Kindle Fire reviews: Reading clouds instead of testing buttons

The Kindle Fire is only good at serving Amazon's content. Why didn't more reviews say this clearly?

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Kindle Fire

Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet is coming under late-coming fire. The New York Times wrote a meta-review of customer reviews, and found that many are finding the Fire to be slow to respond to nearly any action, sporting both a terrible power button and not enough other buttons, a less-than-stellar Netflix experience, and no privacy to speak of. Yet the Times finds that even those buyers giving the Fire one-star reviews on Amazon’s own site are “regretful rather than angry.” Didn’t anybody get a chance to see what this device was like before it debuted?

Lots of people, actually. The Verge (founded by departed Engadget editors) wraps up its review by suggesting the Kindle is a “really terrific tablet for its price,” but added that its “software can be buggy,” and that it featured “uninspired hardware” in its “Bad Stuff” column. CNET also went into detail, and, despite suggesting that the iPod touch was a better product in every way except for screen size, suggested that the Fire was “worth the $199 gamble,” because it was “Amazon's services--not the hardware--that make this device so appealing.” The Times’ David Pogue wrote that the Fire “deserves to be a disruptive, gigantic force,” but “needs a lot more polish,” because “its software gremlins will drive you nuts.”

Seeing a trend here? There’s a lot of big-picture analyst talk about a device that should be worth reviewing just on its own merits. In part, this is due to Apple. Apple is a company that makes, basically, electronic devices, and it was briefly the most valuable company in the world, and also easily the technology firm that attracts the most press coverage. It’s not enough to write up how any notable device looks, feels, and serves the owner these days. Every device is in a horse race against Apple and, more blatantly, expectations. All the press, rumors, competition, and mythology of today’s big tech players--Google, Apple, and Amazon--feed into the reviews of their individual offerings. It’s not enough for today’s gadget writer to tell you about the device and what they thought about it. They have to tell you where it fits in, among all the clouds, market shares, and price points.

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