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  1. How the Amazon Kindle Fire Compares to the Apple iPad 2
  2. Amazon's Kindle Fire Tablet is the Perfect "Starter" Tablet
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Amazon's Kindle Fire Tablet is the Perfect "Starter" Tablet

Amazon immediately began experiencing unprecedented success with the Kindle Fire for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it introduced just one version of the tablet, priced at just $199.00. At the same time, Amazon became the only other tablet maker (aside from Apple) to directly offer an incredible selection of content through apps which integrate perfectly with Amazon.com's online stores and services. Thus, with a few taps on the Kindle Fire's screen, a vast and ever-growing collection of music, TV shows, movies, music videos, audio books, eBooks, digital newspapers and magazines, and apps are readily available.

The collection of content that's offered through Amazon rivals what Apple offers. Plus, Amazon teamed up with other content providers, like Netflix and Pandora, to make an even broader array of entertaining and informative content readily available.

The Apple iPad 2 and Amazon Kindle Fire are both considered powerful tablets, and both have sold millions of units. However, based on their respective designs, built-in features, and available apps, the capabilities of these two tablet devices are somewhat different, as are their prices.

The Amazon Kindle Fire: Pros & Cons

If you're thinking about purchasing an Amazon Kindle Fire, you should have realistic expectations for the device, and understand what it's capable of, and to avoid frustration and buyer's remorse, accept what it can't do well.

Hardware

The Amazon Kindle Fire is currently available exclusively with Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, although a 3G model will most likely be released in 2012. The Amazon tablet also features a more compact, seven-inch touch screen display, and 8GB of internal memory (which is not expandable). And, while the Kindle Fire utilizes a version of the popular Android OS (which is supported by thousands of third-party apps), the tablet itself lacks built-in cameras, a microphone and Bluetooth support.

As a result, while you can easily use the iPad 2 for web-based video conferencing and voice-over-IP phone calls, to take and edit photos or videos, this is not possible with the Amazon Kindle Fire. Plus, the iPad 2 connects to a wide range of accessories (such as an external keyboard, printer or wireless speakers) via a Bluetooth connection,

Also as a result of the smaller Amazon Kindle Fire's screen, the on-screen virtual keyboard is considerable smaller than what's available on the iPad 2, which makes touch-typing, or even typing quickly with your thumbs, a bit more challenging.

So, between the smaller screen and on-screen keyboard offered by the Kindle Fire, many business-related tasks, such as word processing or spreadsheet management, are possible using third-party apps, but they're not at all practical to do on the device.

Functionality

Right out of the box, Amazon's tablet is a powerful and feature-packed eBook reader, for example. Amazon.com's Kindle app offers easy access to the world's largest online-based eBookstore, making it easy to find, download and then read eBooks.

Using the pre installed Newsstand app, Amazon also offers Kindle Fire users access to hundreds of full-color magazines and major daily newspapers, which can be purchased, downloaded and read on the tablet's screen.

As a digital music player, the Kindle Fire also rivals the iPad 2 (and all of Apple's iPods). By providing access to Amazon's MP3 Store, more than 20 million songs are available for purchase and download, and can then be enjoyed using the tablet's Music app.

When it comes to watching video content on the Kindle Fire's vibrant, full-color screen, more than 200,000 TV show episodes and movies are available for purchase and download. Or, if you subscribe to the fee-based Amazon Prime service, an ever growing selection of video-based content can be streamed from the Internet to your device on an unlimited basis.

Because the Kindle Fire utilizes a proprietary version of the Android OS operating system, it's compatible with thousands of apps, which can be purchased, downloaded and installed directly from the Amazon Appstore. This includes a wide range of games.

Surfing the Internet is also possible, using the Amazon Silk web browser which comes pre installed. Unlike Safari for the iPad 2, for example, Silk is fully compatible with Adobe Flash, so you can access and view virtually any website on the Internet, as well as online social networking sites, like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Due to the smaller screen size, however, you will find yourself often having to zoom in on web page content to more easily view it.

Using the Kindle Fire's built-in Email app, it's possible to manage multiple email accounts from Amazon's tablet. This Email app allows users to send and receive email attachments. From the Amazon Appstore, a selection of third-party email apps are also available which greatly expand the email capabilities of this tablet.

Like Apple's iPad 2, the Kindle Fire also utilizes a cloud-based file-sharing service (offered free from Amazon.com) to facilitate file transfers and data syncing between the tablet and your primary computer, although you can also establish a direct connection using an optional Micro-B USB to USB cable.

When it comes to word processing, spreadsheet management, scheduling and other work-related tasks, these are functions not inherently built into the Kindle Fire. The tablet does come with a scaled-down version of Quickoffice, which allows you to view Microsoft Office documents and files (including Word documents, Excel spreadsheet files and PowerPoint presentation files), but using this app, these files or document can not be created from scratch or edited.

It is possible to upgrade Quickoffice, or purchase other third-party apps that allow for basic word processing, spreadsheet management, scheduling and other work-related tasks. Again, due to the smaller screen and virtual keyboard size that's built into the tablet, and the lack of an optional external keyboard, these functions aren't practical.

Likewise, the Gallery app that comes pre installed on the Kindle Fire allows you to view, perform basic edits to, and then share digital photos. But, without a built in camera, the images need to first be transferred into the tablet from an outside source.

If you're an avid online shopper, the Kindle Fire may quickly become a useful money-saving tool. Using the Amazon Shop app (combined with an Amazon Prime membership), using the tablet you can shop for anything that Amazon.com offers, and have purchases shipped to your door with free two-day shipping. Almost anything you'd buy from a traditional retail store is offered by Amazon.com, often at a discount. By shopping online using this proprietary shopping app, you can typically save money and time.

Ultimately, if you're a business user looking for a full-powered tablet that could potentially replace a laptop computer or netbook when handling a wide range of work-related tasks, the Apple iPad 2 is definitely a more powerful and practical (albeit more costly) solution.

However, if you're looking for an eBook reader with a full-color screen that will also allow you to enjoy watching video content, listen to music, surf the web, play games and run a fast-growing library of third-party apps, at just $199.00, the Kindle Fire is a fantastic tablet device.

The True Cost of Owning a Kindle Fire

Just as with the iPad 2, simply purchasing the Kindle Fire tablet isn't always enough. Most users acquire optional accessories or add-ons which increase the cost of the tablet. For example, there's the two-year Protection Plan for the Kindle Fire ($44.99), a subscription to the Amazon Prime service ($79.00 per year), plus the cost of an optional case and/or screen protector for the tablet. Most content you acquire for the tablet also has a price associated with it.

In a nutshell, think of the iPad 2 as a full-powered, tablet-based computing device that can also allow you to read eBooks and entertain yourself in a variety of ways. However, priced at less than half of what the iPad 2 costs, the Kindle Fire can be considered an eBook reader with a handful of additional capabilities and limited tablet computing functionality.

Thus, the Kindle Fire won't replace the need to carry around a laptop computer or netbook while you're on-the-go, but it will prove to be an extremely useful and robust handheld device that can be used as a mobile entertainment system and web surfing tool (providing you're within the signal radius of a Wi-Fi hotspot or wireless network). It can also handle additional capabilities via apps.

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