Usually when I follow liveblogs or read the coverage for a big tech product launch, some level of gadget lust takes over. I start to imagine myself using the product, and think about where it would fit into my existing lineup of gadgets.
But for Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablets, things were different. My mind switched to a sort of meta-analysis of whether the products would sell (and at a price range of $159 to $299, they probably will). I felt no familiar pang of desire, because these products are not for me.
The headliner in Amazon’s lineup is the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD, which will cost $299 with 16 GB of storage, or $499 with 32 GB of storage and 4G LTE capabilities. It’s a direct assault on Apple’s iPad, in that it’s $200 cheaper but has a similar pixel density and decent processing power.
What it doesn’t have, though, is Apple’s huge selection of tablet-optimized apps. Like all other Android-based tablets, the larger Kindle Fire will rely mainly on blown-up smartphone apps–at least at first. Unless this changes, the Fire cannot provide a comparable experience to the iPad.
Amazon’s two new 7-inch tablets–the $159 Kindle Fire and the $199 Kindle Fire HD–don’t have any competition from Apple, at least not yet. But they still have to reckon with Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, which starts at $199 for the 8 GB model. The specs are fairly similar for all three devices, although the Fire HD has twice the storage as the Nexus 7 at the same price.
The issue here is that Amazon’s Appstore for Android is smaller than the Google Play Store, and some of the apps are missing. (Gizmodo has a list of notable examples.) Also, Google doesn’t offer any of its own apps on the Kindle Fire, so two of the best reasons to have a Nexus 7–namely, the Chrome browser and the excellent Gmail app–are absent from Amazon’s platform.
I already own both a Nexus 7 and an iPad, and I don’t see any good reason to switch. The Kindle Fire tablets’ main selling points are low prices and easy access to Amazon content, but Amazon is weaker on the content I care about most–the selection of available apps–and I’m willing to pay more for better options. The new Fire tablets don’t make any great advances on specs or hardware either, except for the fact that they’re inexpensive.
That’s not to say the new Kindle Fire tablets won’t be any good, or that they don’t fill a gap in the market. And maybe if Amazon sells enough of these things, the app situation will come along. Those are good enough reasons to pay attention to the new Kindle Fires, but not enough to make me want to buy one.