Kindle Fire is 'just' a big iPod touch

I got my Kindle Fire today. I’ve read a bunch of reviews today and noted a somewhat predictable theme. “A good first effort, but it is no iPad killer” Moving right passed how ridiculous it is to envision gadgets killing each other, I think they’re missing the point.

The single most significant feature of the Kindle Fire is its price. At $199 it is shockingly well featured and capable. A more apt comparison would be to ask how the Fire stacks up against the equally priced iPod touch. The two have exactly the same number of pixels. 614,400 to be precise (1024x600 vs 960x640). Almost identical battery life, 7.5hrs of video on the Fire vs 7hrs for the iPod. And perhaps more importantly based on my initial testing a roughly comparable performance profile, with the iPod coming out slightly ahead in this category.

Comparing the Fire to the iPad 2 is like comparing a $16k Toyota Corolla to a $40k BMW 3 Series. Sure they are 4 door sedans, but they are targeting very different demographics. I suspect the Kindle Fire won’t budge the iPad’s runaway success one bit. Where it will be competitive with Apple’s line-up is in the, Christmas present ready, iPod lineup.

The Fire is very rough around the edges, especially if you stray away from using it as a platform for enjoying Amazon content. But when I stay within the Books, Music, and Video tabs I find an experience that is generally passable. I think it will be especially fine for a more average consumer. From conversations I’ve had with people who really know Android inside and out, it looks like the Fire’s problems are in software and thus likely something Amazon can smooth out over time via updates.

I’m reminded of how the original iPod really came into its own when the iTunes Music Store allowed for an integrated, seamless content experience. Especially if you have a Prime membership the Fire does exactly that. Now a bit of a running joke, the iPad was originally derided as a ‘consumption-only’ device. It think the Fire is exactly that, and in the best possible way.

Reading is more comfortable on my eyes than on either an iPod touch (due to the larger screen size) or the iPad (due to the higher pixel density, 169ppi vs 132). Video is great too. Because the aspect ratio of the Fire more closely matches the 16:9 cinematic ratio, but shares the iPad width of 1024px videos are shown at almost the same physical size.

When the iPad first launched I recall a torrent of reviewers dismissing the device as nothing more than a ‘big iPod touch’, we all see how that turned out. The Kindle Fire more closely fits that moniker in terms of price and hardware. While I’m an iOS junkie and think that at the end of the day the iPod touch is subjectively a better whole product, the Kindle Fire will give it a real run for its money.

David Smith