November 19, 2011

The Never-Get-Bored Machine

I just read the best and most evenhanded review of the new Amazon Fire tablet over at the Monkey See blog.  I remember having high hopes for it for some reason, then hearing many drawbacks in it's design before it came out, then finally being pleasantly surprised when it was finally announced.

I was mostly surprised and delighted that they were also continuing with their dedicated Kindle e-readers as well as trying out a tablet.  Previously, it had sounded they would be switching to this new tablet and abandoning e-ink, which seemed a shame.  Well, obviously I was wrong to worry.

I would love an iPhone.  Mostly because I love my old iPod classic, love having a digital camera at hand and like having a cell phone.  With an iPhone I could have all three in one device that could also have a Kindle app on it and become my take-everywhere and never-be-bored device.

But I really can't justify adding a data plan to our monthly expenses for something that's basically entertainment.  (We just cut our cable, for crying out loud.) And an iPad is too big to carry around.  So the Kindle Fire looked pretty neat.  I know there are bad aspects to the company, but I'm mostly very happy with Amazon.  But then, I'm mostly happy with Apple and there are bad aspects to their company as well.

So I looked at iPads and the Fire and Nook colors and so on until I was reminded of the iPod Touch.  It's not the everything-in-one device the iPhone is.  But if you think of it as an iPod plus a whole lot of other amazing things, it will make you happy.  It does for me.

It's a better iPod than my old iPod.  I used it mostly for audiobooks and podcasts.  With the Touch I downloaded an app called Downcast and it magically updates all my favorite podcasts without synching!  The music is great of course, but now I find myself listening to Pandora more and that's been great as well. And I can watch all those iTunes U videos now as well!

It's got a camera on it, but it's not any better than a crappy cell phone camera.  It does have better video, though, which comes in handy on occasion.  I'll have to play with it more.  The cool thing is, if you get into the video thing you could download their iMovie app and actually edit the videos right there on the device, then upload them onto youtube or wherever.

I downloaded the Kindle app since it's free, but didn't expect too much.  Well, turns out I love it, and this has been the biggest surprise for me.  The thing is so light, you almost forget it's in your pocket.  So I carry it everywhere.  Now I don't know about you, but let's say I've just pulled into a doctor's office parking lot and am about to go sit in a waiting room.  Before, I would have to decide if I wanted to bring my Kindle to read with (but risk being annoyed by loud conversationalists) or take in my iPod to listen to something.  Now there's no decision to make.  This thing is both and more.  I also downloaded the Instapaper app and have a ton of articles ready to read as well.

It's much better for reading that I expected.  I've read a few things on my wife's iPad and it's fine, but I much prefer my Kindle for that.  The big, glowing screen can strain the old peepers after a spell.  But while it seems like it should be too small, the little handheld screen on the Touch is perfectly clear and doesn't bother me at all for reading.  I still use the Kindle at home, but whenever I'm out and about, I can steal a few minutes of reading here and there throughout the day which has made this a fantastic thing for me.  I love it. And I love it more because it's smaller than even the Fire.

To compare: they are both only 8GB for the basic models and are wi-fi only.  They're definitely more for consuming than producing media.  You can stream video and play games on both of them.  You can read books on both of them.  They both have browsers.  You can watch Netflix and other streaming services on them.  The Touch will not stream Amazon Prime content (but I do that on my computer or on my TV so that's cool).  But the Touch just feels better designed (remember it's on the 4th or 5th generation while the Fire is still new).  And the Touch has cameras.  I use it for an alarm clock, weather checker, article reader, book reader, radio, music player, video watching and capturing device and browser.  And I take it everywhere, whereas I feel like I'd just leave the Fire at home.

So for just long form reading, I still recommend either e-ink Kindles or a library card (or both).  For an iPod, plus access to all kinds of other fun stuff I say get the Touch.  Unless, unlike me, you can justify going for the full iPhone experience.