I brought a Kindle Fire back to the UK, mainly because I wanted a cheap and small tablet, and preferably Android rather than iPad. I wasn’t sure what would and wouldn’t work back in London but since most of what I wanted in a tablet was a web browser I didn’t think it could go too badly wrong.
As expected, just using the tablet as a web browser and email device worked just fine. Other reviews cover the merits of the device in this respect compared to other tablets so I wont go into any details. But as far as I’m concerned it does what I wanted of it.
Particularly relevant to me was the ability to run Flash. Although Flash is much maligned (and often rightly) on tablets, playing videos from the BBC News website is virtually an essential in my opinion. Embedded clips seem to be screened out and only display as static images, which is probably the website itself auto-detecting that I’m on a mobile device, but longer clips and live news both play perfectly.
What doesn’t work (or needs some help)
The most basic of things: the Fire comes with a US plug and it didn’t appear to charge very quickly from the PC. – after about 8 hours it was at 76%. The mains-to-mini-USB cable from my phone seems to work, though.
Streaming Movies and Music from Amazon
Somewhat surprisingly, while I was still in the US the streaming videosxworked fine. As the Fire comes with an Amazon Prime trial I managed to get some content for free – despite having UK payment and address details. Unsurprisingly this stopped working beck in the UK, meaning the checks must be based on IP address. I know there are services by which I could send neteork traffic so that it appears that I’m still stateside, but given that it’s streaming content I’m not sure the performance will be good enough. And frankly, there are easier ways to get videos or music.
More surprising was that the Amazon app store wouldn’t work for installing apps, even whilst in the US. I think the requirements here are both an American credit card and address. This was true even when I tried to download free apps – my details were still checked. Any attempt to install an app from the Google Market saw the Amazon App Store intercept the request, andcthen tell me the store isn’t available.
There are two workarounds. One is to root the device and you can install what you like. The other, which is what I’ve done, is to backup apps from my Android phone, copy them onto the PC, and then copy onto the Kindle and install. I had to install a file browser from a slightly dodgy source, but from there on in it was simple enough. A few apps didn’t work (Google docs), but for the most part this workaround does the trick.
Amongst the apps I had success with were: YouTube, BBC iPlayer, WordPress, eBay, Angry Birds. The iPlayer appeared to work well.
What do I think?
This is my first tablet. Not the first I’ve used, but the first I’ve owned. It’s pretty much fulfilling the role I had in mind for it i.e as an instant-on web browser that’s bigger than my phone. However, I don’t think I’d recommend that others import one and “make do” with it’s half-walled-garden Android system unless a) you’re a cheapskate like me and b) you’re happy to tinker at a tech level to get more apps on.
Just to add to the “how does it fare for what it’s supposed to do”, which is to stream movies and music, I’m not sure I’d want it for that anyway as a) the speakers are weirdly placed if you watch anything in landscape mode, and also aren’t that good, and b) it’s heavier than I thought it would be. Oh, and c) I just don’t think the screen is big enough for anything long-form such as a movie, especially not if you want to watch it with someone else.
But to add a more general opinion, I’m very happy with it for my unique cheapskate-android-freak-techie needs, but for anything more mainstream I don’t think it does anything quite well enough. If anyone else is thinking of buying one in the US and then bringing it over I would think as to whether you’d be better served just splashing out on a more expensive and full-featured tablet.