This article compares Amazon's Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad 2 tablet computers.
Given the price differential as well as the difference in their specifications and hardware features, it could be argued that the two tablets are not really direct competitors. However, there are some common usage scenarios that both devices support equally well such as web browsing, email, and watching videos.
edit Hardware capabilities
Both devices offer a color touchscreen and a responsive user interface powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor. At 14 ounces, the Kindle Fire is much lighter than the iPad (1.5 lbs) because the Kindle Fire has a smaller, 7-inch screen (1024 x 600 resolution) as compared to the iPad's 10-inch (1024 x 768) screen.
Notable hardware features missing in the Kindle Fire include camera (the iPad has two - one in the front and one at the back), Bluetooth, microphone and accelerometer. Another difference is storage capacity - the Kindle Fire offers only 8 GB of storage while the iPad offers 16, 32 and 64 GB models. The 3G version of the iPad also has cellular network connectivity and A-GPS.
The Kindle Fire does have a USB port, which the iPad does not have.
edit Special Features
Beyond the hardware specs, the two devices have important differences in the software that powers them. iPad runs Apple's iOS operating system and Kindle Fire runs a version of Google's Android 2.3 operating system that has been heavily customized by Amazon.
The iPad is a clear winner in terms of the sheer number of apps available for the device. All iPhone apps work on the iPad and there are hundreds of thousands of iPad-specific apps in Apple's store. Amazon's Android app store has fewer titles (roughly 10,000) and it's not clear how many of them would support Kindle Fire. Amazon's app store does, however, have a unique feature: user's can "test drive" an app in their browser for 30 minutes before they make a purchase decision.
Even the bundled apps are more versatile on the iPad. The Kindle Fire does not have a Calendar or Notes app. David Pogue called the Fire's e-mail app "serviceable". On the iPad all of these apps, as well as Facetime, Photos and Garage Band are fairly powerful apps for a tablet.
While the iPad's design lends itself to consumption much more easily than creation of digital content, that is even more so with the Kindle Fire.
The Amazon Kindle runs a new browser - Amazon Silk - which claims to be faster because it uses Amazon's cloud computing infrastructure (EC2) for processing.
edit Audio/Video communication
The Kindle Fire's lack of microphone and camera means that audio and video chat applications like Skype and Facetime will be unavailable.
At $200, the Kindle Fire is a full $300 cheaper than the lowest-end iPad. This makes it a viable option for parents to purchase for their kids.
Both Apple and Amazon aim to provide an end-to-end solution: the device, apps from a store, books, video (movies and TV series) and music. Amazon Prime ($79 per year) competes with Apple's iCloud ($25 per year) to enable cloud storage of purchased media (music, videos, books) for free. But Amazon Prime offers distinct advantages such as free 2-day shipping with Amazon purchases and free streaming of thousands of video titles (just like a Netflix subscription).
edit Expert Reviews
The iPad 2 garnered generally positive reviews for its responsiveness and speed, the content and apps available and for Apple's user interface. The Kindle Fire got mixed reviews upon launch. Among the pros, reviewers mentioned that the Kindle Fire is easy to use, the content and app ecosystem is well-integrated and "frictionless", and the Silk browser works very well. Amazon Prime members also get unlimited streaming from Amazon's library of TV shows and movies. Some of the cons were that the 7-inch size of the device was too small for some tablet functions, the software was buggy and sluggish at times, and the battery life and storage space were not enough. But on the whole, reviewers felt that for its price ($200), the Kindle Fire offered a lot of value.
edit CNN Review Video
edit Walt Mossberg (WSJ) Review Video
edit Kindle Fire vs iPad sales analysis (WSJ)
edit Recent News