Kindle Fire customers irked, but sales still expected to be huge
A day after Amazon said it would provide an over-the-air software update to its tablet one month after its release, customers say they're still miffed and note that the update won't fix the device's hardware issues, which include its small screen, lack of external volume controls and a poorly placed on/off button.
And interestingly, some buyers are viewing the need for a software update as an admission from Amazon that its first tablet is far from perfect.
Dan Karagozian of Glendale said he bought five Kindle Fires on Friday as Christmas presents after debating between Amazon's device and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet.
Now he's having second thoughts. The 53-year-old said he was enticed by the device's cloud feature, price and content offerings, but was upset that no one from Amazon mentioned to him that a software update was needed when he called customer service before placing his order. He called the update a "red flag."
"Yes? No? Who knows," he said about whether he made the right buy. "I think I made a good choice, but again, when the update stuff starts coming out, it makes you wonder."
Another Kindle Fire buyer wrote an email to me saying she was having a bit of buyer's remorse.
"I bought mine as soon as Amazon offered it, and received it on November 16, which means I have two days remaining to decide whether or not to keep it," the Huntington Beach resident said.
Ralph Kaye, a reader from Torrance, said he and his wife were worried about buying a Kindle Fire because of rumors that Amazon may release a 2.0 version as soon as next spring to make up for the flaws in its first-generation model.
"I would not feel very good about buying a machine which will be an older model in a couple of months," said Kaye, 69.
But despite concerns from shoppers and some analysts, other tech industry watchers are more bullish. In a note to investors Tuesday, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini said she expected the Kindle Fire to make Amazon an even more prominent company and predicted Kindle Fire sales would reach 6 million units in its first quarter of release.
"In our view, the company's evolutionary cycle will continue at a frenzied pace, and it is only over the next few years that we will truly be able to see the value that can be derived," she said. "Add to this the introduction of the Kindle Fire (U.S. only) in November of this year, where we expect 50% conversion rates, and that will only further engrain Amazon into its customers' minds."
Despite the Kindle Fire's flaws, Bellini noted that shoppers have rapidly adopted Amazon's first tablet -- a feat that "does not surprise us."
"While the Kindle Fire certainly doesn’t have the breadth of functionality of the iPad (no camera or microphone, shorter battery life and less memory), it does a few things very well, which just happen to be the few actions that users utilize the tablet form factor most often for, in our view," she said.
How do you like your Kindle Fire? Are the negative reviews making you reconsider a Nook Tablet or causing you to shell out for Apple's iPad? Check out some Times reviews of various tablets below.
-- Andrea Chang
Photo: A Kindle Fire at a Best Buy store in Los Angeles in November. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times