[Originally published in October, 2012 at Manarchy Magazine]
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I sold my soul to Steve Jobs long ago. I’ve been a happy Mac user for over fifteen years with not a single crash, virus or lost file to look back on. Except the time this newbie at the “Genuis Bar” (and I’ll be the first to admit that just sounds pretentious) fiddled around with my backup disc and dumped a few thousand photos. But that wasn’t a result of bad software or hardware; Dude was just an idiot. But you don’t swear off a company because of a bad employee.
In fact, the only reason I don’t have my pre-order in for an iPhone 5 is that I just happened to be driving the wife to the maternity ward about the time they became available online. Such is life.
Why this situation is unique is that the device in question was a gift for my wife. As dedicated as I am to Apple, I don’t seek to impose my beliefs on others. I knew she wanted a Nook or Kindle touch/color screen tablet thing for her birthday so I obliged and, taking advantage of the last day to order from Amazon without paying California state sales tax, I ordered a Kindle Fire. We got the device a couple days later.
As a point of order, let me just say it here:
Amazon, if you’re going to ship your devices in a black box with Amazon Kindle Fire written on the very uniquely shaped box you’ve specially designed for it, might I suggest placing this box inside a non-descript box when packages like this are to be left on doorsteps by postal workers. Any passerby familiar with the type of box in which your Kindles ship might be encouraged to purloin said package, leaving your eager customer hanging.
But I digress…
On the plus side, we retrieved the little black box before it met some unlucky fate.
On the minus side, right out of the box we had problems.
Turns out the Kindle Fire ships with only a charger cable, but if you’d like an actual charger for the device, you’ll need to purchase one separately. How annoying is that?
It’s not that I don’t have an extra USB to wall charger lying around, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the device coming pre-charged. It’s the precedent that I ordered an electronic device without seeing this fine print hidden somewhere amidst a multiple page description overstating every mediocre feature they’ve thrown into the mix.
Had this been a gift for my technologically challenged parents rather than my wife, they’d have certainly needed a charger. Upon opening the box (again, provided no one nicked it from their front step) they’d have likely spent the afternoon looking and looking for a charger that was never there, each certain that the other had simply misplaced the item. They’d have likely been too polite to call me about the matter out of embarrassment, and instead spent their own money on a “replacement” charger, turning a gift into an expense on day one.
Now then, my wife was reasonably excited about the prospect of a slick new device that was just for her. Kindle Fire in hand, she hit the power button and decided to dig in, and this is where things started to get really annoying.
First off, the device was set up for me, with my Amazon account information already loaded. That’d be awesome if I’d bought it for myself. The first order of business, then, became not playing around or customizing the device’s settings, but changing all the account information over, which was slow, boring and tiresome. Good times.
That done, my wife then looked into what it would take to upload her iTunes playlists and start using the device for things like Facebook or email while she thoughtfully considered what her first eBook purchase should be. Finally, it seemed fun was on the horizon.
We went to the Kindle App Store to download the free Facebook app, which was free, but then we got an error message stating that we needed to put a credit card on file before we could complete the free transaction. Even my wife noticed that this practice is on par with the lion’s share of dating/hookup/porn websites which claim to be free, free, free! but always require a credit if one intends to do anything but lurk the homepage. Didn’t anyone over at Amazon notice this similarity ahead of time?
After skipping that for the time being, I noticed we kept getting Amazon ads. Another jaunt online confirmed my fear: Even though I’d already shelled out 200 bones for the thing, I’d have to shell out more to remove the annoying ads.
Isn’t it a given that the purchase of an Amazon Kindle means the buyer will be throwing quite a lot more money into Amazon’s pocket already? Imagine firing up your Kindle to get online, only to get an Amazon ad before you get to the browser to open a website which is probably also rife with Amazon ads. Talk about overkill.
Then I read that uploading music is so easy, and that anything you download from Amazon, plus your first 250 songs are stored free!
This means that anything you haven’t bought from Amazon which takes you over that 250 song limit you get to pay for. That’d be like Apple charging users to download songs from Amazon into their iTunes. You can say a lot about Apple’s money-hungry DRM policies, but paying to access music you already bought elsewhere is ridiculous.
After taking a break to eat dinner and talk about the device, the final straw was the device itself. I had a closer look and noticed it had actually suffered what looked like minor heat damage to the lower end of the screen, and that pretty much sealed the deal. I’m guessing an electronic device in a matte black box sitting in direct sunlight may have been the culprit there. Electronics and heat don’t mix, so maybe Amazon’s next box design should be white. No wait, Apple may have patented that. Let’s go with eggshell.
Long story short: Within four hours of receiving the Kindle Fire we decided it just wasn’t a good fit. However, one thing I can’t complain about is the Kindle’s browser. It was so smooth, I even used it to head over to the Apple website and order my wife an iPad.