After Hours

Kindle Fire vs. iPad: Join the debate and vote

In the latest ZDNet Great Debate, Jason Hiner will be arguing that the iPad is a more productive tablet than Amazon's Kindle Fire. Cast your vote.

The two hottest tech gifts this holiday season will likely be the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Apple iPad. On Tuesday at 2:00PM Eastern over on ZDNet, we're going to be debating which of the two is the better tablet. ZDNet's Violet Blue will be arguing for the Kindle Fire and I'll be arguing for the iPad (clearly the better option for techies and business professionals).

Here's my opening statement:

The iPad has run roughshod over the tablet market for the past two years, despite a steady stream of challengers trying to knock it off its perch. Enter the Amazon Kindle Fire, the first real competitor that is causing anyone at Apple to break a sweat. Amazon is going to sell a lot of Kindle Fire tablets, without a doubt. It won't sell as many as Apple but the Kindle Fire's $200 price tag and solid design will be enough to attract a lot of buyers.

Still, the Kindle Fire is not the tablet for technologists or business professionals. It is the tablet for your grandma, Uncle Ted, or your 12 year old. It's good at two things -- consuming content from Amazon (books, videos, and music) and purchasing products from Amazon. The Kindle Fire does not and will not have the extended ecosystem of the iPad and the Fire's 7-inch screen -- as opposed to the 10-inch iPad -- makes it less of a laptop replacement.

This is part of the ZDNet series, The Great Debate, and here’s how it works. The moderator sets the topic. The two debaters make their opening statements on Monday. On Tuesday, we get together for a live one-hour discussion where the moderator tosses out questions and the debaters have a few minutes to answer and respond to each other’s comments. On Wednesday, the debaters make a closing statement and on Thursday the moderator delivers a final verdict. Meanwhile, during the whole process, the audience gets its opportunity to vote for one side of the argument (and one debater) or the other.

Some of the issues we'll discuss include:

  • What are the drawbacks of the two devices?
  • Which users are the two products aimed at?
  • Is $199 the Kindle's best feature?
  • Which of the two devices is more "open"?

I've been pretty hard on tablets on the past -- especially the iPad -- but for those who want to make good use of a tablet for both work and play, the iPad is still a stronger option than the Kindle Fire, which is solely an Amazon media machine. At least the iPad has a dozen or so useful apps that can give you some productivity on your tablet.

Come join the debate, and send me a vote. I'm going to need it. :-)

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

36 comments
aflynnhpg
aflynnhpg

What are the drawbacks of the two devices? Both of these devices are "locked down" devices from a content managmenet/control perspective. To me that's a drawback, to someone else that's not an issue at all, they don't care about where the content comes from as long as it's easy to get, and use. Which users are the two products aimed at? I think that both devices are atractive to "Non Technical" users, but I will say that the iPad does attract the Techies as well. Apple has been able to sell the idea of technical elitism (note I said the "idea" of it, not the actualality of it). I'd say there is an ultra techie crowd that may want to purchase the kindle simply because it's cheap. These folks don't plan on using it the way Amazon intends, but more as parts for something much more open... Is $199 the Kindles best feature? Again, this depends on who you ask, but clearly it's an attractive price point for a tablet. This device has 4 of the 5 items Jason Hiner lists as the cause for the death of Android tablets yet it's very successful. That says to me that a) Jason is wrong about Android (again) ;-) and b) price point outweighs other considerations, as long as the device is decent. This point will be driven home further when Asus releases the memo 370t running ICS and a quad core for about $250. This tablet unlike the Kindle will be a real Android tablet. Which of the two devices is more open? That's like comparing mother-in-laws to see who's is more controlling (sorry Linda, you know I love you). Wait.. what am I saying that's totally unfair to mother-in-laws everywhere. They aren't even close on the control scale. I think that content control is the goal of both devices, you could have asked, which device is more successful in controlling content? Just out of respect for their huge EULA licenses and their ability to get people to willingly agree to them over and over again, even after making a purchase, you have to give that to Apple. Who else can say, here buy this from me, and allow me total control over what you do with it, and if I don't like it or you, I'll just not let you use it anymore (I know, I didn't take 53 pages to say that, but you get my point)? You really have to respect what Apple has done there, agree with it or not.

richslab
richslab

I agree with your statement that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. If the company I work for was going to buy me a tablet to use for work I'd want them to buy me an iPad. But when it came to spending my own money for use primarily at home I bought myself a Kindle Fire.

rjnedimyer
rjnedimyer

Seems it should be the nook tablet vs fire and possibly the Ipad as the first 2 come from similar backgrounds and are closely priced the Ipad comes from a different background and is several times more expensive and should be so much better as to not be comparable; however, That remains to be seen. BTW: [b] I just voted for the Nook Tablet X 2 by buying 2 of them. [b/] All the reviews I have seen give the Tablet the nod over the Fire, although not signifantly they did indicate a greater ability to read assorted file types..

piplzchoice
piplzchoice

The Kindle seem to make a lot of its customers quite happy and they keep publishing their reviews in the record numbers ??? over 115 per day, every day since Amazon started its shipping. If this flood continues, it will outsell the current Tablet segment champion ??? iPad 2, our research shows that a number of customer reviews correlates to a number of units sold. Here is the evidence http://blog.amplifiedanalytics.com/2011/11/customer-experience-fire-vs-ipad-2/

omg.itlead
omg.itlead

Jason, you hit the nail on the head. No arguments there, I'll get my grandma a kindle fire. Thanks! :-)

suncatTR
suncatTR

When the first iPad was released I was so disappointed that it was as big as a netbook with no ports and no slots. Can't change the battery. Bummer. iPad 2 is also defective in the same way. I have a 13" notebook anyway. I don't like using iTunes for everything either, And may even leave Apple if I have to buy all my Mac software at their app store. The Apple "walled garden" "reality distortion field" has become stifling since Steve Jobs got rid of mid-range towers, and sealed all their new hardware. We don't need more overpriced disposable technology. So I got a color Nook, hacked it to be an Android tablet, free of BN store [I use it when _I_ want], added a 32GB microSD card, and have few regrets. Wish I could use iCab browser, but other choices aren't bad. Nook doesn't do WEP, so it can't connect to all WiFi networks, but other secure networks are OK. Nook is an excellent reader, good for movies, browsing, games, OK for writing, great travel device--and it has a cute little handle. Neither device is a good replacement for a notebook. Most users don't need a notebook or desktop computer anyway, but those of us who do will not replace our main work computer with a tablet.

Lucky2BHere
Lucky2BHere

These two devices are not even close to being direct competitors. They are both tablets like a Mustang GT and a Civic are both cars. Or, more to the point, like a MacBook Air and an Asus netbook are both computers. Please don't waste our time with cheap journalism like this. A "debate" over what?! Really, anyone who actually engages in this at the level you are shooting for has nothing better to do in life...including you and CNET. Feeble attempt at getting eyeballs. I am spending less and less time on TechRepublic because of weak product like this.

rclark
rclark

I have both, neither of which is the latest and greatest. My first kindle died the other day. I got it for Fathers Day in 2009. In the time I had it, I purchased over 650 books for it. The five way toggle had given up the ghost first, and finally, the eInk screen when haywire. It is unusable now. But since then I've purchased three more kindles, one for me, one for my wife, and one for my eldest daughter. (Reading is Fundimental!) I love the kindle for what it does. It lets me read books on a very thin device that works in low to bright light. Much like a book in weight, it is usable. And I can take a dozen books with me when ever I'm away from home. I don't surf with them, though I could. I dont generally use it for reference material, though I do have several reference works on it. Mostly, I just love it for reading. My next one will be the Fire II or whatever Amazon calls it. I hope it will be as lite as the DX, but might be willing to put up with the weight of an IPad for the color and web access. I haven't decided. When the 10" Fire comes out, I'll be one of the first to get it. My wife's kindle is the little one, and while I see the attraction of having a device that size that can fit into a purse on the run, my eyes are not what they used to be. I need a little more screen area. To keep the paging down. I figure the buttons will be the first thing to go. And when the 10" Fire comes through, I'll want the extra size for the web pages. But that is just me. The kindle does have drawbacks. 1. It is made of plastic. It breaks. 2. Some books are sold with DRM (5 copies). So you have to plan your upgrades and make sure you dont move from one device to another too often. For someone who keeps books for decades, 2 years per kindle doesn't equate to a paperback you can store forever. And it should equate. I should be able to store a book indefinately. I shouldn't have a limit of how many times I read it. 3. Reading in the dark is just not done on a kindle prior to the Fire. Should be possible with Fire, but on the other hand, reading in bright light will probably suffer. I also have an IPad. Original on that one too. It is the 64Gb model. Wonderful device for email, bible, and yes, I have the kindle app on it also. Don't use the kindle app much though. No call for color in most books. And I dont consume magazine content. So far, mostly I use it for frogs. Addictive game. Keep your birds, frogs is where it's at! But mostly I use it for occasional emails. And then I use it for the bible app. And I use it to look up stuff on the net. Kind of like an immediate reference to anything. I could wish for a new one, just to have the camera so I could do the face to face thing. Other than that, it mostly does what I want it to. It goes everywhere with me, right alongside my DX. What impresses me most about it is the music capabilities of the device. My middle daughter is a musician. She uses an app for creating and playing back music. It excels at that. It is great at what it does. Over all, I would rather have one device that did all of this stuff. But with my laptop, my android phone, my pager, my Ipad, and my kindle, I sometimes feel like a pack mule. But they all go. TSA doesn't like me to travel. I glow in the dark. And will continue to, until the day someone makes a single device that rolls up into a tube and will let me do all this stuff on one 10 oz device. It is coming, I may not last long enough for it to get here. But if so, I'll be waiting.

Pronounce
Pronounce

But for how long? Will there come a time when the ecosystems and products offered by Amazon and Apple compete for the same market share in the same way? That's what I'm curious about. I think it will this will be determined by Amazon's profits tied to the Kindle line. Up until the K-Fire there was a lot of distinction between the two ecosystems, but I think with the release of the K-Fire Amazon has its eye on Apple's market share and is hoping to gather shares and momentum.

gruch_s
gruch_s

For me it is a no brainer - the Kindle Fire is a winner. I get 5000 free movies and 5000 free books with my Amazon Prime Membership (I have already downloaded several dozen I want to read.). As far as I have been able to find out you cannot watch Amazon Instant Video on the iPad because there is no Flash and Flash alternatives for the iPod do not work with Amazon Instant Video. So for my purposes the iPad is useless. As far as business use, I use a PC notebook. Many of the apps I need and use are not available on an iPad.

janetarnold
janetarnold

I am waiting for the 3 or4 G Kindle Fire

Freetime000
Freetime000

Sure these are two different devices with different application and use however the comparisons can and should be made because in he past 2 years typical price concious consumers have stayed away from the tablets up until now. The fire has made tablets accesible and somethign to consider for main stream. The Ipads have until now been for the trendy and people with some cash. We now have two options from different ends of the spectrum. When mom goes shoping this christmas she will look at the two most popular tablets, the ipad and the fire. She needs a reference point and a comparison. The guy at best buy will definately be comparing them. Why shouldn't we? They are both tablets, but what seperates them? Please contiue to compare to help consumers make those dchoices. Personaly I got a kindle to ROOT!

FAST!!!
FAST!!!

My wife wants to read books and play Angry Birds. And as much time that she spends on her computer doing emails and Facebook crap I think she'll enjoy doing it much more from the couch in front of the fire on the Nook. For over twice the price, more weight and the necessity of iTunes the iPad just doesn't make sense for her. And the fixed RAM and storage in the Kindle are a deal breaker for me. If she needs the Amazon experience it can be side-loaded on the Nook tablet. I think the Nook tablet is going to come out of this as an Android tablet leader. The iPad is an iPad, IMO there is no comparison.

wamaruna
wamaruna

Why leave the Nook Color Tablet out of the discussion? Seems to me the extra $50 over the Fire is worth it for the extra 8GB of RAM and the option to add up to a 32GB micro. This looks to me to be the truer Android option. Personally, I have a hard time justifying any of the three when my smart phone will match them all in capability, save for the difference in screen size. And in any instance, how to print?

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

They are both expensive toy crap for useless posers. Sure you can spend $199 and, what did the person near the top say, "become enslaved to Amazon" or a ton more and become enslaved to Apple (oh, MUCH better-). Instead of building a store and enticing you to come buy crap, they sell you a store outlet for $$$$ designed to help shake more out of your wallet. Seriously these things have to become a LOT cheaper and more useful (and open) before being worthwhile. I know it's been said over and over but a really decent small laptop can be had for a bit more than the Kindle and less than half the price of an ipad. Yeah, it isn't the same, it's actually productive AND I can also waste time on it.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Matt Whitby - not comparable? They're virtually indistinguishable from one another. This is by design. Amazon knows exactly what they're doing.

rsantuci
rsantuci

Handles e-mail well, added awesome apps that allow me to access Exchange mail and view Office docs. Biggest complaint is the limited number of apps. But I trust that won't be as big an issue in the future. I don't think I would compare it to an iPad. But it'll do very, very well.

msheltra
msheltra

Any E reader or tablet -you already want a luxury item. You don't NEED it but you want it. So now the question is....if you save some $200.00 now and get a far less capable device and become enslaved to Amazon for anything including storage for basic apps and files, no cam etc., can you keep telling yourself it was a great move? My experience in tech toys tell me the recycle bin will be loaded with -slightly used Kindles as the novelty wears off and the , "it doesn't do that" settles in. Some savings of $0.56/day is hardly an economic deal breaker for the middle class and not what I call a luxury car price tag. Personally, I can't see a debate here unless the obvious stir for controversy making a subject for public banter is reward for the effort itself. My idea? If I wanted to spend only $199.00 to watch movies and read eBooks, I'd buy a used laptop so I'd have a screen that is bearable, a units that actually can do things beyond consumption of rented media and maybe even play media I already own too?

johnrhurt
johnrhurt

For the general population the Kindle Fire will beat the iPad. Why? $199 Android tablet that my Dad can use to do what he needs to on the internet. Would everyone like a luxury car? Yeah, but most own the economy car. Kindle is the the economy tablet that works. That is why it will be successful.

matt.whitby
matt.whitby

I agree with the poster that said these products aren't comparable. It seems odd that Jason Hiner wouldn't realise this frankly self-evident point. I really must unsubscribe from this mailing list and find better discussion elsewhere.

cmichaelgraham
cmichaelgraham

I bought the Kindle Fire so I can read and annotate my PDF's. Kindle Fire + EZ PDF is amazing and worth every penny... I can highlight text and draw freehand in the margins. Really easy to email PDFs to my Amazon account - they sync with Kindle Fire... Very happy customer...

BillDodd
BillDodd

Ok, cat amongst the pidgeon here. The products are what they intend to do and you pay for it. The brand for the demographic focus. However the iPad has now dumbed itself down with ios 5 and stopped communication between itself and business PCs or business printers. So in effect it is now a Kindle Fire, which is cheaper.Job done.

brian_leach
brian_leach

The iPad is available and the Fire .. umm.. still hasn't been released in the UK and no signs that it ever will be. Instead, that space has been surrendered to Kobo. So, sadly, for us the question doesn't even arise :(

noux
noux

Clearly, they don't do the same thing, they are each directed at a different market, and are a very different size and form factor. That said they are both the same thing to their relevant audiences. I think it is way too early to call who will do better. The key factor in the iPad's success has been the efforts at Apple to do 2 of many things Really well; 1 marketing; 2 Product support 1. I don't think anything needs to be said here, amazing JOBS 2. Packing the Apple products in general with so many usable apps has been the tipping point, the iPad is all so much of an electronic frisbee unless 'you can get an app for that!!'. The Kindle Fire will appeal to many right at the outset, as Amazon have such a product base. I feel that the added value with the Fire comes in when you consider that it is the tipping product to pull new customers in who never got involved before. Your terrestrial readers if you like, the ones who read the dead tree version. Me. It is the one thing I held out on, the feel of a real book, the romance of sitting with a book next to the fire with a mug of coffee on a cold dark winters evening. You have to look at the logic of it though, full colour Internet, Movies, Books, and online purchasing all in one electronic device the size of your typical paperback. That alone will be enough for the vast majority of the market they are aimed at. It is clear that 7 Inch is small for consumption, will it be big enough? Can you all think back to when we first got Internet on our phones? THAT was small!

JohnStanton
JohnStanton

I bought one and was shocked at how slow browsing was -- it is a fair bit slower than my iPad 2, I heard it was going to be fast. Everything about it seems really slow, shocking slow. Many web pages I tried did not work properly, defaulting to a lame mobile version. It seemed like Flash, etc. doesn't work well on all websites. The UI sucks. That is a deal breaker for me. No way I would recommend it to anyone. I offered it to a friend for free. He looked at it, downloaded Scrabble and noted it did not have the option to play against the "computer"... He said no thanks. To the folks above who say the iPad and Fire aren't comparable -- well you are right. But if you compare the Fire to the media consumption aspects of the iPad only... The Fire blows chunks in that contest. I am extremely disappointed so far. Even my Google TV is better that this thing. Will it get upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich? Maybe that would help... Oh well, I guess first models of everything generally suck. Maybe Amazon can find a way to make this thing bearable to me -- I hope so. And I am spoiled by Apple products. To Android developers: Three words for you... UI, UI, UI !!! A superior UI is what makes the iOS devices so great -- hold that up as your standard and surpass it. Don't settle for being insipid.

billfranke
billfranke

I would have bought a Kindle Fire had it come with free 3G, as my Kindle 3 does (I live in Taiwan where there's almost no free wireless, so the WiFi model is useless here). I'd have paid much more than $199 for it. I will never buy an iPad. It doesn't suit my needs. Rather than wait for an upgraded version of the Kindle Fire, I just bought a Kindle DX. The price has dropped from $489 to $259. The DX seems to have everything I want in a tablet even though it's not really a tablet, and everything I want in an e-book reader. The iPad has nothing that I want, and the Kindle Fire has very little that I want. I don't think there's much to debate. People who like the iPad have their reasons for liking it. I respect that. Whatever works for them is fine. People who don't like the iPad have their reasons for disliking it. Price is certainly one of them. But most important, I think, is "Does this machine do what you need it to do, and does it do it well enough to make you want to buy it?" My answer is "No" for the iPad and "No" for the Kindle Fire. Many of my friends here have iPads and love them. I'm happy for them. I suspect that the real debate should be whether one wants a Windows 8 tablet or a Windows 8 netbook. I was able to do real work (editing journal articles) with my ASUS Eee PCs for about two years on the 9-inch and 10-inch models. I don't want to use an onscreen keyboard because that would take away too much real estate on the desktop. I don't want a tablet just to be connected to Net 24/7. I prefer to connect with my flesh-and-blood friends in person over coffee and lunch and dinner. I don't want to share everything in my life with the entire world on hackable social networks.

dbin78
dbin78

The Kindle Fire and iPad are all different devices with different uses for different people. You can not compare an e-reader with some extra features to a full blown tablet. It would be like asking if you would choose an iPad or MacBook Air.

eankle
eankle

Since I am a poor student that wanted a tablet, I bought the colorNook (now called Nook Tablet) a year ago. I knew it wouldn't serve my purposes when I bought it. So why did I? It was the best, most affordable device out there. I immediately rooted it and I'm running a Gingerbread ROM on it. I have full web access, android market, amazon app store, B&N store, etc, etc. My 1 year old tablet has better specs than the Fire does today. If you buy the new Nook, you get even better specs. Go for the Nook. I've never been sorry. As for the iPad vs Fire debate, Amazon is doing a stellar marketing job; and that was their intent. They aren't making money (or not much) on the Fire, Amazon is banking on drawing more people into their ecosystem. Anybody whose used one-click on their site knows that Amazon does their best to separate you from your money. Apple makes great products that are fully integrated with their ecosystem (does anybody see a similarity here?). What Apple is truly great at is, creating more Apple Zombies.

garyleroy
garyleroy

They found a gap in the product line where they could squeeze in something different enough that their obedient consumers would "need" one, and tablets and pads were born. Someone thought "I know, a netbook that doesn't fold, without a cover, and we'll call it a new feature! Then we'll add a touchscreen which lets them pretend to turn or slide pages around, which we can convince them is a lot better (especially for those with IQ under 50), and we've got a completely new product line to draw additonal funds from those who already have phones and maybe laptops". "Just like your phone, only bigger and more expensive" can be our motto, along with "all your friends will be envious". Of course, most users of these things don't have current desktops, probably not even laptops (and not a netbook, how unstylish), because these devices actually can be used for productive work, rather than tweeting or updating friends, playing silly internet games while you stare zombie-like at your screen, or buying istuff that iThink iMusthave. But who needs productivity, these are toys anyway.

garyleroy
garyleroy

The $500 ipads will end up in the recycle bin too, probably as quickly (they might do a stint passed down to the kids first). As Apple releases any update, the pad users will quickly "need' the new version and line up outside the istore to pay big $$$ for them. Those who "need" something the ipad does will "need" whatever the new one does, and to the bin with the old one. Those who "need" the Kindle's capabilities will possibly do likewise, however the user base in general is not as prone to obediently standing in line to get the latest, like the Apple junkies are...they've been conditioned for years to do this, and Amazon may wish they could get their customers to do likewise, but it takes years of indoctrination and training to develop such a following.

Steve Webb
Steve Webb

I haven't tried the Kindle, so I can't challenge your opinion of it; however one of your criticisms mentioned one of my iPad peeves: "Many web pages I tried did not work properly, defaulting to a lame mobile version." As I said, I can't comment on the Kindle; however, for the iPad it is more like "many web page requests are hijacked and detoured to a lame mobile version." I don't blame it on the iPad, I blame it on the webmaster. Maybe it is not the Kindle's fault either. Webmasters, buy a clue! A person who buys a fast tablet with a large screen does not want to waste time opting away from a (sub)optimized-for-tablets web page.

MikeGall
MikeGall

The Kindle comes with free 3G mainly because that is the way to get you to the Amazon store. Sure it has a browser but it is pretty useless and since the screen needs 1/2-2 s to refreash you can't play anything automated. The Fire will be useful for games and real webbrowsing so since you aren't going to be using it 90% of the time to shop for books Amazon isn't going to subsidize the internet connection, makes sense to me. To me data on mobile devices is way too expensive especially since you have to live with a small screen and less than optimal input device. So full sized laptop at least for me. A phone/tablet would be useful for brief "look something up" internet search but otherwise I have no use for it.

msheltra
msheltra

and are likely to want most newer technology, medicine, automobiles, education materials, etc. It's that drive that moved most of the things you like to become in existence. Good enough for the price was a horse to ride but I bet you "ponied up" for a car? Damn progressiveness impulses - don't tell me you have electric lights now too -bet they are not LEDs lol. Just having fun with you and yes my lights are all LEDS so you guessed right-I like science and bleeding edge engineering, experimental aircraft etc. BTW, You don't have to buy content from Apple solely with the iPad...why you can even buy from Amazon or any number of sources! =) As for a tablet at all? I have HP laptops and Apple ones and it sure is nice to not lug around all the weight and bulk. As a matter of strict fact-the tablet was not "another category" for me-it was the reason, I have not booted any of my laptops for a few months-seriously. When on the road and I need an app I can't get for my tablet, I remote to my desktop -do what I need and email myself what I need. Yes I do like color in my reading materials and extra screen to see and share easier, video chats with distant friends and family is wonderful. As for lack or ports....I just have not needed to connect to anything that I can't get to wirelessly... I did miss flash at first truth be told but never looked back and don't even use it on my PCs unless I run into a site that pushes it and I did notice that seems to be less and less of an issue. I was tempted but Android at a few times but the variants, comments of issues like lockups, hacked, malware etc. just seem good enough reason to ask-why bother? My turn off is a lack of user replaceable battery in the iPad but now I see services that do that without any huge premiums vs do it yourself so -problem solved.

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