The TouchPad, the Kindle Fire, And If There Was Any Justice …

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A quick thought on the current state of play among ‘iPad rival’ tablets: if there were any justice in the world the HP TouchPad would be getting some heavy holiday buzz and talked about as a serious competitor for the iPad, and the Kindle Fire would be the nearly dead-on-arrival, discontinued tablet.

I’ve been trying out a TouchPad for several weeks now and a Kindle Fire for a little under a week. And it seems crazy to me that the Fire is the device that’s hot and buzz-worthy and considered a serious iPad rival (which is just plain silly) while the TouchPad was discontinued by HP when it had just barely hit the market.

I was messing around with both tablets again last night and I just couldn’t get that out of my head. The one tablet that was quite nice to use and feels to me like the next best choice to an iPad is the one with no future apparently; and the one that is hugely disappointing and far from a pleasure to use is the one touted as a big holiday hit.

I understand some of the reasons for things being this way. With the Kindle Fire it’s all about the ‘ecosystem’ and content that Amazon can provide. I get that, and that Amazon can rival Apple in terms of ability to deliver music, media, books and so on to their tablet device. And they’ve got a superb brand, one that tons of consumers (including me) trust and have used for numerous purchases over recent years.

For me, that hasn’t been enough to make me want to use the Fire. It’s not even been a full week yet, and I’m bored senseless with the Fire. Here’s a few of the reasons why and why it feels crazy to me to see the contrasting fortunes of the TouchPad and the Fire:

— The Touchpad has a great rapid app switching method – the Fire has none.

— The Touchpad has some superb apps, that look and feel as good as iPad apps. The quantity of apps in its app store is not great, and there are many leading apps that I can’t find webOS versions of – but there are a good number of really top-notch apps for the TouchPad. Just to name a few: USA Today, TapNote, Guardian Zeitgeist, and Paper Mache (an Instapaper client). I haven’t found a single app on the Fire that comes anywhere close to an iPad app – and I’ve seen a number that are just completely crappy compared to their iPad equivalents.

— The Touchpad has hardware volume buttons like the iPad – the Fire doesn’t.

— The Touchpad has its sleep/wake button in a sensible place and a physical home button – the Fire has no physical home button, and its sleep/wake/power button in a dumb, awkward position.

— The Touchpad is smooth to use and responds well the vast majority of the time. On the Fire, taps often go unrecognized, and there’s noticeable lag and slowness in many areas.

I would’ve included some Kindle Fire screencaps here too, perhaps even app comparison shots – but there’s no way to take one on the Fire.

Even though I got the TouchPad at a knockdown price, it feels every inch a quality tablet; whereas the Fire feels very inch a sub $200 tablet, a tablet that’s great for buying stuff from Amazon on and very little else.

It really is s shame that HP appear to have mishandled and neglected the TouchPad and webOS so badly that their future is in doubt. It’s also a bit of a dark comedy to watch how HP have still not even decided on what they are doing with webOS – so it just hangs in limbo.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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6 thoughts on “The TouchPad, the Kindle Fire, And If There Was Any Justice …”

  1. Patrick, You are so Right!! WebOS Rocks in so many ways. The email client that allows for sync’ing with a number of email accounts, same with Calendar and Messaging. You can display all accounts or just 1 account at a time. It has inbuilt Skype and a front facing camera with Mic. It comes with an Office suite out of the box. The touchpad has it’s issues, but all new tablets do when they are first launched, I think HP has created a real winner.

    1. webOS is definitely very impressive. HP didn’t create it though – they just bought it from Palm, and now they look like all they’re going to do with it is run it into the ground. Very sad.

  2. Patrick, I think you’ve basically answered your own question. Amazon were very careful not to use the word “tablet” in any of their marketing of the Kindle Fire. Anyone expecting a full-fledged tablet akin to the iPad (insert chorus of angels here) or the Touchpad is going to be disappointed, and I don’t think anyone but the tech media has forced that comparison.

    The Fire is an Amazon consumption device; it is designed to access Amazon VOD (which, I was disappointed to learn, you can’t do on the iPad), your Amazon music collection, and your Kindle books.

    Yeah, you can install some apps on it, and although the selection is limited it will probably be enough for the majority of consumers.

    And as you state, the Fire is $200. What else in that price range comes close to competing with it (aside from the discontinued Touchpad)?

    As for the missing volume buttons on the Fire, it never fails to amuse me that when Apple omits hardware features (SD card slot, USB slot, etc.) it’s considered brilliant design and forward-thinking, but when others do it it’s a design flaw.

    The Fire isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure, but its bargain price makes it appealing to a lot of people who don’t want to spend $500 on something to check email, read e-books, and play Angry Birds.

    Now if HP would keep cranking out those Touchpads at $99 a pop I don’t think there would be much of a market for the Fire. Heh. Most of us haven’t been lucky enough to get our hands on one at that price.

    1. I’m not saying that the Fire doesn’t have appeal for some – in fact, I was acknowledging the opposite, that it looks like it has great appeal and may well be a big hit.

      I honestly didn’t plan to write a post knocking the Fire – the irony of the fates of the two devices just kept slapping me in the face last night as I spent a bit of time with each of them. More than anything what inspired this post is just feeling sad that HP have managed to bugger up / do nothing with webOS, apparently to the tune of $3.3 billion in losses as well.

  3. I have to say that I totally disagree when it comes to the Amazon Kindle fire. It may be a consumption first device rather than a tablet, but Amazon still needs to create a smooth and polished operating experience. That may require scaling back the visual elements, but if it isn’t a full fledged tablet, then the experience should come first. From all the reviews that I have read, and the small amount of hands-on time I have had, they haven’t done that. The experience is its poorest point. That was a mistake that Apple and others can hit them over the head with. In Amazon’s case, you get what you pay for.

  4. The Fire will be a hit because of one spec, the price. It’s the same reason Apple worked to make the touch $199. There is a whole segment of consumers that opens up when the price is below $200. In the Fire’s case it’s considered an affordable tablet by that consumer group.

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