Amazon yesterday announced their new Kindle Fire Tablet device that will be powered by the Google Android OS. The most stunning part of the announcement wasn’t so much the device itself but rather the $199 price point it be will sold at. That’s half the price of any competing new tablet that has been released and $300 less than the $499 starting price of the Apple iPad 2. You can quite literally get two Kindle Fire’s for less than the price of an iPad. So for all those students that were on the fence about buying an iPad 2 and decided you just couldn’t justify the cost when you needed a laptop as well, is the Kindle Fire a potential substitute for the iPad?
The answer is that it could be, but you have to understand the limitations of the Kindle Fire compared to the iPad and decide what it is you’re really looking for in a tablet. First let’s compare the features of the iPad 2 with the Kindle Fire:
|Apple iPad 2||Amazon Kindle Fire|
|Price||$499 – $829||$199|
|Screen||9.7-inches, 1,024 x 768 IPS screen||7-inches, 1,024 x 60 IPS screen|
|OS||iOS||Android with Amazon software on top|
|Processor||Dual Core A5||Dual core TI OMAP 4|
|Content||Amazon, B&N, iBooks & more||Amazon App Store|
|App Store App Count||90,000 iPad, 500,000 iPhone||16,700|
|Storage Capacity||16 – 64GB||8GB|
|Wireless Options||Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth 2.1||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1|
|Camera||Front and Rear||No|
|GPS||3G Models have GPS||No|
|Browser||Mobile Safari||Amazon Silk|
|Battery Life||7.5 hours||8 hours|
|System Requirements||PC or Mac for synching, iTunes software||None|
Based on this table comparison you can see that the iPad 2 is more fully featured. It has dual cameras, a larger screen, more options such as 3G, GPS and higher storage capacity. As soon as you start adding those optins the price of the iPad 2 of course increases. Amazon offers no upgrade options, it’s a one size fits all, and the sacrifices they make in terms of less storage and no 3G is what enables the low price of the Kindle Fire.
Buying Case for the iPad
If you’re a student that’s looking for a tablet that could potentially replace a laptop for on campus needs, the Kindle Fire definitely is not going to cut it. It sounds like Amazon has put a layer on top of the Android OS that really turns the device into more of a content consumption tablet. It will be fine for browsing the web, watching movies, reading Kindle books and even listening to MP3s but it’s not going to offer the ability to easily edit documents like Apple does with the iPad apps currently available. For instance, Apple Notes allows editing of word processing documents, Numbers is an Excel alternative, and Keynote allows editing of PowerPoint documents. There are a whole host of productivity and education focused apps in the Apple App Store. I don’t believe Amazon will put a focus on making productivity apps available for the Kindle Fire and given that it has a 7-inch screen it would be to tough to be very productive with that limited screen real estate anyway.
Buying Case for the Kindle Fire
On the flip side, if you’re simply looking for a tablet that you can easily carry around with you on campus and pull out whenever you have a break between classes or need to reference material on the web, the Kindle Fire might be a good solution if your campus has readily available wi-fi. I say that because the Kindle Fire, unlike the other Kindle devices sold by Amazon, has no 3G option so if Wi-Fi is not available you can’t do a whole lot with the Kindle Fire except read books, watch movies or listen to MP3s that are already stored on its 8GB internal storage. One big advantage the Kindle Fire does have it that it is under 1lb and smaller than the iPad 2 so is well suited for something you want to easily be able to pull in and out of your backpack and hold with one hand.
And then there’s the big price differential. Since students are on a budget it’s harder to justify the price of an iPad when you’re already up to your eyeballs in tuition, textbook and basic living costs. It’s easier to justify spending $199 for something that might be helpful in school and providing some entertainment as well than $499 or more. Another big factor is that theft of Apple devices on campus can be rampant. A thief knows exactly what a MacBook, iPhone or iPad looks like and will target them. They sell well and can be converted to cash and sold easily. A Kindle Fire will likely draw much less attention and if it were stolen the loss to you is obviously not as huge. It’s a little sad to consider such things, but hey, it’s the reality if you live on a campus that has a dense population and especially those in urban areas.
At the end of the day you have to decide what your needs are and which tablet device might suit you better. Sure, there are a ton of other tablet options out there, but frankly I think it’s going to come down to Apple and Amazon being the big players in the tablet market. If you’re starting to shop for a tablet these are the two to start with when looking. If you need a fully fledged tablet that would allow for video chat, using productivity apps and taking advantage of a vast library of software already available then the iPad is the way to go if you can afford it. If you just want something for being able to browse the web or watch movies on the go, so long as you know you’ll have access to wi-fi where you plan to use it, the Amazon Kindle Fire is a good fit.