I have a pretty intense love-hate relationship with Amazon as a business, and Amazon tech products specifically, but I have to give them credit for their Amazon Fire tablet line. They do a good job at providing a decent-to-good media consuming tablet at a very reasonable price (especially the Fire 7 inch tablet for $50), and their streaming video and audio services (that come bundled with Amazon Prime) finally have some content worth consuming (and it’s only going to get better).
Of course, Amazon has been far from fair or perfect. In early October of last year, Amazon made the decision to remove all listings of Google’s Chromecast and Nexus Player along with Apple’s Apple TV, in favor of Amazon’s own in-house Fire TV streaming stick and box. Amazon still has listings for the Roku (which is, by far, the best streaming device option – more on that in a later post), although can often find better deals over on Roku.com’s own online store (hint, the Roku 2 is super-cheap, the Roku 3 is the best all-around option, and the streaming stick is the best option for a cheap streaming device with a remote), but Amazon’s reasons for dumping both Apple and Google devices stinks of anti-competitive behavior under the guise of “avoiding confusion”. According to a spokesman in the above-linked WIRED article:
Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime. It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.
Seems a more than a bit disingenuous, since Prime Video has been around for quite a while and this announcement (and the subsequent removal of the devices) came shortly after the announcement of the new Apple TV and Chromecasts. The WIRED article also notes that TV’s which have streaming apps such as Netflix or Hulu, but no Prime Video, are still available on Amazon – causing massive consumer confusion (sarcasm off).
What’s even more interesting and underhanded than Amazon’s announcement and the removal, though, is the cause behind the lack of Prime Video on both Apple and Google’s devices: Amazon itself. Consider this: the iPad has an app for Prime Video, so there’s no technical limitation to Amazon making and releasing an app for the Apple TV and yet they have not done it. The Chromecast/Nexus Player situation is even more telling – it is just a few lines of code (not even a separate app!) to add a “Chromecast” button in the Amazon app to make these devices compatible, and yet Amazon has not done it.
Fire Tablet – Not All Bad
However, the Amazon Fire tablets (the reason that I started this post) are actually doing some things right. For one, the $50 price for the base model is a great target – the use case for tablets is still not entirely clear to everyone, and dropping $300+ for an iPad or Android tablet that may or may not get a lot of use is a tough sell.
Of course, the Fire tablet isn’t trying to be a productivity tablet – it’s clearly built and designed to consume content – primarily Amazon’s Prime Video content – but the Amazon App Store also has Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and others. Even the high-end Amazon tablets, like the 10-inch Fire HD 10 or the powerful Fire HDX 8.9 would be hard-pressed to be classified as productivity tools. These are, however, much better suited to playing games than the Fire tablet.
Of special note, if you have a little bit more to spend – the Amazon Fire Kid’s Edition. The same tablet as the Fire but at twice the cost, and with a 2-year, “no questions asked” replacement policy. I’m unsure if the replacement policy covers more than one replacement – otherwise you could just buy 2 tablets and have an extra when needed. Heck, originally they were offering the tablet in 6-packs for $250 (buy five tablets and the sixth one is free!), but I don’t know if that is still available. Hilariously, even a six-pack of these tablets this is cheaper than 90% of its competitors.
Obviously, as far as an all-around tablet, nothing can touch the iPad (as much as it pains me to say it) – full stop. Apple has just put more care into developing their own apps for a bigger screen and encouraging developers to do the same, to say nothing of the physical tablet design.
The collections of Android tablets is vast, and most of them are, to put it mildly, crap. There are some exceptions to this rule, of course: I use my Nexus 7 everyday, but it was new in 2013. The Nvidia Shield K-1 is probably the best gaming-oriented tablet out there, and the Samsung S2 9.7 is probably the best productivity tablet you’re going to find on Android. It’s also worth noting that all of these – even the almost-3-year-old Nexus 7 – are more expensive than the Fire tablet!