Mere weeks after the feverishly hyped $199 Kindle Fire tablet hit the market, dissatisfied customers are howling with discontent. Users were supposed to embrace the Fire as an inexpensive competitor to the iPad, but instead, they're complaining about the touchscreen, the annoying lack of external volume controls, and many other problems. "All this would be enough to send some products directly to the graveyard where the Apple Newton, the Edsel, New Coke, and McDonald’s Arch Deluxe languish," says David Streitfeld in The New York Times. Amazon has promised to release a software update in the next two weeks to address some of the issues. Will that be enough — or is the Fire headed for a burnout?
Amazon's tablet will crash and burn: "The Fire is going to be a failure," Jakob Nielsen, a partner in a Silicon Valley consulting firm, tells The New York Times. "I can't recommend buying it." The device delivers "a disappointingly poor user experience," Nielsen says at his blog. The screen is so small that unless you have dainty fingers, it's hard to use the touchscreen without error. The touchscreen is also sluggish, the user interface poorly designed, and the device too heavy to comfortably hold for long periods of time.
"As Kindle Fire faces critics, remedies are promised"
"Kindle Fire usability findings"
Give it time. Amazon will surely fix things: "Despite the gloomy tone of current Fire coverage, I remain an optimist," says Harry McCracken at CNET. The original Kindle e-reader had plenty of issues when it hit the market four years ago, but none of those flaws kept it from becoming a big success. Amazon quickly fixed bugs and released new and improved models, and I'm confident it will do the same with the Fire. "With tech products, following through on a product's promise is at least as important as getting things right in the first place — and Amazon, unlike some of its tablet-making rivals, has a strong record when it comes to doing just that."
"No, the Kindle Fire isn't doomed"
But Amazon can't fix everything: Amazon has promised a software update, says Michael Humphrey at Forbes. Just one problem: Many of the complaints are about Fire's hardware, and a software update won't fix those issues. It won't change the fact that there's no external volume control. It can't wholly fix the touchscreen issues. Nor can it make up for the fact that customers have had their gadgets stolen because Amazon is stupidly shipping them in a box that declares there's a Fire inside. Clearly, Amazon has "built a fire" — and it may not be able to put it out.
"Why Amazon's Fire solution is also a problem"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Dick Cheney's America is an ugly place
- The Hobbit: A disappointing set of movies, but a worthy set of prequels
- America is building a Sunni army in Iraq to take on the Islamic State
- How to make the ultimate grilled cheese
- The age of miracles is over — even for the religious
- The liberation of Barack Obama
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
Subscribe to the Week