Amazon Kindle Fire - a Q&A

Amazon's big Kindle Fire announcement day has come and gone, and a lot of you may be scratching your head trying to figure out all the news that happened while you were stuck at work or school.  We've taken the time to provide a handy set of questions and answers ourselves, and we think they would make a great starting point.  Of course, you can (and should) dive into the discussion in the Kindle Fire forums to talk it all out as well.  Hit the jump and have a read.

So what is the Amazon Kindle Fire? A tablet? An e-reader?

We're going to put this one in the tablet category. Whereas the Nook Color is an e-reader that doubles as a competant hacked tablet, the Kindle Fire is all tablet, made by the same OEM that did the BlackBerry Playbook.

So it's an Android tablet then?

Eh, sort of. It's running Android at its core, but you won't be working within a traditional Android user interface. It's basically how the Nook Color and the Kindle Touch also run Android, but look nothing like a traditional Android tablet.

Which version of Android is the Kindle Fire running?

We're seeing people focus on this like it's some sort of magical spec that will make or break the tablet. It's a red herring. When you're running such a highly customized version of embedded Android, it doesn't really matter. (And truth be told it doesn't matter on smartphones quite as much as it used to.)

In the end, it's all those customizations and services that will make or break the Kindle Fire.

And it's running Android 2.3.

Great. So it runs Android apps then?

Yep. With a small catch: There's no Android Market. That's not a big a deal as it used to be, given that the Amazon Appstore is quite good. But it's something you should know going into it. 

Cool. How about some specs?

We'll make this easy for you. Know that BlackBerry PlayBook? That's basically what we've got here. It's a 7-inch IPS display at 1024x600 resolution. That's obviously not exactly the world's higest pixel density, but it'll have to do for now.

It's got a 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor in it, and by all accounts the user interface is speedy.

It's got 8GB of internal storage and weighs 14.6 ounces. That's not light, but it's not as heavy as, say, a Motorola Xoom.  If it's built like the PlayBook, it will also be great to hold and portable -- on the hardware side, RIM got a 7-inch tablet right.

There's no SD card slot or expansion ports, save a microUSB port for charging and connecting to your home computer.  This means you're stuck with 8GB of storage, but that should be OK because much of what you'll be viewing and consuming is in Amazon's cloud. 

What can I do with it?

Now we get to the heart of the matter -- finding a usage case for the Fire. You'll be able to read e-books and magazines, watch video, browse picture galleries, and run Android apps.  Sounds a lot like any other Android tablet, right?  You'll have access to all of Amazon's content, and we've been told you will be able to sideload books and other media from your computer.  You'll also have full access to the Internet with Amazon's Silk browser -- a webkit based browser that uses the cloud to optimize content as it's delivered.

Since the software is based on Android 2.3, the app selection will be pretty broad.  Besides the full content of Amazon's Appstore, we expect that you'll be able to sideload other Android apps, if you feel like doing a bit of trickery. We've heard conflicting reports about official application sideloading, but we're willing to bet it'll happen.

What about these 'customizations' you mentioned?

To start with, the Fire has a completely new UI, built by Amazon with media and content in mind.  Your homescreen looks and acts like a bookshelf, with everything in an orderly preview.  You'll be able to choose the categories you want to view, as well as see the most recently used apps and media right up front. For its intended use as a reader and multimedia device, this should work nicely we think. 

Then you have the Amazon integration. We know the Amazon MP3 player, Video on Demand, the Amazon Appstore, and of course the Kindle store will be tightly entwined with the software.  Controlling both the backend, and the user experience will give Amazon options for integration similiar to Google's use of "GApps," and that's a fine thing indeed.  Amazon is even routing web browser traffic through their cloud servers to optimize things specifically for the Fire.  Make no mistake, the Fire is all about Amazon, and how they can deliver their content to you.

Enough with the Amazon stuff.  Howzabout hacking stock Android on the Fire?

We knew you guys were out there, waiting to ask this one.  The hardware on the Fire is plenty capable, with the same processor as the Droid Bionic or LG Thrill 4G.  This means a whole lot of people who read sites like Android Central will want to strip the thing apart and slap an Android ROM on it.  A whole lot means developers, as well.  With the price point, we expect this one to be a pretty popular dev "toy," like the Nook Color.

The real question is, will Amazon lock it down?  Using the TI chip gives plenty of opportunity to seal things up in the hardware.  Amazon surely saw what happened with the Nook Color, and had to decide if they would like to encourage that sort of hackery to drive a few more sales, or keep things a bit more closed to protect users who don't know any better (and protect their eco-system).  We won't know the answer to that until they start to trickle out and into the hands of people able to check.  Our fingers are crossed, because this would be a hell of a nice "unofficial" Ice Cream Sandwich tablet with the stock Android UI and access to Google's services. 

OK, how do I get one?

The Kindle Fire will be for sale starting Nov. 15, for just $199.  Pre-orders have already started if you're the type who wants to get in early.  You can check it out at the Amazon page for the Kindle Fire right here (opens in new tab).

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Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Darn. No SD is a deal breaker. I like to have my own music on SD as I use high quality 320kbps files.
  • Ditto.
  • I agree with this also. I use 320 as well and those eat up space in no time.
  • You use the Amazon Cloud Player. 5GB is free which is upto 1000 MP3 songs, any songs you have on your computer. MP3's you buy through Amazon are stored free. There's no need for an SD card for wifi use. Just copy the mp3's you want from your computer to the 8GB internal SD for non-wifi playback of songs. Or use your Ipod or phone.
  • Epic fail. Why spend lots of time shuffling media files between a portable device and a desktop computer, just because the manufacturer is too short sighted to include a slot for removable media? And I can't tell whether the last sentence is a joke or a deliberate troll.
  • The big question...Does it run Flash?
  • Supposedly so:!/joshuatopolsky/status/119096210287099904
  • Why wouldn't it? It's not an iPad
  • well, it's using some proprietory amazon browser that we're not familiar with, so it might not necessarily run flash (just as Firefox for Android doesn't).
  • It does run flash! Go watch some videos.
  • If you can install android apps, can't you just use any browser you want? that processor is more than enough for flash.
  • You can install stuff on the Amazon store. Which doesnt have all of the browsers you can get on the Android Market, though it does have a few. And Ive seen absolutely nothing about sideloading... Is there a reason why nobody has thought to bring that up yet? lol
  • I saw it on another site, side loading is allowed
  • Yes. Check out Amazon's product page.
  • Does google make any money off this thing?
  • No. Since they've used an open source version of android and aren't using any of Google's services, they don't owe Google a thing.
  • Seems like open source is now working against them then. I wonder why other manufactures haven't created their own distro.
  • I bet Google loves not being involved in this thing. I bet it will still use Google as it's main search engine and if anti-trust lawsuits start up with Google having too much control over Android Google can just point to Amazon and say that's how much control we have.
  • This is in no way working against Google. Their business model doesn't give a damn about how much they make or don't make off of Android. Just how many people use When people buy a Fire, a Xoom, or an iPad, Google's still winning.
  • Seems to me that one of the biggest side effects of this, especially at that price point, will be to finally drive down the price of the nookColor. Especially if Amazon does the smart thing and doesn't lock it down, or at least, if they don't lock it down to tight.
  • I imagine it being more popular with the less tech savvy users. Maybe a few ipad fanboys will jump ship? I think I would rather have the real thing and just get and android tablet.
  • This would be perfect for parents looking for a "cool" cheap gift for Christmas.
  • 200$ IS CHEAP IM SORRY ALL I EVER GOTTEN FOR CHRISTMAS WAS SOCKS AND UNDERWEAR FROM WALMART =$20 lol sorry caps rage you deserve a lump of coal for your xmas :D
  • Yeah, 200 is by no means "cheap", but compared to other android tablets out there, it's definitely one of the cheaper alternatives. I get what the guy's saying.
  • i'd still prefer the grid10 to this. pretty much the same thing, a heavily skinned android tab. $100 more. pretty much shows, what we pay for in a tablet is vanilla or honeycomb itself, similar specs with slightly a bit more hardware features (camera, docks, etc.), but still your typical android tablet, just 2-fold in price. i'd put my money on a galaxy note or 7.7 if i were going for features. but like kurtd says, this is aiming for a wider market. probably sell like hotcakes as christmas gifts.
  • double post
  • Kindle Touch runs Android? This is the first I've read of this. Can someone confirm this? I really hope this is true.
  • I haven't heard anything about that. But it really is a moot point even if the non-Fire Kindles are now Android based. The display on the Kindle Touch is e-ink and not back light. You can actually see a slight delay when it displays the next page of text. If I can see a delay in displaying 20 lines of text, then there is no way any game (and most apps) could be displayed on this device. In addition, it has a two month battery life (compared to 1 - 2 days for most Android phones and 8 hours for a tablet) which would indicate that the processor is really simplistic and made only for e-reading (it can play music in the background but that is about it for multi-tasking). My point is even is Touch was Android based and someone rooted it, I don't think you could do much with it.
  • The nook Simple Touch (they just renamed it) is Android based. Actually, the original nook is android based. All versions of the nook have been rooted. I saw a video one time of a guy playing angry birds on the simple touch; the point is that it IS possible, the CPU can handle it. The reason ereaders get the kind of battery life they get is the e-ink display. eInk requires virtually no power once the page is "set". So, wake up, change page, go back to sleep, and you could get a couple of weeks out of a phone or laptop battery. But you can't do that on a LCD display, because you have a backlight, and have to constantly refresh the display as well. (=processor time, CPU or GPU) I'm really kind of surprised that the nookColor hasn't come down in price yet. I think that's a testament to the market created in part by hackers. Amazon, are you watching?
  • There is really only one thing I'd want to do w/ a rooted Touch: get the Barnes & Noble app. That way I could read books from both my Kindle and B&N accounts w/o staring at a retina-burning LCD. I know I can put a Kindle app on a rooted Nook Touch. But, I have more books on Kindle, so I would prefer going the other way around (hacking a Kindle to get B&N access). I'm okay with not being able to play games. I'll do that on my phone (or get a tablet).
  • Lame.
  • I love it- same as most other articles about devices. CPU, storage, screen, Android version, and not a word about memory! Amount of memory is a pretty important hardware spec... 512? 768? 1GB?
  • 8GB internal/ unlimited external via Amazon Cloud
    In the "Cool. How about some specs" section, 4th paragraph:
    "There's no SD card slot or expansion ports, save a microUSB port for charging and connecting to your home computer. This means you're stuck with 8GB of storage, but that should be OK because much of what you'll be viewing and consuming is in Amazon's cloud."
  • That is not memory. That is storage.
  • I think Amazon is going to hit a home run with this, it isn't for most of the folks who hang out here.
    But for 90% of the population who want simple and easy in a tablet, this will fit the bill.
    Finally someone understand why Apple has been so successful with the ipad. It is idoit proof, just like Amazon's fire is.
    Syncing the music already on your PC will be a breeze with Amazon's cloud drive and music player, and buying new music will be a simple click just like itunes.
    Book and movies through Amazon again will be simple and easy.
    I think Amazon approach will do well with the masses, and the 200.00 price tag makes it even that more appealing.
    Amazon probably isn't looking to make a profit of the device, it wants the revenue from the content that it will sell.
  • Precisely. This thing has the potential of really taking off, and stealing away market share from iPad. Tablets are really about content consumption; reading/surfing/light email/movies, etc. We have the iPad at $500 that is good at this and now the Kindle Fire at $200 that looks to be equally good at this. And since Kindle is already a well established brand, the Fire can be simply marketed as a "Kindle +". Everything the Kindle can do, plus movies, music, apps, Web, Email. Unless someone just has to have all things Apple, that $200 price for the same simplicity and functionality as an iPad is a lot more attractive. (And yes, Amazon is selling this at a loss. They'll make up the profits on the content.)
  • I completely agree. I'll be buying one if I don't get one of the in production HP Touchpads in October.
  • Are you able to sideload the Google Market? I have purchased a few apps and as far as I can tell, I would have to repurchase them from Amazon's AppStore if I want to use them?
  • It'll probably come in an unofficial form much like the Nook Color(but hopefully the Fire launcher plays more nicely with unofficial apps so we don't have the ridiculous dual launcher situation as on rooted Nooks), but it definitely won't be there in an official capacity.
  • From the screenshots, it appears that sideloading isn't allowed but we will know once someone gets a review copy in November.
  • iPad killer! :D
  • They never did mention if it can be read in direct sunlight like the other kindles.
  • No camera, no android market, it's not a tablet it's an ereader. Plus I can't abide by a company that forces me to use a cloud based service without an opt in choice. Don't like cloud services, they store my information without my approval.
  • "Don't like cloud services, they store my information without my approval." This is logically impossible. You have to give your approval in order to use the service. No approval = no service. Thus, they could not store your information without FIRST having your approval.
  • No camera, no android market, it's not a tablet it's an ereader. Plus I can't abide by a company that forces me to use a cloud based service without an opt in choice. Don't like cloud services, they store my information without my approval.
  • Uh-Huh...Amazon's cloud-based MP3 service sucks half the time with buffering issues just like Pandora, SpiritFM Radio, etc. (If it hasn't for you, then you need to get out and travel a little more...even 20 miles) Now they're trying to SELL you music they'll "just keep up here in the cloud for ya'"... Good luck with that...
  • Just the other day I drove from Durham, NC to Raleigh, NC (approx 30 miles) using the Amazon Cloud Player the whole way on my DInc with a Verizon 3G connection and a line-in to the car stereo with no buffering or drop out whatsoever. My friends in the car actually thought I was using an iPod and where amazed when I told them it was my phone and the cloud. Your mileage of course may vary.
  • At first I thought about selling my Nook to get this but after reading this I'll think I'll stick with my Nook. Lack of SD card and an Amazon skinned OS ruined it for me. Plus no market. I'm sure the developers will get their hands on it and make it a nice little tablet. I'll wait and see at this point.
  • Thinking about this today, I think this might be a good option for someone like my sister. She'd like some kind of ereader and maybe be able to do a few other things. She doesn't need the full capabilities of nor want to pay for an ipad. She needs something that is straight forward and simple that she doesn't have to mess with. I don't know it will kill an ipad but I think there is a good market for it. I could see a lot of parents buying it for their kids too. I know ereaders are becoming popular in the tween set. Good price point.
  • Dumb question: If you can side load apps, why not just side load the Android Market? The apk is floating around out there...