone to press? Underneath this text menu is a scrolling row of giant icons–the last programs you had open. To me, as a designer by trade, it just feels… unthought-out. It tells me: this device doesn’t do very much. It is very limited and, if I’m honest, not very easy to use. It’s just not intuitive.
Where’s the home button? There isn’t one… instead there is a home icon in the corner of the device that you have to make appear in order to press. I guess if you had never used an iPad before this might not be a problem… but again, it just feels like they could have made things so much easier to use than they did.
Web browsing was pretty mediocre. It just wasn’t as fast as I expected Silk to be, especially with the speed boost feature touted by Amazon.
Now for my biggest gripe (and mind you I only spent maybe 10-15 minutes with the device): video. A relative who got this as a Christmas present wanted to play video from ABC, NBC, etc… on the Kindle Fire HD and asked for some help figuring out how to do it. Here’s the thing: you can’t. Now this is the fault of a couple parties: the TV networks for using Flash on their sites still/not supporting the device (which should tell you something right there) and Amazon for making a device that can’t consume video people want to watch. No, there are no apps from ABC, NBC, etc… you’d have to get Hulu+ (see our recent story: Inside Hulu) or Netflix to watch anything at all (or of course buy/rent from Amazon). Those are great options if that is what you want, but there are plenty of times when you want to watch the latest episode of X and the best place to find it, for free, is on the network’s website.
Overall, the Kindle has a very utilitarian feel to it as if it were a knife or something, a tool. It doesn’t feel friendly or elegant in my opinion because it is harder to navigate than it should. As a designer and as a consumer, it feels like to attention was paid to the user experience. It’s bland. Ironically, for feeling utilitarian, it isn’t very utilitarian… time to put the Fire on ice in my opinion. I’m sure lots of people will disagree with me… that’s fine–everyone doesn’t have to love the iPad. I know a guy who loves his Kindle Fire, but I’m not that guy. All in all, it was a breath of fresh air to be back on the iPad after messing around with the Kindle Fire HD for even a short period of time and it made me appreciate what I had taken for granted before.
Have you used the Kindle Fire HD? What are your thoughts?