Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire has been my primary tablet for the last two weeks, and while I still find its user experience to be inferior to that of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, I've grown comfortable with the custom Android slate.
Make no mistake, the problems I had upon firing up the device with a 7-inch display persist. I've learned to work around them. I've grown comfortable with the device and use it primarily for what it is--an on-ramp to help me access free content, and shop, from Amazon.com.
First, let's rehash the problems I had with the WiFi-only Fire, which costs $199. I found most of the Fire's navigation tabs and buttons to be downright unresponsive, and had to tap or swipe more than once to get most places. Maybe I was given a faulty review unit? Nay, according to anecdotal evidence.
Instapaper CEO March Arment's chronicled the navigation issues two weeks ago. He noted: "Almost the entire interface is sluggish, jerky and unresponsive. Many touch targets throughout the interface are too small, and I miss a lot. It's often hard to distinguish a miss from interface lag. The on-screen Back button often doesn't respond, which is particularly frustrating since it's essential to so much navigation."
Arment is a developer with excellent chops and a keen mind for what people expect from a mobile device. The biggest problem I personally had with my Fire unit is from Arment's comment above, which I bolded.
Unlike the Tab 7.0 Plus, whose back buttons and application tray are omnipresent, it can indeed be a chore to move around the Fire. That is, until you get used to pressing and holding until you access the back button. I did this often when I was reading a book title and wanted to check something on Wikipedia or some other Web source I needed to access via the Silk browser.
I originally didn't care for Silk but grew to appreciate its "learning" nature of remembering where I browsed and what I'd done in previous Web surfing jaunts. The cloud-complemented pre-fetching definitely works well on the Fire and I look forward to Amazon boosting Silk's accuracy, relevance and capabilities in future tablet iterations, of which you can be assured there will be.
The Amazon-tailored navigation via the top shelf is simple and fun. Newsstand offers magazine or newspaper titles, which can be accessed from a user's existing collection on Amazon or purchased from the store. You can read titles in grid or list views, whichever you are more comfortable with.
The Videos drawer whisks you to your Amazon Instant Video content, including more than 13,000 free movies and TV shows from the Amazon Prime service, which is free for the first 30 days for Fire owners and then costs $79 a year for free, two-day shipping and the video content.