Kindle Fire Problems: Users' 9 Biggest Issues With Amazon's Tablet
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UPDATE: On December 21, Amazon issued software version 6.2.1, aimed at fixing several of users' most common problems, including glitches with the touchscreen and the user interface, as well as privacy issues that arose over the carousel feature.
On December 12 the New York Times reported that Amazon will issue a software upgrade to combat some complaints that Kindle Fire early adopters have reported since the device went on sale in November.
Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener told the Times that a significant software update was coming for the Kindle Fire "[i]n less than two weeks." Amazon hopes the patch will address many of the common issues users have found.
Amazon has priced the device at $199 to entice customers, and expectations are high for the device's success this holiday season. Analysts are predicting that the company could move 5 million Fire tablets this quarter, which is "a little under half the iPads sold in Q4 2011," according to TechCrunch. But will users consider a device that is reportedly rife with glitches?
Some of the biggest complaints about the Fire are its laggy touchscreen and buggy operating system. However, a software update might not be the answer to all the device's problems. Read Write Web notes that the Fire must receive significant hardware upgrades before its reaches its true potential.
"The only way that Amazon can truly fix the Fire is to make another one with a different form factor and better innards," according to RWW. "A new Fire has been rumored to be in the works for sometime in the first half of 2012 with a larger screen."
Take a look at the slideshow (below) to see users' biggest complaints so far about the Kindle Fire. Are you an early adopter? Have you noticed any of these problems? Share your thoughts about the device in the comments.
'Fat Finger Problem'
The Fire's seven-inch screen is apparently too cramped and its touch capabilities too imprecise to give some users an adequate experience on the device. <a href="http://www.useit.com/alertbox/kindle-fire-usability.html " target="_hplink">Jakob Nielsen's Kindle Fire Usability Findings</a> condemns the accuracy problems he encountered when using the touchscreen. "The most striking observation from testing the Fire is that everything is much too small on the screen, leading to frequent tap errors and accidental activation. You haven't seen the fat-finger problem in its full glory until you've watched users struggle to touch things on the Fire," wrote Nielsen.
Carousel Privacy Issues
The Kindle Fire's "carousel," located on the device's home screen, displays recent online activity, downloads and app activity. However, users have raised concerns about the feature's over-share potential. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=200711000 " target="_hplink">According to Amazon's Kindle Fire FAQ page</a>, users cannot delete items from the carousel. "You can't remove an item from your carousel on your Kindle Fire Home screen, but you can change which items are displayed first by opening new items on your Kindle Fire," <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=200711000 " target="_hplink">reads the FAQ page</a>. "The carousel will update to display your most recently accessed items first." Users have <a href="http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle customer service q and a?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1GLDPZMNR1X53&cdPage=1&cdSort=newest&cdThread=Tx3FYSRUP0HWQYH" target="_hplink">taken to the Amazon forums to post tips</a> for removing or hiding certain content from the carousel.
<a href="http://www.useit.com/alertbox/kindle-fire-usability.html" target="_hplink">Nielsen also gripes</a> about the experience of viewing web and print pages that were optimized for 10-inch tablets or desktop user interfaces. <a href="http://www.useit.com/alertbox/kindle-fire-usability.html" target="_hplink">Writes Nielsen</a>, <blockquote>Using designs intended for a full screen on a 7-inch tablet is like squeezing a size-10 person into a size-7 suit. Not going to look good. But that's what the Fire is trying to do. Accessing full (desktop) sites on the Fire was a prescription for failure in our testing. Users did much better when using mobile sites. </blockquote>
User Interface Glitches
The Kindle Fire runs a "forked" version of Android that Amazon has tailored to the tablet. <a href="http://www.theverge.com/users/joshuatopolsky" target="_hplink">According to Joshua Topolsky,</a> editor-in-chief of The Verge, the performance of the Fire's unique OS was a mixed bag. "[T]he overall OS performance feels stuttery and sluggish, there are odd visual bugs, and things like the keyboard are slow to respond," <a href="http://www.theverge.com/users/joshuatopolsky" target="_hplink">he wrote</a>. <a href="http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/software_update_may_not_be_the_answer_to_the_kindl.php" target="_hplink">ReadWriteWeb blames</a> the device's various software glitches on the customizations Amazon made to the Android software. "Android devices tend to have some lagging issues anyway and the more a manufacturer tweaks the original source code, the more problems tend to present themselves," <a href="http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/software_update_may_not_be_the_answer_to_the_kindl.php" target="_hplink">said RWW</a>.
Slow Silk Broswer
Amazon promised that its custom-built Silk browser, which is powered by the company's extensive cloud network, would allow for faster web browsing by caching commonly accessed pages. However, the practical application of Silk is apparently not living up to Amazon's promises. <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204190504577040110511886588.html " target="_hplink">The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg</a>, for example, details the limitations of the Silk browser thus: <blockquote>[I]n my tests, the Fire's Silk browser was noticeably slower than the iPad 2's browser. This pattern was consistent over scores of Web pages, and on four Wi-Fi networks and two different Fire devices. Amazon's explanation is that its split-browser system requires lots of user data to achieve its speed advantages, and only a small number of people are using it, so it will get faster over time.</blockquote>
Inadequate Parental Controls
While the Kindle Fire comes with some built-in parental control options, kids are still getting up to all sorts of mischief on the device. Deep integration with Amazon's web store allows the user to make one-click purchases, which, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/06/us-usa-amazon-fire-idUSTRE7B52BK20111206" target="_hplink">as Reuters points out</a>, could let kids rack up huge bills on Mommy or Daddy's Fire tablet, despite the safeguards Amazon put in place. In addition, <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/245996/amazon_kindle_fire_criticized_for_lack_of_parental_controls.html" target="_hplink">PCWorld reports</a>, "The popular device doesn't include enough parental controls that can block access to pornography [or] adult content."
Problems With Physical Buttons
<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/kindle-fire-tablet-to-get-software-updates/2011/12/12/gIQA0gTuqO_story.html" target="_hplink">The Washington Post points out</a> that the position of the device's power button, along the bottom of the device, leads to accidental power-off situations. The Post also cites complaints about the lack of hardware buttons controlling the device's volume, writing, "This is a major problem for many Kindle Fire users, who find it very user-unfriendly to have to use software controls to control the sound levels for their video and music."
Not Enough Memory
For a device intended for media consumption, the Kindle offers little room to stash downloaded files offline. <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204190504577040110511886588.html " target="_hplink">From Walt Mossberg's review of the device</a>: <blockquote>There is just 8 gigabytes of memory, half the total of the base iPad or the Nook Tablet, and only about 6 gigabytes of that is available to store content. If you want to download movies, you won't be able to fit many into the Fire. </blockquote>
<a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/17/kindle-fire-having-wifi-issues/ " target="_hplink">TechCrunch</a> recently pointed out problems connecting the device to local WiFi networks, and hundreds on the Amazon support forums (<a href="http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle/ref=cm_cd_et_jump?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdPage=9&cdThread=Tx1AHP0OSDCWLFK#CustomerDiscussionsLPIT" target="_hplink">here</a> and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle customer service q and a/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg1?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1GLDPZMNR1X53&cdPage=1&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx35L4J9ZNCQGVO" target="_hplink">here</a>) have spoken out about a similar issue. <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57336630-93/amazon-kindle-fire-owners-reporting-wi-fi-bug/" target="_hplink">CNET notes</a> that a couple early updates fixed the glitch for some (but not all) Fire users. "Initially version 6.1 and now 6.2, the update makes no specific reference to Wi-Fi bug fixes," <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57336630-93/amazon-kindle-fire-owners-reporting-wi-fi-bug/" target="_hplink">CNET reports</a>. "But several users who installed the 6.1 update via a USB port and rebooted their routers were then able to get online. However, others who installed 6.1 said their Wi-Fi or Internet access was still down."