Time and again, the Kindle Fire is compared to the iPad. Sure, they’re both ‘tablets,’ they have a superficial resemblance, and they’re used for several of the same purposes.
However, any honest side-by-side comparison quickly shows that we’re talking about two totally different levels of performance. It’s kind of a shame, because the Kindle Fire is a useful and fun little device in its own right — but it struggles to measure up to even the original iPad, let alone the iPad2.
But when you actually see the iPad in action — in business environments, especially — you quickly realize the gulf that separates a consumer-oriented device like the Kindle Fire from a truly versatile mobile PC.
If you simply compare sales, the scale heavily tips in the iPad’s favor:
- Apple sold over 11 million iPads in Q4 2011. Although Amazon didn’t release exact figures for the Kindle Fire, analysts estimate sales in the 6 million range.
- The Kindle Fire wasn’t even available for the full Q4 period, but this included the highly anticipated launch date and the gadget-happy Holiday Season. The April launch of the iPad2 means that the device had 7-8 months of market saturation working against it, yet still outsold the Kindle Fire nearly 2:1.
- Expanding the view past the last quarter, overall tablet market share shows Apple with a minimum of 75% versus all competitors. All-in-all, this most likely indicates that the Kindle Fire has seen its primary sales peak and has nowhere to go but down — while iPad sales remain largely consistent, and rumors of a third-generation Apple tablet point to an upcoming launch event.
If you compare price, the Kindle Fire seems like an obvious contender.
- The least-expensive iPad is still more than double the price of the Kindle Fire. If the tablet world learned anything from HP’s summertime TouchPad madness, it’s that people are willing to overlook quite a bit for the sake of a good deal.
- On the other hand, Apple has been undercut by several Android tablets already (from Coby’s cheerful underachievers to more serious alternatives like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series), but you’d never know it from Apple’s continuing market share domination.
If you compare specs, there are a few hits and misses, but the iPad still easily wins the game.
- The 9.7” iPad screen is simply more viewable and usable. The Kindle Fire’s 7” screen, although of obvious high-resolution, high-definition quality, provides a workspace that compares favorably only to Smartphones (Samsung’s phones, for instance, are crossing the 5” mark already).
- Along the same lines, the Kindle Fire’s smaller size requires a sacrifice in battery capability — a minimum of 2 to 4 hours’ worth, which may be as much as doubled when things like Wi-Fi are added to the mix.
- There are two clear technical advantages to owning a Kindle Fire: USB and Flash. The reasons for Apple’s stubbornness over these is debatable (the easiest answers have to do with ‘control’ and ‘greed’), but it’s obvious that it hasn’t cost the company much business yet.
- Storage. We all know that the Cloud is important, but an 8GB limit (for the Fire) is half of what you’ll get from the smallest iPad option (and ? of the maximum capacity of the biggest iPad2).
- The iPad and Kindle Fire come up even on raw processing power (I Ghz ARM CPU) and onboard memory (512 MB). However, the iPad-focused refinements and upgrades of iOS have consistently improved utilization over the past two years, making the iPad a quicker and more efficient device than the Kindle Fire — whose custom Android OS means that developers will be playing catch-up for some time.
Speaking of which, it’s tempting to make the excuse that Apple simply has a head start — but this only means that consumers and professionals alike have had time to become familiar with the iPad, and developers have had more time to provide ways to make users’ lives better and more productive. All things considered, the Kindle Fire has not shown any truly compelling potential to make them switch — now, or in the foreseeable future.
Kit Pierce loves to read classic literature and blogs about human rights. In her spare time, she writes for www.attexperts.com. She’s interested in steampunk and tech, likes watching funny cat videos, and enjoys discussions about philosophy.