Kindle Fire: good reviews, but some complaints

Many early users give good reviews to the Kindle Fire, but complaints have already prompted a software update for Amazon's tablet.

Some users seem happy with their experience with the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. 'It has met all of my expectations of a small form factor tablet that is intuitive, media friendly, and has great processing capabilities,' one wrote.

While many early users are happy with their Kindle Fire experience, some have complained about glitches in the Amazon tablet, and the bookselling giant has already promised an over-the-air update to the software to address some of the problems. 

The Kindle Fire made headlines in late September when Amazon announced that it would be debuting its own tablet device, which the company seemed to hope would be an iPad competitor. The tablet drew attention for its low price, selling at $199. Apple’s popular iPad currently starts at $499. 

Many of the reviews of the device on Amazon’s website seem to be positive. Typical is one by a user named Michael P. Gallagher, who wrote, “Overall I think it is a great tool /toy when you factor in the cost of ownership and what you get… this is an extremely great value to me and well worth it: Amazon has hit a home run with this one." He adds, "If you haven't grabbed one now, get one before they run out before Christmas!”

Gallagher noted that the screen size was slightly smaller than he would like, but that this didn’t bother him much.

Another user who went by the name DubStep said the connection to WiFi was hassle-free.

“I read all about this device before buying it, so I knew exactly what I was getting for $199 dollars,” the user wrote. “It has met all of my expectations of a small form factor tablet that is intuitive, media friendly, and has great processing capabilities.”

Most reviews submitted on Amazon's site to date give it five stars, with 2,236 five-star reviews at last count. The Kindle Fire has also drawn 907 four-star reviews – and 610 one-star reviews.

The detractors of the device have had several common complaints, including the fact that the location of the on/off switch means it's very easy to turn off accidentally. A user named jjceo wrote that he or she has already unintentionally turned the device off four times while exploring it. 

“The power button is bad,” jjceo wrote. "It is easy to bump and it is right next to the power plug… I was unplugging the power cable and touched the switch every time. This switch should have been on the top of the device.”

Another common complaint is the lack of privacy on the Fire, which doesn’t require password protection to access the tablet. If the device is stolen, anyone could buy books and movies from the tablet, and parents are saying they want more control over what their children could buy.

“You can password-protect access to the Fire itself but, once in, it's impossible to prevent 1-Click ordering of digital content,” wrote one user named A. Dent, though Dent did point out that Kindle Fire owners can use a PIN number to protect unauthorized in-app purchases from being made. However, this doesn’t apply to the music, book, and movie stores.

“It is currently impossible to turn off 1-Click purchases of most media on the Fire. This is quite an issue for anyone who has kids, especially if the user happens to be the kid,” Dent wrote. “Until then, I am and I will continue to be very concerned, not that our daughter would knowingly buy the entire Amazon movie library without my permission but that, possibly, one of her friends would do that, without being fully aware of what she is doing. Amazon MUST address this or sell the Fire as an 'adults only' product.”

Users have also complained about the inability to edit activity on the Kindle, which means that anyone who picks up the device is currently able to see any previous searches or purchases.

“I don't like the lack of privacy of what's in the cloud or on the device,” wrote a user named NFG. “I won't show people my Fire, because I don't want them to see all the stuff I have on it. Nothing is outrageous – I just don't like having my whole book list out there.”

Some have also said browsing was slow and that the touch features were less seamless than those on other tablet devices.

But Amazon spokesperson Drew Hedener told The New York Times that the over-the-air update will be released over the next two weeks. Changes to the touch system on the device are expected as well as overall performance. The update should also deal with the privacy problem by allowing users to edit their histories.

Some user complaints, however, cannot be dealt with by a software update. As an article on Techie Insider pointed out, fixing the location of the on-off switch will require a hard drive change, so that issue is not likely to be addressed anytime soon.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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