Sunday, May 6, 2012

Using Kindle Fire in India

 I am on (Kindle) Fire and Loving it!!!

I recently purchased Amazon Kindle Fire and was pleasantly surprised with both the form factor and the ease of use. For those of you from India who are in the process of evaluating Kindle as one of your table options, this post would be of help.


Why should I buy Kindle Fire:

  • Cost: Arguably, the biggest driver is its low cost. At 199 USD, Kindle Fire gives other tablets a run for its money.
  • Software: Runs on Android Gingerbread, so has lot of potential applications out there (read the section on Limitations and also on how to over come it below).
    • Games: You can get all those lovely games like Angry Birds etc for free and run it on your kindle.  Pretty much, most apps that run on Android runs on Kindle.
    • EBooks: Extremely good interface for reading books (Amazon disrupted the e-books market with its originally Kindle e-ink edition). Amazon continues its hold on ebooks market with the Kindle Fire. So, if you are like me, interested in reading the latest books published on Amazon, you do not have to wait for the India edition of these books. 
      • Amazon does allow you to buy most (if not all) the books on Kindle with India credit card and address. 
      • Btw, did I mention that Kindle offers several classics for free?
    • Office: Extremely good interface for reading emails, office software that works decently. So, you can  get quite a bit of your office work done via Kindle. 
      • Reading PDF, PPT, word and MS-Exel all gets a thumbs-up compared to the clunky Android phone form factor that you might have experimented with. 
  • Ease of use and Speed: I have found the 7" inch form factor to be much better than the iPad or other 10+"  tablets in terms of convenience. For example, you can hold Kindle with one hand, lie down and read books.
    • 8 hours of battery life that Amazon promises is another major plus. With full gaming and browsing, mine lasted for 7 hours.
    • With a dual core 1 Ghz processer,  Kindle users can't complain of speed either.
  • Multimedia: Excellent support for multimedia. You can for example, watch youtube all day using the built-in wi-fi.
    • Amazon is trying to extend its foot hold in the U.S on music and videos by allowing rentals. But, for us living in India, we may not be able to take advantage of it any time soon.
  • Browsing: With Amazon's silk browser, the browsing experience is extremely good and the browser implicitly adjusts the web pages to smaller form factor to render a good user experience. Amazon, a job well done!!

With the above benefits, for many of us, Kindle seems like a no brainer, right? Wrong!! You need to deliberate on your purchase, especially if you are in India before settling on Kindle Fire.

What are the limitations that my friends talk about then?

  • Monopolistic Amazon: It started with Apple, spread to Google and has now come to Amazon. Yes,  I am talking about the Apps Market place. Clearly, all the empire builders like Apple and Google are keen on controlling the apps market and derive revenues out of 3rd party apps.Hey, I built the roads, now I am collecting tolls :-) is the attitude. 
    • Amazon is no exception. The reason, why Kindle is so cheap is precisely because it has its own Market place - the Amazon Market from where it can potentially derive revenues. (Disclaimer:  I have done much research on how this arrangement works between Google and Amazon). 
    • What is true is that only Amazon's marketplace is the only and de-facto market place for you that I am aware of. Google Play does not work (have tried it, but the app fails). I will discuss how to overcome this limitation in the next section. 
  • Multimedia Subscription: The music and video rental market is expanding rapidly in the U.S. With Amazon Prime membership, Kindle Fire offers excellent benefits if you are a movie or music buff. However, if you are from India, its usually not easy (will explain how to get around these limitations in the next section).  
  • Hardware Limitations: On the down side, some users would miss camera and mic support. It is understandable that it does not have telephony support, but a mic and camera would have made Kindle a real winner. But, hey, for the price you are paying, you can't complain much. 
    • Kindle also does not have support sd-card and thus, expanding the disk space is a major concern. 
    • Amazon cloud is another practical way of extending the disk space, but for India users, with most ISPs moving towards offering limited bandwidth, this option is also not viable (opex wise).
  • Target Market: Let us face it. When it comes to it, India is simply not a target market for Amazon Kindle. Consequently, you wold not see India specific promos, support or content in the near term. Though, some online vendors are selling Kindle ( Prices are also on the higher side compared to U.S Edition.
    • So, you will also miss out key developments like Kindle Rentals for Amazon Prime membership etc. 
  • App download: Not only can you not rent movies and music from Amazon, you cannot also download apps (even free ones) from Amazon Market place if you are in India. This is the most serious limitation for many in India and single handedly eliminates all the advantages we have highlighted thus far. 
    • In my opinion, Amazon should have a followed a more liberal policy towards international customers and allowed apps to be downloaded freely - much like Google Play.
    • But, fear not, there are effective ways to overcome this limitation.
Ok, now if you are thinking, " I am confused. I like the specs and the price, and feel like buying, but, with so many restrictions for us India users, what choices do I have?", worry not, let me discuss some of the ways to overcome this limitation. 

Overcoming the limitations:

  • Use U.S credit card and Address: For those who are lucky enough to have a friend or cousin in the U.S and be able to convince them to rent their credit card, this is the easiest option. Simply update the shipping address and the U.S credit card details on Amazon. This alone will enable you to download 100s of free software and free videos from Amazon's marketplace. 
    • Note: you can still buy your Kindle using India credit card, post which you can update your 1-click address using the u.s address/credit card option I mentioned above. Your phoren cousin does not have to shell out a dime if you manage to download only free apps and videos.
  • Sideload Apps:  For those of you who do not have a Phoren cousin, worry not, there are numerous public market places from where you can download the APK files into Kindle. GetJar, Android Central etc are good web sites from where you can download Android compatible apps.  Using this option, I was able to download Facebook, Linked in, Adobe Flash, PDF, Angry birds and most other apps for free.
    • Note: About 10% of the apps have incompatibility problem, but most others work perfectly well. 
      • Swype, Google Play, Google Drive are some of the useful apps I have not had success so far.
  • Disk Space: You can use your laptop as your extended hard drive. In order to do so, you can download numerous utilities that extends your Kindle Fire as a HTTP or FTP server. One such app I can recommend is Aico File Manager, which acts a file manager + unzip tool + ftp+http server. 
    • Note: Google Drive is not compatible with Kindle Fire as of this writing. You can download Dropbox and use the free space available to extend storage.
  • Microphone: I am sure you would have guessed it now. Use a standard 4 pin microphone + earphone jack that comes with your mobile, voila, you now have voice input. So, several utilities such as Vlingo, Skype, Tango etc can be at your service. Suddenly, you Kindle Fire is also your Voip Phone.
    • Note: I have not tried this option yet, but will try it and provide an update on my experience.

If you are a semi  techie and do not mind exploring the brave world of tablets/mobile, Kindle Fire can be a very good bet at an incredibly low price.For content consumption of all kinds such as browsing, ebooks, music listening, photos, videos, office documents, email etc, Kindle Fire gets a huge thumbs up. I have experienced this to be both practical and simple to use.  There are thousands of blogs and articles that would help you to jump start your journey. I have added a few links here below for your reference. 

On the other hand, if you are not venturesome, but are looking for something beyond Ebooks, Kindle Fire is not something that you should look at.  

Useful Links:

  • Sideloading Steps:
    • Step 1: Open Kindle's browser and point to Download the GetJar app from the following link or by searching for GetJar APK at
    • Step 2: Install GetJar APK and search for other useful tools such as the Aico File Manager etc.
  • Aico File Manager  - Sideload this app for converting Kindle into an FTP/HTTP server. 
  • Good Article on sideloading APK files. 
  • Kindle Fire coverage by The Hindu newspaper.
  • Kindle Fire Home Page
  • Free Kindle Books - Many good classics such as Alice Adventure in Wonderland or Around the world in 80 days etc are ABSOLUTELY free. You can also download these books from Amazon's website for free.
  • Another excellent article on sideloading apps in Kindle