Amazon.com has sold more than 3 million Kindles in the last few weeks, many of them the new multitouch Kindle Fire -- "the most successful product (Amazon has) ever launched." It's gotten attention for its $199 price tag, as well as for the reviews that have panned its slow interface, including a usability study that pointed out Kindle Fire features that do not work well.
Bugs are one thing since they can be fixed in a software update. But some features that the Kindle Fire has aren't really "features" from a buyer's perspective. They make it do things that are the opposite of what you wanted it to do ... and they were actually made that way on purpose.
Here's a look at a couple of them.
Redirecting Android Market links
According to Dieter Bohn of The Verge, buried way deep in the Fire's source code is a thing called MarketIntentProxy.apk, which sends you to Amazon's Appstore if you tap on an Android Market link. So for instance if you're reading this article on a Kindle Fire and you tap on this link to the Angry Birds app, it won't take you to the Android Market page for that app. It'll take you to Amazon's store so you can get it there.
In a way, this is kind of convenient. Amazon hasn't partnered with Google, so you can't get Fire apps from the Android Market; better to send you someplace where you can get the app, if it's one they have on Amazon.com. The thing is, though, you can't even look at the descriptions of apps on the Market; it's like Google's site doesn't exist. And this "feature" is built in so deep, you can't even download a third-party web browser like Dolphin and use that to go there, either.
Letting your kids (or thieves) buy stuff on it from Amazon
The Kindle Fire you get will be tied to your Amazon.com account. "Jared's Kindle," mine would read, in the upper-left corner, and it'd give me recommendations based on my previous purchases. Plus, with One-Click ordering, I'll be able to buy anything without having to enter my credit card number or password.
As Reuters' Mitch Lipka points out, though, that level of personalization comes with a price. Want to let your kids play with your Kindle? Just don't let them get near the store app, or they could "charge up a storm" by accident. Or what if you want to give them a new Kindle as a gift? They'll have to tie it to their own Amazon.com account, and there aren't any parental controls yet to restrict unwanted purchases (although Amazon said in a statement that "additional parental controls" were on their way).
As an added anti-feature, if your Kindle gets stolen, the thief will be able to use your account to buy anything if you left the screen unlocked ... or if she can figure out the unlock pattern by looking at smudges on the glass.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics