Like most people in this business, I have more gadgets than I know what to do with. Those sent to me for evaluation go back to their makers in due time, but even products I’ve bought often end up collecting dust after an initial flurry of use. The Amazon Kindle Fire is not going to be one of those losers.
After just a day with the Fire (actually, it is a unit Amazon lent me while I’m waiting for the unit I preordered to arrive), it has already found a place in my life. For the moment, that place is on the night table next to my bed. I do most of my book reading late at night, and a Kindle of one sort or another has lived there since the original e-reader shipped in 2007.
But already, I find the Fire an improvement. The e-ink display of the original Kindles was always a bit hard to read in the dim bedroom light, though recently models have been a significant improvement. At least for an hour or so of pre-sleep reading, the Fire’s LCD is an improvement. (There was always the alternative of using an iPad as a Kindle reader, but it’s just too big and heavy.)
The Fire’s place as a bedside companion was boosted when I successfully installed the Sonos Android controller app. This is not currently available in the Kindle app store, so I had to side load it, not too difficult provided you have an Android device with an SD card handy (PCMag.com’s Sascha Segan has the how-to details here.) So the Fire can now also control the Sonos S5 that also lives on my night table. Its bedside utility would be complete if I could also use it to control my TV but alas, the Android version of the FiOS remote only works on phones (it requires a device phone number as part of the setup; if anyone knows a way around this, I’d be happy to hear about it.)
The still-open question is whether the Fire will find a permanent place as part of my traveling kit. I used to always travel with a Kindle, but these days it has mostly been replaced by the iPad, which is vastly more versatile and also a better reader, despite its bulk, in poorly lit airplane cabins and often stygian hotel rooms. Some times I go with just the iPad . But if I expect to do any writing, I’ll add my 13″ MacBook Air. If find even writing a simple post like this on the iPad painful, mainly because of software limitations.
I doubt there will be many trips that I can make with just the Fire. It has the bare essentials to check email, Twitter, Facebook, and the web, but just barely. If I’m only going to take one device (in addition to a phone, which can double as a Wi-Fi hot spot), it’s going to be the Pad.
But the Fire plus the MacBook is an appealing combination, and I’m going to give it a try. If it works, the Fire might earn a permanent place in my backpack.