Kindle Fire Owners Get Hot Under the Collar

Discussion
Dec 13, 2011
George Anderson

Some may want to reconsider their proclamations that Amazon’s Kindle Fire was an iPad killer. As it turns out, some consumers are beginning to feel as though they didn’t get their money’s worth no matter how much less expensive Amazon’s tablet device is than Apple’s product.

According to a New York Times piece, Kindle Fire owners have registered a list of complaints on the Amazon site including:

  • Pages are taking too long to load
  • There is no external control for volume.
  • The touch screen is clunky to use.
  • The off switch is too easy to hit by accident.
  • There is no way to prevent others from using the device.

Jakob Nielsen, who was called "one of the world’s foremost experts on usability" by Bloomberg Businessweek, told the Times, that the Kindle Fire’s performance was "disappointingly poor… I can’t recommend buying it."

Amazon has responded to complaints with an announcement it would provide a software fix to make it easier to navigate with the device.

"Kindle Fire is the most successful product we’ve ever launched — we’ve already sold millions of units and we’re building more to meet the strong demand," Kinley Pearsall, a spokesperson for Amazon, said in a statement. "As with all of our products, we continue to make them better for customers with regular software updates."

A Bloomberg News piece pointed out that while there are issues with the device, nearly 2,300 have given it five stars on the Amazon site. The Kindle Fire is expected to become the second best selling tablet device on the market in the fourth quarter, according to an LA Times report.

Discussion Questions: How will complaints about the Kindle Fire affect sales of the device? How should Amazon respond to criticism?

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13 Comments on "Kindle Fire Owners Get Hot Under the Collar"


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Nikki Baird
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Nikki Baird
9 years 5 months ago

This is easy: complaints should be acknowledged immediately (which Amazon has started to do) and should be addressed as soon as possible, even if it’s, “We can’t do anything about this until version 2.” When the iPhone launched far beyond even Apple’s expectations, the company ended up giving money back to early buyers. Amazon may end up in the same boat — perhaps giving rebates good for a Kindle Fire 2 to early buyers of version 1.0.

All that this proves to me is that even being a fast follower in the realm of personal devices isn’t enough to guarantee you get it right. The upside, though, is that consumer expectations for what they’re getting in version 1.0 tend to be forgiving, as long as the manufacturer makes good sooner rather than later.

Al McClain
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Al McClain
9 years 5 months ago

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that Jakob Nielsen single-handedly may significantly hurt sales of the device. I bought one mainly to read ebooks, and also to have a low-cost alternative to the iPad.

To me, the Kindle Fire is a terrific device. I have had no issues with page loads, the on-off button, controlling volume via the screen, or using the touch screen. It is easy. Compared to my PC and iPhone, plus previous BlackBerry and Droid devices, I see fewer issues with the Kindle Fire, so far, than any of the above.

Amazon needs to be proactive in addressing consumer concerns, emphasize the great deal that this product is vs. the iPad ($199 vs. $499 and up), and keep improving, refining, and marketing. Remember when the iPad first came out? There were criticisms about everything, including the name. There are going to be naysayers no matter what one does. Stay the course.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Short-term, this sort of bad publicity will hurt sales of the Kindle Fire. (Somebody on my gift list will not be getting one, sorry!) This is particularly disappointing for Kindle owners who have generally been very happy with how their e-readers work.

Long-term, this is a more serious problem for Amazon: Anything that suggests it has compromised its quality reputation to get a product on the market too quickly and cheaply can only damage the brand. If the “cloud” bug fixes don’t solve the performance problems, Amazon would be smart to put together a recall program in a hurry.

David Dorf
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

You can’t get iPad performance and features for $200, so the Kindle Fire should never be positioned as an “iPad killer.” Amazon needs to work with the press to manage expectations better.

All manufacturers skip features in order to get the product to market, knowing they can go back and patch later. I recall using the iPhone when it had no copy/paste, a basic feature that I consider table stakes. But I was patient and didn’t let it ruin my experience, and of course it was later fixed. Amazon should acknowledge the shortcomings and let people know most will be addressed over time.

The Kindle Fire is not perfect, so Amazon should embrace this opportunity to receive feedback and make improvements. If they follow that path, as I believe they are, this will not impact sales.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

It’s not unusual for new devices to garner praise and complaints. Most manufacturers, like Amazon, will make adjustments after the device has been in the market.

My concern is that every new tablet has to be viewed as the iPad killer. The iPad is a great device for a reason. Other companies don’t have to dethrone it; they simply need to carve out a profitable niche.

The Kindle Fire opens many new doors for Amazon. It is a work in progress and will continue to evolve. It wasn’t built as an iPad killer. It was built to support Amazon’s overall goals, at a very competitive price.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 5 months ago

As a natural progression for the functionality of the original Kindle, it appears that the Kindle Fire has been a success. It also appears that there were those who purchased the Fire expecting the functionality and sophistication of the iPad, which makes no sense. Amazon, as usual, is handling this appropriately and, over time, should have a big success with the original Kindle purchasers.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

PR like this is not going to help sales, but people who are looking for something that looks like an iPad and works almost like an iPad for $199 will still buy it and hope it gets better.

Technology is the only thing I know of that consumers and companies will buy on the promise that the manufacturer will fix something that they knew was not working right when they sold it.

Martin Smith
Guest
Martin Smith
9 years 5 months ago
If the Fire cost $600+ I would get out the pitchforks and torches. But it costs $200 and does some things well. In my case it showed me the value of a tablet device and I went out and bought an iPad after two weeks with the Fire. I will not send back the Fire. For reading in bed it is nicer than the iPad. For Angry Birds, I think it’s better than the iPad, I still won’t give up my iPhone though! For surfing the internet, the Fire is frustrating; all the complaints are true. Doesn’t respond quickly, keyboard has lots of “misses,” loses Wi-Fi signal, oops I turned it off; this is what sold me on an iPad, however. Sitting in an easy chair and looking stuff up or shopping, a tablet made perfect sense. Since Amazon is selling all the Fires it can make, I don’t think the whining is really going to impact sales that much. Their response is a lot like Apple; we’re working on a software fix. I’m sure… Read more »
Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
9 years 5 months ago

What happened to the “fail small” principle? Build a small batch, sell them to preferred customers, get some feedback, refine and then release to the general public. I hope Amazon is not starting to believe its own hype. You don’t go after a device like the iPad, the gold standard in tablet computing, with an unproven design and call it (or let it be called) “iPad killer.” That device was bound to disappoint the moment it allowed itself to be compared to the iPad. Too bad because, on its own terms, it’s a fine device.

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

While it is possible and perhaps likely that criticism of the Kindle Fire will tamp down sales in the near term, Amazon has already demonstrated a better sense of customer than Apple, who was always late in recognizing and responding to customer complaints (see iPhone 4). No one should realistically expect a $199 Kindle to replicate a much more expensive (and second generation) iPad.

I predict Amazon will quickly catch up with fixes to the Kindle Fire, which is really intended to fill different needs than an iPad. Jakob Nielsen is right of course, but then again it’s his job to be critical of the UE!

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 5 months ago

CNET and ZDNET have recently been predicting a fallout among hardware-centric suppliers, and have questioned the viability of several. To survive such a fallout, Kindle must depend on its hardware, not its software. Anything negative about the Fire serves only to exacerbate speculation that’s counterproductive for Amazon.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
9 years 5 months ago
The big problem here is that Kindle is not setting the standard that Apple is! I don’t know why the media is so intent on finding an iPhone, iPad, Apple killer but it seems that every “rush to market” product gets good press until consumers actually get their hands on it. I am sure the Kindle Fire is a good product for a Kindle, but it’s not an iPad and neither are the 15 other (pardon me I’m being closed out) killers the media has touted. Amazon has a great business model and has done very well competing with flat footed 1950s retailers. It remains to be seen if Amazon can compete with real marketeers. They don’t seem to be making much headway competing with Netflix, in spite of Netflix recent blunders. I am sure the Kindle Fire will be fixed as soon as Bezos finds out what to do. That is something Jobs and Company always seemed to intuitively get right. It’s amazing how far Apple thought beyond “current expectations” when they delivered the… Read more »
Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
9 years 5 months ago

I am not sure that complaints will greatly affect the sales of the Kindle Fire. The real attraction is the price point, which permits customers to “get into” the tablet game at a far, far lower entry point than ever before. There is pent-up demand for such a product, as clearly indicated by the volume of devices sold to date.

At the same time, the company needs to quickly demonstrate their commitment to customer experience, and then to maintain that commitment over time, by launching a series of software enhancements. Many products have started out subpar, particularly when sprinting to make the holiday season — yet those products have turned out just fine with some software enhancements.

As long as Amazon moves quickly and assuredly to remedy the issues, the Fire will remain as hot as ever.

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