Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kindle Fire News: Why a Kindle Fire HD? Why price reductions - why not free? Real questions as headlined. UPDATED

Kindle-related news over the last few days

Apologies to Kindle-Edition blog subscribers, as I needed to be away the last few days.  I used my tablet to look at the news and, as far as the Kindle world goes, not much was happening except tons of reactions to the reduction in prices on the Kindle Fire 8.9" HD and what it all means, including the expansion of the tablets to Europe and Japan.

  The reviews of the 8.9" model were similar to what we've read before but far less detailed.  They were actually more restatements of the product page information, so those past reviews, linked, are a bit more informative.  At the end, in response to people in the forums asking whether to get a Kindle Fire HD 7" or 8.9" (if wanting a Kindle Fire HD at all), I'll add links to a couple of earlier blog articles and the earlier basic comparison chart of Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus, and Apple iPad mini, so those are the most popular 7" to 9" models.

BUT, a reaction column that most struck me was one that didn't wonder why the prices are now lower but asks instead when will Kindles (the topic being tablets) become free, and the writer, Beth Bacon, for Digital Book World, asks further why one would get one when the Apple iPad is available, which she considers more fully featured.
  She seems sincere in thinking most wanting a tablet would prefer a pure Android tablet or a Microsoft OS or spend $230+ more for the most basic iPad because, as she explains, Kindle owners would mainly want to read books and Kindle books can be read on an Apple while Apple books can't be read on any other system.

?  Hasn't the general complaint by general gadget writers and news-site commenters been that Amazon's attitude is wholly proprietary and you HAVE to buy a Kindle to read their books?  Yet it's Apple, she points out, that keeps other devices unable to read Apple iStore books.  And this is written as a Plus!

  As many know, you can read a Kindle book on almost every operating system under the sun, which can make words on an LCD screen somewhat hard to read.  You don't need a Kindle at all, to read a Kindle book.

  But what many general gadget reporters aren't familiar with are the many convenient features the Kindle Team has given their devices, and just a few of these are;
  1. Syncing of the reading of a book among all your devices (Apple doesn't even try);
  2. a free, private, password-protected personal webpage for your annotations on all your books;
  3. features that tell you which actors are in the current streaming Instant Video scene you're watching;
  4. the quickly-findable X-Ray'd info on any character or event name in a book you're reading, and
  5. if you choose a Prime Shipping program feature for free 2-day shipments of physical purchases, you also get the now 16,300+ no-fee Prime Eligible instant videos to watch at any time.

  On Friday, before leaving, I did respond to The Digital Books World article, and Bacon was good enough to print it (this is not always the case when a commenter adds some conflicting information).  Here's what I wrote -- not even mentioning the 5 points above! -- plus a correction I'm making:
' Andrys on March 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm said: [to]
Why would anyone buy a Kindle when there are full-featured tablets like Apple’s $500 one or the $900 Microsoft Surface Pro?

Factors include what features people are looking for.  David makes good points about ease of accessibility to the media mentioned.

1. A microHDMI port out to an HDTV (the Apple doesn’t have this) and people have used it to watch their Kindle tablet videos (even Prime Instant) on hotel HDTVs that way. **

2. A stereo set of speakers that are placed on on each end when watching movies or TV show videos and with Dolby Stereo for unusual spatial qualities and automated frequency emphasis depending on whether it’s speech or music.
  The iPad has two small speakers almost side by side on one short end – no stereo effect during movies unless you put on headphones or use external speakers

3. Amazon allows apps from "unknown sources" (Non-Amazon app stores) and Kindle Fire users can download, direct to the tablet, the popular Dolphin browser which supports the older Adobe Flash Reader still available that can be used easily, despite Adobe’s dropped support for mobile devices using the later Android 4.x systems.

  Because of this, Kindle Fire users can watch free network TV full-episodes like ABC’s entire primetime programs (and some daytime shows) when they missed an episode, as the network TV websites still use Flash for that, and Apple's Steve Jobs disdained running Flash on iOS, depending on sites to use HTML5. ***

4. The 7" size is proving very popular and Amazon’s has Retina-type high resolution while Apple’s iPad mini has lower, standard resolution but costs more.

5. It's like deciding not to bill for purchase of an economy car (giving them away instead) when an advertised-full-featured car is available (and when the fuller-featured car does not have some high-valued features that the less-expensive car does have).

6. There are now many Android app stores, including 1mobile.com, which carries over 200,000 apps, which are directly downloadable and usable for Kindle Fire devices. '

Here's the blog article on how to install non-Amazon appstore apps, which is done with Amazon's own settings option (an option which Barnes and Noble kept off the Nook system so that people have to find risky 'rooted' solutions to get the same features, which is one reason the Nook tablets haven't done as well in market share, in addition to having far less of an ecosystem for tablet entertainment).

In-depth Reviews comparing the Kindle Fire HDs, the Google Nexus and the Apple
Here are what reviews-in-depth reported in comparisons of similar-sized tablets, which found aspects not touched upon by the more superficial reviews citing pure speed or direct access to Google Play (and I would recommend that those who love games most get a Nexus and those who want apps that are compatible with their iPhones get the iPad models)

  1. Reviews of Kindle Fire HD 7 vs Nexus

  2. More on iPad mini vs Kindle Fire HD

Also, I'm placing below, the basic comparison table I put together in September, which has been updated for changing prices (please let me know if I've missed anything in that).

QUICK table of differences in features for price, with Google Nexus and IPad mini
Kindle Fire HD 7"
7-inch display
1280 x 800 resolution
216 ppi
16GB storage
Dual stereo speakers
  w/ Dolby Plus


Front-facing camera, 1.2MP

Dual core TI OMAP 4470 w/ Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core

Dual band, 2 antenna WiFi
Battery-life claim: 11 hrs

Customized Android, does Amazon store w/setting that allows apps from other app stores
50,000 apps + access to getjar.com, 1mobile.com, etc for google-play apps

$10 more for a charger if you need one  Older Kindle & smart phone chargers work

$15 add'l: no lockscreen ad

$229 for 32GB model

($269 for 16GB 8.9" 1920x1200 resolution, 254 ppi)
($299 for 32GB 8.9" 1920x1200 resolution, 254 ppi)

Google Nexus 7"
7-inch display
1280 x 800 resolution
216 ppi
8GB storage (up'd to 16GB)
One mono speaker *

No HDMI-out to HDTV

Front-facing camera < 1 MP

Quad core Tegra 3

Basic WiFi
Battery-life claim: 9-10 hrs

Pure Android and can do direct Google Play store
~600,000 apps

$249 for 32GB model

Apple iPad mini 7.9 inch/
7.9-inch display
1024 x 768 resolution
163 ppi
16GB storage
512MB? Per A5 chip specs. TBC.
Built-in speakers *
  Nov. 2, Apple finally added an 's' to 'speaker' *

No HDMI out to HDTV **

Front (HD) & Back (to 1080p) cameras

Dual-core A5

Dual-Band WiFi
Battery-life claim: 10 hrs

iOS 6
275,000 heavily-curated tablet-optimized apps
 (Can also run small iPhone apps - any w/ Retina resources can scale w/o pixelating. 450,000 add'l.)

23% & 53% lighter than iPad.
Lighter than the other tablets.

$429 for 32GB model

  * iPad mini: See Speaker discussion - to be changed when Apple changes its iPad mini specs page.
    Update - On Nov. 2, Apple finally updated their iPad-Mini specs page to show "Built-in speakers" instead of "Built-in speaker" -- something I requested they do since Specs pages are official reference pages.  The speaker grilles are about an inch or two apart, on one short side, and maybe that's why they don't mention 'stereo' after the correction.  The whole thing has been bizarre.  This might be the first iPad w/ two speakers with separate baffles but they can do nothing for movies or videos viewed the usual way, as they are close together on just one side.

    Google Nexus: See Nexus owner forum thread about the speaker.

** Those w/ Apple TV's can do AirPlay Mirroring to them.
   Contributor Tom Semple adds: Apple's new $49 "Lightning" adapter can provide HDMI out.

***Tom Semple adds he uses Puffin app to access Flash video on his iPad.

**** 7" HD Kindle Fire pricing was changed from $249 to $229 on April 11, 2013.

Table updated March 19, 2013, April 11, 2013

For the initial comparison article, I didn't include the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet HD,
which has higher display resolution - but it has no cameras, not even one for Skype (important for family & friends who like to communicate via video chat), and B&N will not allow owners to enable installation of apps from non-B&N sources.  I may do an additional table later though.

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  1. In addition to the AirPlay option, the 'Lightening' port on the Mini and latest iPad do allow 'up to 1080p' HDMI out with appropriate ($49) adapter (plus an HDMI cable!). Of course the equivalent solution for Fire HD is about $5, as it uses a standard microHDMI port.

    Note that 3rd party browsers such as Puffin or Photon allow functional access to Flash-enabled video and websites on iOS (and also on Android), and apparently Facebook Flash games also. I have Puffin and it works reasonably well on my iPad and on my Xoom, though not that seamlessly with Amazon Instant Video (zoom to fit screen doesn't seem to work, but you can zoom the view manually). Still worth having in the toolkit. So Apple users do have some options.

    BTW, I did try the free (time bomb) version of Puffin on my Fire and it did work (with rough edges). I have since got the paid version but haven't tried that yet. So Fire HD users with access to Google Play could probably consider that option (as opposed to getting the now unsupported Flash Player plus Dolphin). Puffin (and I assume Photon, which I've not tried yet) uses Adobe's AIR platform (via FlashBuilder or whatever it is going to be called) and that has Adobe's ongoing support on mobile, so it should have a future. It is less clear that FP will continue to work on future versions of Android, or continue to work with future versions of Dolphin. I do wish Amazon were a little less nannyish about allowing Fire users to download alternative browsers (and ePub reading apps, Dropbox, Skydrive etc.) from the Appstore (e.g. Dropbox is in Amazon Appstore, but only if you aren't using a Fire. Absurd).

    1. Tom, Thanks for all the alternate choices (similar to photo/usb kit) for Apple users and yes, it's more direct for the KFire (being built-in rather than yet another $$ add-on that you need to buy and carry for the Apple).
      I do consider that a better feature. But I'll add a link to your comment to get the full story there! Thanks for making the table more useful.

      Another Kindle Fire HD user found Puffin very slow and halting and was glad to get the latest Dolphin. Dolphin seems to want to make their browser increasingly useful so I doubt they'll intend to make it not support Adobe Flash Player of whatever vintage. What Amazon does with a future Kindle Fire that could kill that is another matter, but I'm hoping they're not suicidal because I'd NEVER buy a tablet that didn't allow me to play Flash files.

      Amazon is just a store. They sell The Cloud and it is their biggest feature for use with a lot of $-things including tablets so they're not going to put dropbox IN their store but they will make it easy for you (unlike B&N) to just get it from another store. I don't mind "walking" to another store to get what I want that's not in the first store.

      As I've said I would not expect to see a competitor's product sold IN a B&N store and the same goes for Amazon. What I don't like is B&N refusing me normal access to be able to use another appstore's apps at all without violating TOS and having a risky situation.

      I agree with you re the browser. If Silk weren't so anal-retentive and slowed down for that reason, I wouldn't want another browser, but at least they don't keep other browsers off their units.

      I would imagine that Adobe's future flash players would have all kinds of goodies that wouldn't be supported on the new Android devices (which differ so much one from the other in whatever variant of the system might be on it) but I don't see that they'd look for a way to prevent the older ones from working for the basics as long as a browser supports it...

    2. The point about DropBox is that it IS in the Amazon Appstore, but the only Android devices that can't get it from there are Fires. It is justifiably a popular app, and Amazon does not provide that functionality, so why don't they allow it? It doesn't compete with anything Amazon is doing right now (Amazon Cloud doesn't do desktop sync like SkyDrive/GoogleDrive/DropBox etc.), while arguably its availability would add value to Fire (just as availability of Netflix does).

      I would make a similar argument about allowing epub reading apps on Fire except that is for most users a lower priority than something like Dropbox.

    3. Hi Andrys,
      I would add that only Dolphin 8.5.1 seems to work with Flash 11.1 for me on my Fire HD. If it updates itself to 9.0 or above, fFlash videos no longer work.

      On the flip side of that, the latest Firefox for Android does seem to work mostly-fine with Flash 11.1 installed (there is the occasional glitch).

    4. Terry, thanks for that info. On December 11, 2012, they changed the Flash Player file at XDAdevelopers, in that same thread post so that it's a different file now, and that was because the latest version of Google Nexus no longer worked with the Flash Player they/we had been using (as a beneficiary tablet of the hunt done for the Nexus tablet problem).

      Maybe try that latest file? And see if later Dolphins can be used with it? It works for a number of us..

      Thanks for the info on Firefox for Android too. So far, I've no problems with my network TV full-episode watching on latest Dolphin, with the current xdadeveloper flash player they uploaded Dec 11, wiping out the first one that many were using for the Kindle Fire for months.

      I think Laura's on her sharefile box is using the earlier one from xdadeveloper forum.

  2. Tom, I actually think they're likely working on sync'g as they do with the most basic Cloud, our database of books, docs, apps.

    For those who are more than pure consumers, it's easy enough to just get dropbox (which I got on day 1) if I want to go beyond Amazon (which of course I do) and my mindset is I'm glad they didn't hobble the ability to straight download and install apps from other places.

    Amazon is just a huge store, whose reason for being is to sell us things.

    Where they're trying to sell content and services to make up for very low-priced better-than-decent tablets, I don't blame them for not focusing on making other competing apps easy to get at their own store.

    ePub apps may encourage their shoppers to get books elsewhere. As a business and store (and now web cloud services provider), they'll concentrate on their openly stated goal which was to provide high-quality tablets and make the money when the Kindle owner uses it for store goods and whatever services.

    I got Aldiko and Mantano right away for epub reading. I've always straight downloaded rather than sideloaded although that latter work has become used for direct download these days from non-company stores. And now WiFi Explorer Pro makes it so easy when you don't even have to use a cable.

    The thing is they are always way behind on apps partially because of the heavy vetting they do for compatability with KFire and for malware (Google doesn't do this).

    Why would they put time into doing that for competing-format apps to be sold in their own store and getting the customers' attention. I -would- PREFER they provide the things you mention but I really understand why they don't care to, for the KFire.

    The very people upset by this are the people who can easily get it anywhere else. Their target consumers tend more to ask about flash videos.

    As mentioned they're not only a store, they do marketing info gathering (when we click to buy, when we look, when we use Silk browser), for personal recommendations and in hopes they can have you buy something else, and they say outright this is how they plan to grow their business. Right now margins are worrisome. So my own focus is not on them having to put everything there that I need -- just let me put it on easily after I get it from another store. I don't want to be that bound to Amazon store anyway - the other places have more apps and I can look around a bit (but I don't download a file unless others have for at least a few days).

  3. As this is the most recent Kindle Fire article on your site I thought I would bring this to your attention for a possible article on how to get Gutenberg books into the Kindle Fire HD (I think the first model but it may include the later models as well as the larger screen version) I hadn't been at the Gutenberg site for a while and I decided to download a book for my Kindle Keyboard from there when I noticed this Kindle Fire review from the webmaster of Project Gutenberg linked from the main site page.


    It is rather inflammatory and there are quite a few comments about this review at some Kindle sites. The main issue seems to be that Gutenberg books aren't stored in the proper directory on the Fire. As I don't have a Kindle Fire yet I can't make any comments on that but from what I have read, the books are actually saved to the Fire, just to a different directory and not as the reviewer says:

    "To be specific, there is no way to download free books from the web and have the Kindle Fire store them permanently or in the same places where your books from Amazon are kept."

    I know that quite a few people read your site and it will probably help any misunderstandings with an article saying exactly on how to handle Gutenberg books on the Fire, whatever model is affected. Instructions for directory placement utilities as so on are probably needed unless there is some sort of setting on the Fire to install to a specific directory.


    1. James,
      Joel McC wrote me in late October and I was going to write about it and then forgot all about it. What I told him was, essentially:

      The man who started Project Gutenberg died last year, and whoever wrote that is putting out hysterical nonsense. There's not a glimmer of truth in it but this is typical today. Say something erroneous often enough and loud enough, and people believe it. I think I felt that someone would correct the guy, but apparently not (!)

      Not only that, we can use the Kindle to read, legally, DRM'd ePub books (!) The person just doesn't know much and doesn't seem bent on learning, which is too bad, considering the person's ability to reach so many who will believe him because of the strength of the name of the site.

      It's actually easy to get any book from it onto Kindle Fire as a Kindle book (thanks to Gutenberg and Amazon) and to have reading on it sync'd with annotations -- AND to read any ePub book, moreover, if you want (maybe because it's not out in Kindle format), on the Kindle Fire, as is, and any of this is done via basic free apps in the Amazon app store.

      Thanks for the reminder. I have a way of doing it just using Kindle Fire's Silk and the usual tablet file manager and will try to do a report on that with a couple of screen shots either tonight or tomorrow.


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