No surprise: the Kindle Fire is much cheaper than Samsung’s tablets, says Clint Boulton. But next year, the action will heat up
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The specs tell me the Plus’ screen is a bit superior, with its WSVGA Plane-to-Line Switching (PLS) LCD, compared with the Fire’s In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen and its 7-inch display. I couldn’t discern much of a difference after watching Netflix and other video content side-by-side on both screens.
The Fire has no camera, while the Plus has a three-megapixel back camera that’s OK, coupled with a 2MP front camera so you can do video chat. The Fire lacks a microphone; the Plus has one. There are many other differences, including 16GB of internal storage for the Plus, compared with just 8GB for the Fire.
Amazon wants you to buy
Amazon doesn’t want you to socialise on the Fire so much as buy stuff. That’s right, the Fire naturally drives its users to Amazon’s books, movies, applications and other things to buy from the content “libraries atop the screen.” These libraries cover Amazon’s books, videos, music, magazine newsstand, applications and documents. The Plus has an abundance of all of these content services; they’re just scattered throughout the tablet UI.
The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg said it best: “It [the Fire] shuns its user interface and nearly all of Google’s applications and services, including Google’s application store. The Fire’s software is all about the content and applications Amazon has sold you and the easy purchase of more.”
Also, the Plus’ battery, which at 4,000mAh is naturally weaker than its bigger brethren, is better than that of the Fire, which promises up to eight hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback. Battery life is a big deal, but let’s face it, we’ll long be lugging our tablet chargers along every day. Tablets are for major multimedia consumption, which requires a lot of juice.
Next year… Kindle Fire 2 versus iPad 3?
Some caveats are required for your consideration. The Wi-Fi-only Kindle Fire is Amazon’s first shot at the slate market and it costs only $199 in the US (no UK price or launch date yet). The Wi-Fi-only Plus is priced at $399 in the US — clearly a premium model. What you need to decide is if you can deal with the holes the Fire has and if they are acceptable at that price point.
If I was in the market for a 7-inch tablet, I could certainly see myself buying a Fire over a Plus at half the cost—but not without some consideration after playing with the Plus.
But I don’t think many people will buy the Plus at the $399 price point. While I’m certain it’s a superior tablet, people will devour the Fire for its $199 price point. It’s genius really. Amazon is selling a decent Android tablet for the same price of a premium Android smartphone, or even a low-end iPhone model.
Amazon will sell millions — possibly even double-digit millions — of Fires over the next six-plus months. As it did with the Kindle e-readers, Amazon will establish brand credibility, further whetting the public’s appetite for the real Kindle tablet iPad rival — the 9.7-inch or 10-inch model allegedly coming in 2012.
That’s when the real Amazon vs. Apple challenge will begin. Of course, by then, we’ll probably see a remarkable iPad 3 so it would behoove Amazon to deliver something special and low-priced—maybe $249 to $299 for a premium tablet.