Apple iPad Versus Kindle Fire

Category: Gadgets

Can't decide whether to buy an iPad or the Kindle Fire? Both are hot selling mobile tablets that give you access to email, books, games and entertainment. The Kindle Fire is a couple hundred dollars cheaper, but will it do everything you expect from a tablet? Here's my review of the two popular devices, comparing price, features and some practical considerations...

Which Tablet Should You Buy?

Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet costs $199. The latest Apple iPad (called the "new iPad") costs about $500 to $800 depending on the data storage and connectivity options you choose. Both tablets let you surf the Web, check email, read e-books, watch movies, and play games. But there are significant differences between the iPad and the Fire, besides their prices. (If you want to read my comparison of the Kindle Fire and the Nook from Barnes & Noble, see Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire.)

Both tablets feature WiFi connectivity, but the iPad goes further with optional 3G or 4G mobile connectivity through either Verizon or AT&T. Of course, you will pay even more money to a carrier. Also, only the iPad supports AirPlay and Bluetooth, options which are important if you want to wirelessly stream content from your tablet to external speakers or an HD TV. The Fire lacks both camera and microphone, which rules out video conferencing and even VoIP phone calls. The iPad sports two cameras and a mic.

The iPad's screen measures 9.7 inches diagonally, while the Fire's screen measures 7 inches. The new iPad's screen resolution also beats the Fire's (2,048 x 1,536 vs. 1,024 x 600). The iPad2 has a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. If watching movies or playing games is your thing, bigger is obviously better.
iPad versus Kindle Fire

On the other hand, some people complain that the iPad is too big, or too heavy. The Fire weighs 14.6 ounces, while the iPad weighs over 23 ounces. The Fire fits comfortably in one hand, in your pocket book, or even the pocket of your cargo pants. The iPad is about the size of a magazine, but you can't roll it up and shove it in your pocket.

The Fire's internal storage is limited to 8 GB while the iPad offers options of 16, 32, or 64 GB. However, both tablets store most content in the cloud, so local storage is not that much of an issue.

Other Considerations for Tablet Buyers

Battery life is about 9 hours on the iPad and 7 hours on the Fire. An iPad equipped with 4G connectivity will of course drain its battery faster.

The iPad runs Apple's iOS, while the Fire runs Google Android. However, the Fire's version of Android is heavily customized to provide a streamlined pipe directly to Amazon's e-commerce offerings. So the Fire is nearly as simple to use as the iPad.

iPad users have access to the Apple App Store and over 150,000 apps. Amazon's Appstore can't match that, but it does contain tens of thousands of apps and it's growing. You can root the Kindle Fire, which basically turns it into a generic Android tablet, to gain access to the entire Android Market, which rivals the App Store as far as sheer numbers go.

Amazon offers over 100,000 movies and TV shows to rent or buy, and Amazon Prime customers have unlimited access to about 10,000 titles. Apple has no program comparable to Amazon Prime. The iTunes Store contains more than 15,000 movies and 90,000 TV shows, but everything is purchase a la carte.

Want music? Both Apple and Amazon provide access to about 20 million songs. Amazon's album prices are often a bit lower than Apple's. But the biggest difference between the two is that Amazon lets you play your music on a broad range of devices, while most iTunes content will play only on Apple devices.

Amazon has the edge in books. There are over 1 million titles available for the Kindle. Apple iBooks offers about 700,000. You could also say that the Kindle is a better device for reading, since it's more the shape and size of a printed book.

Overall, you can do more with the iPad than with the Kindle Fire. There's no question that the iPad is bigger, badder and more beautiful. The Retina display on the new iPad is super crisp. The question is how much that extra capability is worth to you.

The older iPad2 is still available, and the price has been lowered to $399. The new iPad starts at $499. So you'll be paying at least an extra $200 - $300 if you opt for the iPad over the Kindle Fire. Personally, I tend to use my mobile devices for checking email, a few apps, and occasional web browsing. I've read books on both the Nook and Kindle, but still prefer the experience of a paper book to an e-reader. And I'll take my movies on the big screen HDTV, thank-you-very-much.

I've used an iPad, and while I think it's very slick, it's just too big for me. I've considered it as a replacement for a laptop while traveling, but the lack of a physical keyboard would be a downer for me. And again there's the cost factor. My last laptop cost $350. It has a full-size tactile keyboard, 15-inch screen, CDROM drive, USB and SD card slots, and runs all my Windows software.

Do you own an iPad or a Kindle Fire? Post a comment and tell me why you love it!

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Most recent comments on "Apple iPad Versus Kindle Fire"

(See all 23 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

16 Mar 2012

I could be wrong, but last I checked, you definitely could rent movies from iTunes to play on your computer (desktop, laptop, iPad, etc...), even stream to your TV via many different setups. I know I have rented probably 20 movies to watch in the past. Amazon I'm sure has more movie/TV titles, but when you add the number of TV shows available through iTunes (90,000) and movie titles (over 15,000) that is over 100,000 titles too, as you said Amazon had. One more thing: to compare in iPad to a laptop just misses the point. I miss the keyboard too, and must have one - but, what I tell people is, the iPad is all about the apps. So is Android devices and the Android market. A laptop cannot touch the incredible ease of use of downloading app's, 100's of thousands designed specifically for the device. That experience is nothing like using a laptop. While I just turned 50+ too (LOL); these tablet devices are without a doubt the future.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2012

I don't own either yet; but people in my church who prefer to bring an eBible use Kindle, not iPad. One uses a laptop. Still, these people are just less than a handful. Presently I am not compelled to rush out and get one.

Posted by:

J. B. Van Wely
16 Mar 2012

Good article but maybe wrong question. $200 gets you an Android tablet with wifi, bluetooth, USB connectivity, front and rear cameras and SD card expandibility. That's not a Kindle Fire, it's a Lenovo A1. There are several Chinese tablets in the same price range. Now the comparison gets interesting.

Posted by:

dwight h simmons
16 Mar 2012

I have an IPAD 2. It is the gold standard to which all other tablets are compared to - for a reason - it works.

It runs readers, plays movies, plays audio, connects to the internet, organizes photos and more. It does it well and seamlessly.

I feel you get what you pay for.

It is heavier but the screen is bigger.

Ask this question -

If cost were no object - which would you prefer - Ipad or Kindle.

The results might surprise you.


Posted by:

16 Mar 2012

I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It uses the Android OS. Great display and many useful apps in the Android Market. Major pluses: it is cheaper (about $399 16gb wifi only) than the Ipad (about $499 16gb wifi) and can run Flash.

Posted by:

margaret gross
16 Mar 2012

Good article keep them coming. My comment is that we are in the middle of a major transition to wireless portability. I think there are still major changes to come.
If cost were no object, I would like Nook as my ereader, ipad 3 for video streaming, and a traditional laptop with large monitor, mouse, keyboard, printer/scanner as my desk computer.

Posted by:

Maura Kristofik
17 Mar 2012

I have a B&N Nook e-reader, which I got last summer expressly for using as a tablet while traveling. It was very convenient for checking email, weather, news, etc. although a little slow to load pages at times. Now B&N makes a faster version marketed as a tablet - wish I could have waited to buy now! Battery drains quickly though when surfing, and power cord is so short that you can't use the Nook while it's recharging unless you have a chair right next to an outlet. Despite these things, I do like the little device; between free e-books and library downloads it has been fun to use as a reader.

Posted by:

Bryan Paschke
17 Mar 2012

I'm not quite sure why you would buy a kindle branded android device unless they're subsidizing the it heavily (give me one for $100 and include at least 5 still in copyright book purchases and I'll take one). iPad and regular android devices can access kindle content just fine and the software is free since they want to sell the content. Why get locked in to ONE company, no matter how many titles they claim, when you can have it all?

Of course, what I really want is a (cheap) e-ink device that can hook to all the stores for content so I don't have to carry around a hideously expensive anchor when I'm on vacation.

Posted by:

Bryan Paschke
17 Mar 2012

Addendum to my last comment:

I almost forgot to mention the fact that an iPad + bluetooth keyboard is a perfectly good netbook substitute.

Posted by:

17 Mar 2012

I have an iPad2. Big chunk of cash. But so worth it. You didn't mention the Kindle app for the iPad--which is very significant. The Kindle can only read Kindle books (right?) but the iPad can handle Kindle books, Google Books, and others. I use mine for books, email and games mostly, but also use calendar and contacts and word processing.

Posted by:

17 Mar 2012

This is a little off subject but you did mention it in your review. You said "I still prefer the experience of a paper book to an e-reader", which, of course, is your choice. As a guy in his mid 70's, I prefer an e-reader because I can set the type size to be easily readable without my glasses. Some paperbacks have such small type I need my glasses plus a magnifier to read them.

Read more:

Posted by:

17 Mar 2012

I have been using a Galaxy tab 10.1, it is great, screen is great... it does have all the features loads and loads of free Android apps. .. They have the 7" Note as well if you are concerned about the portability

Posted by:

17 Mar 2012

call me die hard
I went for the Acer netbook which is a small 3# 11.6 inch laptop with only handicap no dvd drive
got it cheap only $200. used only 1 day retail $400+ win7 pro and all the other goodies(read connections) wifi etc.great replacement for my ancient 15# Dell laptop

Posted by:

17 Mar 2012

I am just starting to use Calibre 2, and so far I really like it, what is your oppinion?

Posted by:

17 Mar 2012

I'd like to know more about that $350 laptop! The Fire makes more sense to me for a reader.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2012

I agree with J.B. let's compare non Kindle/Nook and Ipad brand tablets to the above. I did a lot of research on all of the above, because I was not willing to pay $500 plus for an Ipad.
The price point was appealing for the Fire, but my main gripe about the Fire and Nook tablets was the "pipeline" to their content. Barnes and Noble even goes as far as partitioning the 8 Gb of storage space into 6Gb for B&N content about 1 Gb for the OS and the rest for your personal content (music, photos, docs or movies) How stingy of them!
I prefer to control my own storage needs, and have the flexibility to stream Amazon cloud content, or buy a book from Barnes and Noble if I choose, all on the same device. I am quite happy with my Acer Iconia 7" tab with the latest Android Tab OS. I have dual cameras, perfect for Skyping; also USB and Micro HDMI connections. I can do everything my smart phone does, but with a bigger screen. I can watch my Amazon digital content. I can shop the Android marketplace, not just what Amazon wants me to see. All for about $300.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2012

I have an iPad2 and used rewards points to get it last year. I justify it because I was getting tired of taking notes on paper. So I use notetaker HD and bought the wacom bamboo stylus and all is right with the world.

Posted by:

19 Mar 2012

Bought an iPad as Kindle Fire wasn't available in the UK at the time - haven't regretted it for a second mainly because it just works! My daughter bought a highly regarded Android tablet and after trying to update it and get it to connect to wireless for about 3 hours I urged her to take it back, get a refund and get an iPad. She hasn't looked back. I work in IT and have to say it's the best thing I have ever used and or owned. Accept the point about keyboard/storage etc. but just haven't found this to be an issue.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2012

I've finally thought this through and after reading the other article of the B&N Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire, and all the other published responders. This is long. Bob, I would actually prefer to e-mail you.

I don't like rooting or jailbreaking. I know that many people do this, but if you want your warranty intact, or at least if you want the vendor to have a look, don't root/jailbreak. For brick and mortar stores, if you root or jailbreak your device, they can and do refuse to look at it. So I never consider this a feature of any device.

I read, I guess a lot, but I'm not in the "voracious" category of readers. I read about 1 book per week. I'm trying to improve my thinking processes, so I read 2 books of the same genre at a time. Read a section, change books, read a section, go back and so on. At first hard to keep track of the characters and plot line. It gets easier over time.

I am not a gamer and prefer the kind of games like Angry Birds, where you can do it for a while, put it down and go back to it later. So no RPG, no action game. I like puzzle games the most, like crosswords, sudoku, etc. Like I said, do that for a while, put it down and go back later.

Because I live in Hawaii, I do a lot of shopping on-line, and the vast majority on Amazon.

I also need to keep track of work e-mail as well as my personal e-mail. I do a lot of Web surfing since my job is to keep up with technology and some research. But every device has this ability, so this is a wash and I don't consider it any more.

General comparisons. When I search for books to purchase, I always look in three places: 1. Kindle store, 2. Nook store, 3. iBookstore. In terms of what I like to read and I read a lot of different genres, I rank Kindle store as the best with the widest selection (more on the Nook 2 MBook, later) and the lowest price. Yes, prices can vary between the stores. Then the next best, it kind of shocked me, because I wasn't expecting it, is Apple's iBookstore. The Nook store has the lowest selection and sometimes zero books. Caveat: I do not compare raw numbers, I have a wide range of interests, but I don't read all genres available. Amongst the genres I do read, I find that getting scientific books and journals easier to find on the Kindle store and iBookstore. Many times, the Kindle store is the cheapest. More often than not, however, all three have the same price. When that occurs, I get it from Amazon. I find the Kindle app is a little better. The Nook app and iBooks are ok, I rate them the same. Also, managing books is better on Amazon.

Kindle Fire - if your primary use is reading books/magazines, and if you regularly shop at Amazon, this is the best device there is for those two purposes. So, far as best as I can tell of my rather eclectic taste of genre, I have found more books at a lower prices than on the Nook store and the iBookstore.

Although Barnes and Noble like to tout Nook's 2.5 million books, a lot of them are public domain. Some are books that I've already read or the majority, I don't want to read them. But selection of the books for purchase is on the low side.

Now for what I have: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android 3.2 (Honeycomb), Nook Tablet and the new iPad. So that you know, I have had iPhones, from the original to the iPhone 4S. So, I am already familiar with iOS. The iPad is my first iPad. Now you would think that what would have seemed that the Kindle Fire is the best choice, I bought the Nook Tablet.

Nook Tablet - The one point is the SD card slot. I bought the N2A card so that my Nook Tablet can become an Android tablet, currently running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). On the Nook, in Android, I use the Kindle app. For shopping on Amazon, I just use a browser.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 - This is my biggest disappointment. I got this via credit card points, so, no direct monetary outlay. The screen is awesome, the batter life is good, but connecting to a PC (mainly to get PDFs is a bit painful). But even with a decent battery life, I want to charge it every now and then. This is where it is a big fail. Included USB cable is way too short. Charging is horrible. Unless you use the Samsung charger, you cannot use it and charge. It just slowly discharges if you use other than the included, A/C adapter. Charging in a car is also not possible unless you get the Samsung version. Basically, if I let it drain, I have less charging options. The Nook Tablet with the N2A card is a great 7" tablet.

iPad - The screen is far better than the Kindle Fire. Battery life is great, a little better than the Galaxy Tab. Can charge virtually anywhere while in use. Since I've had the iPhone, I have bought quite a bit of content. I have the Nook app, and the Kindle app. Calendar integration. The iCal app integrares, all calendas. The iPad suits me better for work and for entertainment. The new iPad's Retina display is what I was waiting for. Is it worth more than $200 Kindle? By a long shot. If I were to get tablets for my children, the Kindle Fire might be what they get. But, I will wait for the next generation.

Posted by:

04 Apr 2012

One of the cool things about the iPad that I never see anyone mention is that there is a Kindle app for it, so I can download and read the million Kindle books as well as the G-books and all the rest. The ONLY downside to the iPad is the price. Like the guy above said, if price were no object which would you prefer? I love my iPad2

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