Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kindle 2: Disappointing

Amazon recently released the second version of the Kindle (specs here, pictures and videos here), and while it is an improvement on the previous model, overall I find it disappointing as it added to many pointless features and missed some really valuable ones.

1) Better button placements. Amazon screwed up the original button placement so bad that when they put them in a half way decent place it is considered an upgrade (apparently they stole a page out of the Microsoft upgrade playbook).
2) 20% faster page turns. Still too slow, but going in the right direction.
3) Better navigation with 5 way joystick. This allows for easier definition lookups and the ability to skip to the next article.
4) 25% increase in battery life. They claim you can now go 2 weeks without a recharge with wireless off, but I only get 3-4 days currently with my Kindle, so either I read more than average or I have a bum battery. If it can go 2 weeks that would be great as you could go on vacation and leave the charger at home.
5) Charging via USB. Now you can recharge using your computer (or your USB charger).

Pointless improvements:
1) 2 GB of storage (7x as much). I don't see how anyone can fill up even 100 MB with text files, so adding more is worthless. You can redownload any book from Amazon you want in less than a minute, so unless you are traveling overseas, there isn't a need to store all the books on the Kindle. (This version also gets rid of the SD slot for additional memory, but that is fine by me.)
2) Thinner design. I don't know when anorexia design became chic, but I am just not into it. I have never looked at my Kindle and thought, "damn, you are fat". Unless you have a need to slide this thing under your door, it was already thin enough.
3) Text to speech. Who want's to hear a book read by a text to speech generator (or as Stephen King calls it "GPS voice")? Apparently the lack of quality of this feature hasn't stopped the Author's Guild from suing Amazon over it.
4) "Whispersync" to sync Kindle, Kindle 2 and other devices wirelessly. Why do I want multiple reading devices?

Missed opportunities:
1) Pocket size. Rather than being thinner, what I really wanted was something smaller that could fit in my jacket pocket. Instead we get something that is taller and wider. To add insult to injury at 2:18 in this Amazon video demonstration a guy with super sized jacket pockets nonchalantly slips a Kindle into his. I don't feel that I should have to purchase a "jacket upgrade" in order to take advantage of this feature.
2) Touch screen. The Sony PRS-700BC has it and it works really well. Cool in its own right, but it also allows the device to be smaller as you can ditch the keyboard for a virtual one.
3) Better contrast. This isn't really Amazon's fault as this is based on the e-ink technology. This version saw an increase to 16 shades of gray. But, who cares about more shades of gray? Instead what I want is a background that is as white as the Kindle body, not some grayish white.
4) Lower price. Without a touch screen or a larger reading area, I would have hoped for a lower price point. I guess since they can't keep them in stock that they see no point in lowering the price.
5) More of my 25 ways to improve the Kindle actually integrated. 6 were done with this release but that still leaves 19 to go.

Overall, this is a step up from the first Kindle, but not worth the money to upgrade. Hopefully the Kindle 3 will add some features that will make an upgrade worthwhile.

Also check out additional reviews by David Pogue, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and Engadget.


coffee said...

Kindle's appearance is certainly reminiscent of an Apple product

Nipun said...

Great review. And that bit about jacket upgrade really had me cracking up!

Ted - The Energy Doctor said...

Good job.
I've been putting together my notes as I use the Kindle2. I'm a stickler about user interface, having done design since the 1980's, so many of their design choices are driving me batty...

Fat Knowledge said...

Ted, yeah I agree with your review. I don't get why they can't make the magazine/newspaper experience better. The ability to skip to the next article with the 5 way joystick seems like a big upgrade though.

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