Amazon: Poisoning The Tablet Well

fire new tabletRecord Weekend for Amazon Devices—Up 3x Over Last Year, with Millions of Devices Sold

The new $49.99 Fire tablet is the fastest-selling Amazon tablet ever, with millions sold since launch — Amazon tablet sales this weekend are up more than 3x year over year.

With its 1024 x 600 resolution, I don’t know how people can put up with it.

CNet seems to think it’s the cat’s meow: 5 reasons to buy Amazon’s $50 tablet — and one not to. They also stupidly say it’s good for reading. Only if you hate your eyes.

If Amazon is making a profit on that tablet, consider what the manufacturing cost was. $15? $20?

Anyway, their site — at post time — reports it won’t be in stock until December 24(!).

Hey, Tim Cook, how’s that iPad pricing going?


  1. Nate Hoffelder1 December, 2015

    I have a Fire tablet. I’m not completely happy with it, but I have no problem reading from the screen. I much prefer the Kindle app on my Fire tablet to several of the reading apps on my iPad Air.

    You, sir, are a snob – one who has forgotten his history.

    The original Samsung Galaxy Tab had a similar screen resolution (on a $400 tablet). So did the first Fire tablet (a $200 tablet) and the Nook Color (another $200 tablet).

    Everyone loved those tablets, and the screen on the latest Fire tablet is arguably their equal. So what’s wrong with it, other than the fact it’s built into a $50 tablet?


  2. fjtorres1 December, 2015

    More importantly, higher resolution screen drive the price up into what is looking increasingly iffy territory for media consumption tablets, namely WinTab and convertible laptop territory. Amazon going low isn’t so much poisoning the well as avoiding shark-infested waters.

    Also, it’s worth remembering that one reason media tablet sales have been lagging and there is talk of “peak iPad” as a past event is because owners of older tablets are prefectly happy with their old tablets. Which as Nate just pointed out, run at WSVGA and XGA resolutions. If they’re not rushing to replace their old XGA $400 tablet for a new super duper resolution tablet it might just be that they don’t see enough added value in upgrading the screen.

    Amazon’s strategy seems to be playing to that interpretation.

    If we see a flood of deeply discounted highres non-sellers early next year we’ll know they were right.

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 December, 2015

      @ Felix

      And it’s not just WSVGA; a few weeks back someone asked for help with installing a firmware update on his black Pandigital Novel. That’s a five year old tablet with a VGA-resolution screen and running Android 1.5. And the guy is happy with it.

      Frankly, Mike is just another pundit that doesn’t understand consumers.

  3. Rob Siders1 December, 2015

    Like Nate said, once upon a time this was a pretty good spec. If you don’t care about that stuff, or don’t have a basis to compare, or are not very tech savvy, or whatever else describes the customer in this tablet’s sweet spot, then it’ll likely also be pretty great. I bought a first gen Fire for my mom a few years ago. It does everything she wants it to and she loves it. And she’ll probably never replace it… unless I do it for her.

  4. Anne1 December, 2015

    I bought one for a 10 year old child. She is not going to notice or care if it’s lower res than other tablets in the house. I need to put Google Play on it though, for maximum enjoyment.

  5. Juli Monroe1 December, 2015

    I’m with Mike Cane on the screen issue. My eyes are pretty sensitive to resolution, and the Fire tablet’s resolution would drive me nuts.

    I recently purchased an iPad Mini 4, and I love it. I’ve finally realized something. I went through a succession of inexpensive 7″ Android tablets trying to find one that would do what I thought a Mini would do. I probably spent more money than if I’d just bought the darned Mini in the first place. This is the tablet I’ve been wanting all along. Everything works smoothly. The screen is great. Touch ID has become a must-have for me (didn’t expect that) and Split View is perfect for writing, even on the relatively small Mini screen.

    Okay, I guess I’m glad I went through all those Android tablets because now I realize how much and why I love my Mini, and I now have the latest version. I’m planning on keeping this one for as long as it lasts. Which isn’t what Apple wants, but too bad for them. Their upgrades have become so incremental that there’s little reason to upgrade often. That’s the biggest “problem” with the high-end tablets. They are well enough built and have good enough features that there’s little reason for the average consumer to replace them every year.

    However, I realize that I’m not the right demographic for the $50 Fire tablet. I have no problem with Amazon recognizing a market and going for it, which it looks like they have done.

  6. Bill W1 December, 2015

    I second Nate’s comments. In the past. I happily read many books on tablets with those screen specs (and paid FAR more to do it). The Amazon tablet is not for me, but it is a great value and opens up the market to lots of people.

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 December, 2015

      @ Bill

      The first tablet I really liked – the one that tempted me to change my gadget habits so that I could use it more – was the 9″ Pandigital novel. It had a screen resolution of 800 x 480.

      If that tablet hadn’t died prematurely and then soured me on tablets (the CS experience was horrible) I would have been reading, Tweeting, and browsing the news on that tablet.

  7. Juli Monroe1 December, 2015

    One more thought. I realize my “view” on screen resolution would be different if I’d never had a tablet to compare to or was coming from an older tablet, like a Nook Color. Then I wouldn’t notice a difference. It’s only a problem for me to go back to a lower resolution. I admit it. I’m spoiled. 🙂

  8. Medium Punch1 December, 2015

    Couldn’t click the button to get a few of these for myself and some family. Yet many of the apps we heavily use just aren’t available (some likely never will be available) on the Fire OS.

    Thus I had to shell out just a little more to get regular android tablets.

  9. Basem1 December, 2015

    Another thing with resolution is that monitors, with the common 1920 X 1080, comes at around 100ppi for a 22-23 inch monitor! However, there isn’t a lot of complaint about that resolution; when tablets or mobile phones come with anything under 225ppi it becomes a big deal. To a lesser extent we have a similar issue with laptops, with ‘full HD’ considered something for premium devices. Apple sell their Macbook Air with 1440 X 900 and it isn’t even an ips display and they charge a premium price for the laptop (not only is it OK but you get rave reviews for the laptop).

    I would say most spend far more time looking at their PC monitors and laptop screens but reviewers only tend to be fussy over tablet and mobile phone screens. I can see a point that tablets, at 10 inches, should be a minimum of 1920 X 1280 but, if we are being consistent, the same applies to laptops and monitors.

  10. Will Entrekin1 December, 2015

    I think my issue with this idea is the same as one sometimes leveled against “self-publishing” — that without proper curation and gatekeeping, it’s just going to be a glut. A tsunami! What will we do?!

    The fact is, for many, many users, good enough is. For many of those users, this Fire is good enough.

    “If you don’t care about that stuff, or don’t have a basis to compare, or are not very tech savvy, or whatever else describes the customer in this tablet’s sweet spot, then it’ll likely also be pretty great.”

    Lots of people don’t care about Retina (or HD, or QHD, or SAMOLED vs TFT, or PenTile, or whatever else). They just want good enough to do whatever, and this tablet is likely fine for them.

    As for iPad sales being down . . . Juli mentioned incremental updates, and I think she’s got a point there. I’m kind of a tech geek and way an early adopter, but I skipped updating any of my iOS devices this year because they’re all running just fine — including my 2012 Retina MacBook Pro. And besides, given Apple’s cash and continued valuation and performance, my guess is they’re not too worried about customers’ not upgrading quickly. As Cook always points out, Apple’s Cust Sat is through the roof.

  11. Robert Nagle1 December, 2015

    This is probably most true for PDFs. We can knock the PDF format, but 50% of what I end up reading tends to be PDF (mainly scholarly articles, bus schedules, manuals). Epubs/mobi format work ok in 6 inch, but PDFs are a struggle.

  12. Max1 December, 2015

    The Fire screen has a problem that has nothing to do with resolution. The aspect ratio of the screen is not 1024/600. Everything is distorted by 5% or so which kind of sucks.

    As for the resolution, Apple was selling 1024×768 iPads until last year. And not for $50…

  13. Thomas1 December, 2015

    The screen doesn’t seem bad at all to me, but then I just switched from an old Polaroid with an 800×480 screen, so I may not be the best to ask. I’ve been reading on that screen for three and a half years now without any problems. I guess my eyes are just tougher than yours, Mike.

  14. Chris Meadows1 December, 2015

    Screen seems fine to me, too. What’s more, when I compared streaming video performance to my much more expensive, higher-resolution Nexus 7, they both looked about the same. Weird, huh?

  15. Victor1 December, 2015

    I read on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 lite, which have the same resolution as the Fire tablet in question… And I find it pretty good for reading. No eye strain, great for taking notes…

  16. DavidW2 December, 2015

    @Basem your comparison between monitors and tablets is invalid. You hold a tablet at arm’s length, but your monitor is at least 2 feet away from your eyes. High pixel density is needed in the former case, not in the latter case. This is because pixel per unit length is NOT what determines sharpness of a display. It is pixel per unit angle subtended that matters. For the same resolution and size of the display, the angular size of the pixel becomes smaller the further the display is from your eye.

    20/20 vision entails being able to resolve two things if separated by an arcminute. That yields 300 ppi for tablets but large screen tvs can be 1080p from across the living room. I really dislike these bogus comparisons used to suggest that resolution doesn’t matter. It does. You just have to understand how it matters.

  17. Basem2 December, 2015

    David – thanks a lot for the clarification and you are right there is no direct comparison between monitors and mobile devices (I was mistaken to make that comparison). Also, I am not saying resolution doesn’t matter for TV viewing.

    My point is that we read off monitors and laptops and, personally, I notice the difference in pixel density, as monitors are close enough (for example see the stark difference between a Retina 4K iMac and compare it to ‘full HD’). Also, with laptops, which is more comparable to mobile devices, this is accentuated but reviewers tend to flag resolution over pixel density (I think there is inconsistency with reviews of laptops compared to mobile devices).

    Also, even with monitors, the distance isn’t that much for pixelation not to be noticed with monitors. You would need a real significant bump in resolution to push to 300ppi but 100ppi is sub-par even at 2 feet away (how long have we had ‘full hd’ as near default now?). Monitors aren’t mobile devices but 2K should be default by now, rather than priced as ‘premium’. I really don’t know much about market dynamics but may be it has something do with this stagnation.

  18. Basem2 December, 2015

    Also, wasn’t the designation of ‘full HD’ originally a TV one? It makes little sense to carry that to monitors with its different use case scenarios.

  19. fjtorres2 December, 2015

    FullHD did indeed originate out of the TV market to properly distinguish 1080p displays from the cheaper 720p models and, more importantly, the XGA and WXGA models (mostly plasma) being marketed as HD.

    The term has as much real meaning as Retina does.
    Which is to say very little outside marketing.
    It is possible for a FullHD display to be absolute crap just as it is possible for a WSGA display to be a delight. Pixel count is meaningless without a context of screen size, viewing distance, view angle, and most critical these days, how the resolution is tallied.
    Even for text display, pixel count alone guarantees nothing. The app displaying the text makes at least as much of a difference beause of sub-pixel addressing and gamma adjustments.
    Relying on pixel count alone is a legacy of the monochrome and CRT era. Digital displays are a whole different ball game.
    (Look up the debate over pentile displays.)


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