New gadget – Amazon Fire HD 6

Here it was late February, and I still had a positive balance with the Christmas gift money I received these past holidays. The last $90 was burning a hole in my pocket. Note that when it comes to received gift money in any form, if I’m not living under a bridge starving in the cold, I WILL spend that money on something fun.

So I purchased a new tablet – an Amazon Fire HD 6. It’s from the very bottom of the model line, with only 8GB of memory and a 6″ screen, but was highly rated in the “bang for the buck” category. And the price was close enough to being in budget ($99).

I harbored no expectations of it replacing any mobile device I already own. All my other devices are Apple products, either OS X or IOS driven, and tightly married to each other in multiple ways. I am however looking forward to seeing how far the Android platform has progressed since my last personal experience years ago.

First thing I noticed after taking out it of the box? They’re not lying when they tell you it is one sturdy mobile device. It was delivered with a long toss up onto my front porch. It was a very cold day and I first heard it hit the wall hard and then the floor. So not seeing it with a broken screen was a plus, and it does indeed feel very sturdy in your hand.

After getting it registered and setting the options I wanted, I was pretty impressed with the platform. Navigation is fine. The standard mail, contacts, calendar, calculator, clock, and web browser apps all have the required feature set and then some, and are easy to use. The Help feature is also well put together and I used it quite a bit just to get familiar with the tablet. The camera lives up to expectations after reading the specs before the purchase: front-facing VGA camera and a 2 MP rear-facing camera. With the HDR option on, a steady hand, and good natural light, you can get a decent picture with the rear-view camera as long as you view it on the device (or similar sized screen). This falls into the “you get what you pay for” category.

I was able to access my Kindle books, and the easy interface to Amazon Prime is a plus. Viewing TV shows and movies is very good, with a surprisingly sharp picture and true color presentation.

I searched the Amazon app store for my core apps, and installed them. Alphabetically: Bank of America Online, Fidelity Investments, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Netflix, Optimum, Tumbler, Twitter, Vine, WordPress, and Words with Friends. Almost all of these work as I would expect. I did notice that compared to the same current Apple IOS versions of these apps, many seemed to be older versions in presentation, but I didn’t see any features I use missing. The exception is Words with Friends which I eventually deleted as it was an older version in more than just the presentation. I then loaded up a very nice text editor (Notepad) that has some scripting language syntax smarts, a robust “file explorer / finder” type utility (ES File Explorer), and a good voice recorder (Easy Voice Recorder). I am pleased with all.

My first “smart phone” was a Motorola Droid which was a great phone at the time, but being forced fed OS upgrades eventually and permanently cratered many of the phone’s features and apps long before my 2 year contract with Verizon was up. When I reported these issues to Verizon and Motorola responses varied from a tone of “too bad, so sad”, to “you need to upgrade your phone”. With more than 6 months on my contract, this left me with a smart phone camera that was basically unusable – it would take pictures that you could preview after they were taken, but were then not available as the photo gallery function no longer worked. Also, a couple of apps I had used daily stopped working after different OS updates (and the apps were never updated to address the issues).

As to any similar bad vibes encountered with my Fire HD, the only ones which surfaced were hit during the search for additional “nice to have” apps, as I mentioned in the voice recorder app search. I wanted to limit my app installs to those apps which stated they were compatible with the Fire HD, but very few (I remember only one) stated that fact.

Although I’ve only had the device for two weeks, I have to say I’m liking it. I hope to keep liking it because my iPad Mini is getting old and for what I currently use that device for (tablet feature / function requirements have lessened since I retired), using an Amazon Fire HD instead of shelling out $500 for a new Apple iPad would be great. But some more positive time with this tablet needs to elapse before that decision is made.

NOTE: Amazon reports the Amazon Fire HD 6 in this format is no longer available. The comparable tablet at this point is the Amazon Fire HD 8. I do still keep my Fire HD 6 updated and current, and drag it out every once in a while to hit the web.

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