Friday, November 30, 2012

Kindle News: More detailed comparisons of 7" tablets: iPad mini, Nexus, + Kindle Fire HD... Amzn Lockers...Appstore in Japan...CyberMonday sales

I've been trying out wireless bluetooth keyboards on the 7" and 8.9" Kindle Fire HD's and will report on this in a day or two.   Found two that work VERY well and another that is said to, after the latest Kindle Fire HD software update (v7.2.1), and which is the least expensive but has Apple control-keys predominant and I prefer more Android-key functions at the fingertips.

Recent news
Amazon's appstore opens in Japan, it was announced Wednesday, ahead of Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD shipments there.  Here's the appstore for Japan.

  Amazon also announced that sales of its Kindles during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend was twice what it was for that time period last year (no numbers).

A HINT of the popularity can be seen in the most popular customer review at the product page, which so far has 12,653 people findng it helpful, of 12,853 taking time to 'vote.'  In the meantime, there are 424 posts in questions and answers connected with TL's obviously engaging review.
  Eric DiPier thought it 'incredible' that the review received almost 8,000 votes in less than 2 months (by Nov. 2) and Kerri Elders thinks that when you consider how few people take the time to respond rather than just read, it may well indicate the popularity of the device.  It's been felt that those who interact rather than just lurk dicussions are about 1 per 1,000.  It at least reflects a lot of interest.

 Amazon almost never offers numbers when it comes to Kindles; however, a company like Apple, with tablets and other hardware a major portion of its business, numbers are required by the SEC.  Kindles, a year ago were said to be only 5-7% of Amazon's business and so they don't have to report numbers and can keep the competition guessing and a bit off balance.

Amazon is finally offering, InternetRetailer reports, more of its "Lockers" for those who can't safely receive shipments at home because they're not there, etc. (where this is available).   The latest ones are at Staples.  An early report on the lockers here was on September 12, 2011.

WSJ's Greg Bensinger had a good article on the ones available as of August 2012.
  Here are links to several other news articles on how the new lockers will work and where they're available currently.

So, what else might Amazon be up to?  That's right (image at right) - Amazon Wine!

Holidays and Decisions - Tablets everywhere
In the meantime, some are still trying to decide on a tablet for the Holidays and I haven't added more recent reviews from tech sites since the early ones over a month ago, although I was logging them.

  Here are a few points from several during the last month. (Warning: this blog tends often to go into mindnumbing detail but I hope you find something here not found when trying to decide by reading other sources, that is, if you've stayed here after seeing the length of this.)
ZDNet's David Gewirtz - "How to decide: should you buy an iPad mini, a Kindle Fire HD (UK: here), or a Nexus 7?"
  His security concerns aside (which favor Apple's complete control over apps, with Amazon's app-vetting getting an 'honorable mention'), he is sanguine about the iPad mini's lower resolution that comes with a higher price.
  "... the iPad mini comes with a last-generation display that many users aren't happy with.  Our own Stephen Chapman called the...display 'atrocious' and added, 'With almost every single device of Apple's now having a Retina display, the regression for the iPad mini immediately makes it feel like a half-hearted, disingenuous, and greedy effort.'
  Ouch.  On the other hand, ZDNet's Joel Evans likes his iPad mini more than the iPad 3."
  Gewirtz finishes with some good guidelines on "How to decide."

Macworld's Mark Hattersley calls attention to's comparison covering lab measurements of display characteristics of the "iPad mini vs Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire" which Hattersley (as a Mac writer) cautions:
  "The conclusions aren’t always flattering for the iPad mini."

  Hattersley adds that "When it comes to playing games, watching video, and general tasks the iPad mini is as good as its larger brethren, but considerably lighter and more portable."
[I wouldn't say that is true of HD video material, which the iPad Mini cannot show in HD as it is not an HD display, at only 1024x768, as pointed out by Displaymate later.]
The full Displaymate details are at this page, and are pretty interesting for those keen to see how things 'measure up' for each tablet in several categories.  Examples:

  "While screen Resolution gets lots of attention from both consumers and marketers – it’s really only critical for providing visually sharp text – but that applies for most applications running on a Tablet.
  The $199 Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 both have considerably sharper displays with 216 Pixels Per Inch, and they both delivered considerably sharper text

Displaymate further links to an earlier "7 inch Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out" between the 7" models of the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus.

  "While the Nexus 7 has a very nice saturated Red that is close to the new iPad Red, its Greens and Yellows are less saturated than even the iPad 2, which is a significant step backward.  On the other hand, the Kindle Fire HD has Greens and Yellows that are slightly more saturated than the new iPad.

  "These were easy to see during the Viewing Tests.  Just as important as the Color Gamut is the Factory Display Calibration, which can ruin a excellent display if done improperly…

  "... the Factory Display Calibration on the Nexus 7 was severely botched, which significantly degrades its picture quality.  In spite of its good Color Gamut, colors and contrast are washed out due to a compressed, convex, and irregular Intensity Scale (sometimes called the Gray Scale).  Bright images look like over exposed is a software or firmware problem rather than an inherent hardware display issue.  Depending on the display firmware this may or may not be correctable with a software update."

  [On another display issue] "... We borrowed and tested a second Nexus 7 unit and found identical behavior – so the effect is unlikely to be due to a defective unit. In fact, we discovered it to be another software bug.

  "The Kindle Fire HD has the highest measured Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light of any Tablet that we have tested in our entire Shoot-Out series, and the Nexus 7 is a close second. Both are much better than either the iPad 2 or the new iPad.   The display on the Kindle Fire was the decisive winner of these two leading 7 inch Tablets. It is much better than the iPad 2 and almost as good as the new iPad in overall picture quality and color accuracy...
  ...Like the new iPad, the Kindle Fire HD has better picture quality and color accuracy than most HDTVs, laptops, and monitors, so it could wind up being your most accurate display for viewing photos, videos and web content.

  "Mobile displays are often viewed under reasonably high Ambient Lighting. The Kindle Fire HD has the highest measured Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light of any Tablet that we have tested in our Shoot-Out series, which is impressive."

  [Back to their more recent comparison of the two with the new iPad mini]
  "While the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 had reduced 61-64 percent Color Gamuts, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 both deliver a much larger 86 percent Color Gamut, and the new iPad 3 and iPhone 5 have full 100 percent standard Color Gamuts.
  "So it was a surprise and a major disappointment for the iPad mini to arrive with an antiquated smaller 62 percent Color Gamut.

  Displaymate testers give an example of their comparison factors, this one showing newest iPad 4 vs more 'dull' or 'faded' iPad 2 and iPhone 4 subject matter.

  Re "reflectance" or glare in high ambient lighting situations, they write:
  "Most displays are now coming with lower Reflectance screens.  The Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 managed to accomplish this, even at their low price points, but the iPad mini comes with an unusually high Reflectance – it reflects 53 percent more ambient light than the Nexus 7 and 41 percent more than the Kindle Fire HD.  This is another poor choice and another significant competitive shortfall…"

Displaymate ends the comparison with a very detailed "Display Shoot-Out Comparison Table."

PopHerald's Kevin Go writes about the same three tablets in "...The display game."
  He writes that the iPad Mini is the "perfect choice for those who want a full-fledged tablet that runs Apple's ...iOS... without the excessive bulk of the regular 10-inch iPad" but wonders if, at $329, consumers are getting what they really deserve... and then he goes on to quote from the Displaymate article above and doesn't think consumers get the best deal there.

  But really, Apple users will like the real lightness of the iPad mini (this is an important factor to any of us tablet users) plus its access to the 250,000 highly regarded tablet-optimized Apple apps and to another 450,000 phone apps that might look better on a smaller screen.  For Apple apps, there is no other 7-inch tablet choice.  Most won't care about display resolution that much.

Android Authority's Carl Parker compares the ipad mini to the Kindle Fire HD 7-inch tablet.
That (missing) Charger - Parker points out something many miss about the option to get a charger during purchase of a Kindle Fire HD:
"Thanks to the standard Micro USB port, you don’t need to worry if you leave your Kindle Fire HD’s charger at home because you can just use your other Android device’s USB charger cable."

"These two displays provide very different results when viewing the same images.  The iPad mini display gives higher contrast, making whites whiter and blacks blacker, while washing out some colors.  The Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, provides richer and vibrant colors, which may make media viewing on the Kindle Fire HD more pleasurable.
"Amazon tablet...[has a] responsive and smooth user interface, which arguably is smoother and silkier compared to the previous Kindle Fire.  But, I do get some occasional lags especially when reading highly animated comics.  Scrolling Web pages and zooming in or out are quite laggy compared to that on the iPad mini.

"As for benchmarks, while the Kindle Fire HD gave a much better score for overall performance (as reported by Geekbench 2), the iPad mini outran its Amazon competitor in the GPU and browser benchmarks, except in the Google V8 Benchmark Suite, in which the Kindle tablet lorded over the iPad mini."

HeraldNet's AP article by Peter Svensson is titled "Subpar screen hobbles Apple's smallest tablet."
"I that for a lot of people, it's not going to be the best choice. It's beautiful and light, but Apple made a big compromise in the design, one that means that buyers should look closely at the competition before deciding.
  "By comparison [with the iPad 4], the iPad Mini's screen looks coarse.  It looks dull, too, because it doesn't have the same color-boosting technology that the full-size model has...
 ..."The real issue is that this year, there are other tablets that are cheaper than the iPad Mini, weigh only slightly more and still have better screens."

  I'd not seen the following explanation before.

  "Sharper screens are darker, requiring a more powerful backlight to appear bright.  That, in turn, would have forced an increase in the battery size.  That's the reason the first iPad with a Retina display was thicker and heavier than the iPad 2.   So to keep the iPad Mini thin while matching the 10-hour battery life of the bigger iPads, Apple had to compromise on the display."

  Another reason, of course, was to make sure the new little brother could handle the many iPad 2 tablet apps wthout having to modify them all for a smaller size.

  "By next year, it will likely be even more obvious that Apple is seriously behind in screen quality on its small tablet, and it will have to upgrade to a Retina display somehow. That means this first-generation iPad Mini will look old pretty fast."
  [Other problems] - "One is that when you run iPhone apps on the Mini, it uses the coarsest version of the graphics for that app -- the version designed for iPhones up to the 2009 model, the 3GS. You can blow the app up to fill more of the screen, but it looks pretty ugly."

  "Some apps adapted for the iPad screen don't display that well on the Mini screen, either, because of the smaller size.  Buttons can be too small to hit accurately, bringing to mind Steve Jobs' 2010 comments about smaller tablets...
  "...In some apps, text on the Mini is too small to be comfortably read -- the section fronts in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal apps are examples of this.
  "... In particular, the Mini is a $329 entry ticket to the wonderful world of iPad and iPhone apps.  For quality and quantity, it beats all the other app stores."

CNET's Brooke Crothers comments on Displaymate's report described above and compares its findings with their own earlier statements, pointing out that:
  "... this echoes CNET's take on iPad Mini's display. "If you own a recent iPhone or the last iPad, you'll feel that this screen is blurry.  Text isn't as sharp. The pixels per inch don't even match what's available on a Kindle Fire HD or Nook HD," wrote CNET's Scott Stein."

Well, I hope that helped with some details not given in earlier reviews:

EARLIER posts on Kindle Fire HD
  . Basic Features Comparison Table for iPad mini, Google Nexus 7", Kindle Fire HD 7"
  . Comparison reviews of the Kindle Fire HD 7" and Google Nexus 7" tablets
  . Step-by-step guide for installing a working Adobe Flash player when needed.
  . Google Maps, Street View and other apps on my Kindle Fire, via enabling one device setting
  . Downloading and playing YouTube videos on Kindle Fire HD
  . Using the camera and Video, Panorama mode, Time Lapses
  . App for WiFi file transfers w/o cable.

A note on David Pogue's NY Times NYT article ignoring the Kindle Fire HD in favor of the also-impressive B&N Nook HD.  A friend mentioned this, and I responded with reasons I've given before for not including the Nook in the detailed comparisons, though I'm a B&N paying member and want the physical stores to survive.
  But you may notice few sites include the Nook tablets in their comparisons possibly for similar reasons.

  But if Amazon didn't allow apps from other online app-stores onto the Kindle Fire (which just involves checking just one easily visible option-setting to enable this), I wouldn't buy or keep the Kindle Fire HD either, nor write much about it.

  It's a self-destructive decision to actually restrict customers to only the vendor-store's own apps (unless you're Apple w/ a different operating system entirely), especially when they're so limited as B&N's are.  This was essentially my reply:
'Pogue has to cover a lot so can't be expected to know everything in depth but that doesn't keep him from surface-level judgments that will influence many due to his platform and entertaining style.

  Most important:
KFire can easily have non-Amazon store apps installed.  It's just checking one setting that allows it (this is a typical Android option). That's why I have Google Maps and Street View on my Kindle Fires.  No 'hacking' involved at all.
  This isn't possible on an unhacked Nook.

1. Barnes and Noble refuses to allow its Nooks to have any apps installed in it except their own and they have the weakest app store

2. Ecosystem for tablet:  No B&N music or video streaming, and a lack of downloadable content store for those vs Amazon's Prime instant videos and music.
Content can be side-loaded to the tablet.
  Streaming is from paid, 3rd party Netflix or Hulu Plus subscriptions, etc.

3. Gives far less Cloud storage
    Amazon gives all customers 5 gigs for non-Amazon docs and books
    with syncing between devices though books were bought elsewhere.
      It keeps a log of annotations on those, if we want,
    in our personal Amazon server space for personal docs
    and for Kindle owners, it's an additional 5GB of free space.

  B&N gives server space only to B&N products, the last I read on their boards
  when I was using the NookColor daily.

4. Amazon has a 7-day-refund period - done by automated email - for any Kindle book that doesn't measure up -- formatting problems, poor editing, etc.

    B&N, though, has a hardline approach - NO REFUNDS on Nook books.
    They've even refused them when pages were missing.

5. Customer Support - Kindle support is usually superb at Amazon.
    Almost non-existent at B&N post-sales.
    Store clerks can try to be helpful but are not as well trained.

6. No camera for Skype (the only major tablet I know of w/ no way to do
    today's free camera/video communication popular w/ families and friends

7. Higher book prices at B&N. '

I hope that some of that info somewhat compensates for being absent from active blogging for a few days.  When quiet, I'm usually researching for a bit more context.  I was also active in some tech-site forums but also holidaying!

Note that I refrained from talking about additional stereo speaker comparisons although a few reviewers have referred to these as the best tablet ones and 'sublime' - an important factor when watching movies w/o having the head clamped by headphones or ears plugged.  :-)

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  1. My kindle keyboard was still at software 3.1. After 3 computer assisted upgrades today I'm running 3.4. However, now I have ads on the home screen for the first time! Any suggestions on how I might get rid of them would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Gordon, that shouldn't happen. It would be a software glitch.

    Preferably on a weekday, during office hours, call Amazon's Kindle Support at 866-321-8851 and let them know it happened.

    This would happen only if you asked for a ~$30 credit in return for getting ads.

    It's happened quite a bit in the opposite direction. People who paid less to accept ads have found themselves without ads on subsequent updates.

    Let me know what they say if you can :-)

    Nice profile pic.

  3. I let A know via email that My KK, no ads model, suddenly had ads. Got back an obvious form letter in which they scolded me for expecting an ad-free KK, claiming that I had a KK with ads. Then in the next paragraph they extended a one time courtesy and removed the ads!

    So...they blamed the victim & then fixed the problem without admitting blame.

    1. I would write back (normally they send a survey email) and request a 2nd tier staffer on this question ,as you paid for a non-ad model and you want this clarified. I just wouldn't accept what was said to you...

  4. Thanks. Oops old profile pic. Must update!


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