I have received several questions about the differences between the various flavors of Kindle, and I do try to answer each one as best I can: I will raise my hand and say for the past month I seem to have been using the 8.9” Kindle Fire almost exclusively (that is the larger screen model), and my trusty Kindle Keyboard has been shedding a few tears lately because of neglect.
Today’s post attempts to answer the two main questions I have received numerous times, and if you are considering purchasing one of the 8.9” Fires I recommend you take a look at the review of this version I wrote (you can click here or type in http://smarturl.it/89firereview into your web browser to see it); I have updated this review a bit since I have been using it more; I’m still waiting for my revised comments to be “approved” and to show up on the review. If you think the review was helpful, I would appreciate a “Yes” vote just underneath the review on the Amazon website.
There are a couple of different versions of the 8.9” Fire, so here are the specs on the one I purchased: 64 gig of memory, the built-in 4G, and includes special offers. I considered paying the extra $15 after I purchased it to turn off the special offers, but I’m glad I saved my money and left them on as I was able to get a couple of $20 Amazon gift cards for just $10 each because of the ads I viewed when I first turn it on.
Why am I posting this? I get these two questions multiple times a week: I figure if a certain number of you had the same question, there must be a heck of a lot more of you who also have the question but just haven’t asked! Without further preamble, the question will be in bold, with my response in a regular font.
My Fire came with a micro USB cord but not a power adapter; can I use the plugin socket that came with my regular e-Ink Kindle, or any other USB-compatible device, to plug the micro USB portion into the electrical socket? Why didn’t Amazon include a power adapter with the device?
I’ll answer the last question first: I don’t know why Amazon didn’t include a power adapter with the Fire. I can guess it was either a cost component or they wanted to have yet another sales opportunity. Whatever the answer may be, personally I find it very annoying they didn’t include one. For those of you who purchased the first-generation Kindle Fire last year, you may recall they included a power cord / adapter combination where you couldn’t detach the micro USB component to transfer files from your computer to the Fire: you had to purchase a separate one.
In answer to the first question above – can you use the plugin socket that came with your regular e-Ink Kindle, the answer from my experience is “no,” as it doesn’t put out enough power to charge the 8.9” Fire. Amazon indicates (not specifically, but implies it) you can charge your 8.9” Fire with that adapter, but I’ll be damned if I could get it to charge, even with the Fire’s power off and hooked up to that charger overnight on more than one occasion.
Can you use the plug-in socket that comes with other USB-compatible devices? That answer is different, because “it depends.” What does it depend on? Well, it depends if it is putting out enough juice to start recharging the battery in your Fire. Not all chargers are created equal, so check it out carefully – for example, the charger that came with my Motorola RAZR smartphone puts out enough power to charge my Fire, as does the connection I have for my car’s charging port. The USB charger I use for one of my cameras doesn’t put out enough power to charge the Fire.
So, how much power do you need? You need an adapter that has at least 9 watts of output (the e-Ink Kindle charger is 5 watts).
Amazon, of course, has a charger they will be more than happy to sell you. If you purchase it at the same time you purchase the Fire, they will charge you $9.99 for this power attachment; if you decide to purchase it a few days later, they will increase the price to $19.99. You can see the one I am talking about if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/powerfast into your web browser. This is actually a pretty good charger and will charge a fully-drained Fire in about 5-6 hours, I just think the $19.99 is a little pricey, plus I don’t like the fact at this price you can only charge one device at a time (you can, however, also use this charger to charge your e-Ink Kindle).
An alternative charger you should consider is one made by PowerGen: it is 10 watts of power, and has two ports so you can charge two things at the same time. Best of all, it is only $9.99 – so, for $10 less you get a charging device that will charge two things at one time and it has a little bit more total power output than the Amazon-branded one. You can check this one out if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/powergen10w into your web browser. While this model can charge two things at once, only one of the two ports has enough power to charge your Fire: read the product description and you will know which port to plug in your Fire and the other port for different devices.
The PowerGen is just one example. You can peruse the Amazon website’s charger section (click here or type in http://smarturl.it/chargers into your web browser), or you can shop elsewhere online or in a regular store near your house.
How is the 4G connection, and is the introductory data plan a good deal?
The 4G connection is a lot like how I have heard one of my friends describe his relationship with a girlfriend: when things are good, they are real good and when they are bad, they absolutely suck.
The same can be true for the 4G connection – it can be real fast when it wants to be fast, and you can be dead in the water in the strangest places. For example, I can be out in the middle of the country and see a cell tower on the highway / frontage road, and the cell service is screaming fast and very convenient. On the other hand, I can be in downtown Houston, the display says I have full cellular strength, and it just won’t work – no Internet, no email, no anything.
In other words, I have a love-hate relationship with it.
Concerning the introductory data plan – the one where you pay a one-time fee of $50 for 250 megabytes of data per month for 12 months, I have mixed emotions about it, also. I am not a heavy user of email or web surfing, I dislike video chat, and I don’t download big files all of the time, so I initially thought the 250 meg per month limit would more than suit my needs.
I was wrong.
Why was I wrong? It’s all of the apps loaded on your Fire that auto-magically turn themselves on that constantly check the Internet for updates, apps like Accuweather and The Weather Channel, a few news apps, and Words With Friends. The Weather Channel app had to be the worst: despite manually shutting it down, it would miraculously come back on and download maps, constantly check for updates and refresh said maps so frequently it chewed right through the month’s allotment in a day and a half.
No kidding. And it’s not a very good app, either, in comparison to Acccuweather so I deleted it.
Bottom line is you need to watch the data throughput carefully, or you will go over. I upgraded to the 3 gig per month plan, which is the same plan I have with my work iPad and seems to be enough. That’s $30 per month, so I wasted the $49.99 on the 250 meg per month plan (AT&T wouldn’t give me a refund even though I upgraded).
Part of me says I should have stuck with the Wi-Fi only version, but I’ve traveled a few times and despite my comments on the connectivity in downtown Houston, I would rather pay the $30 per month vs. $9.95 per night for hotel internet access.
Of course, depending upon your cell phone’s mobile data plan you can turn it into a mobile hotspot and tether your Fire to the cell phone. I’m not about to tackle the ins and outs of that as each cell carrier and cell phone is different. However, I have done it before and there are free apps you can install on your phone to do it: the free ones haven’t done much for me and I purchased one for $9.99 that seems to do the trick (which reminds me, I need to write a review for it!). You can check out the one I like – but remember, it is not free and costs $9.99 – if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/easytether into your web browser.
Reading the above, it would seem like I have a lot of complaints! Sure, I have a few as I don’t drink the Amazon Kool-Aid and think everything is peachy king. From an overall perspective, however, I am quite pleased with my 4G Fire, and still think it is a much better financial deal from a purchasing standpoint as compared to an iPad!
Hope that helps-
Download the Free Kindle Books and Tips blog app for your Kindle Fire or Android-based smartphone or tablet – for free, of course – by clicking here or type in http://smarturl.it/fkbtfreeapp into your computer’s web browser from the Amazon App Store or click here or type in http://bit.ly/fkbtgoogle into your computer’s web browser for the Google App Store.