A beginner’s primer for the Amazon Fire

00-post

I have a dream of being able to use a tablet as a personal computer. I bought an Amazon Fire tablet to see if it was possible. This is my first time buying either an Android or Amazon product. I gave the tablet a good going over. I had a good experience and thought I would share my observations to people new to the Amazon Fire or could use a few tips.

The good

  • the display is pleasant to look at, it has good color reproduction and a wide viewing angle
  • the glass is hardened, though I’ve been good to it it has more to do with the thoughtful quality of the construction
  • the CPU runs the apps reasonably fast and the graphic animation is usually smooth
  • a SD card slot
  • the files can be organized (either by plugging in the tablet to a personal computer or by a file manager app)
  • the price of $50
  • many apps are available, some quite good

What I would like to see improved

  • built-in storage if it can be done, it is currently four gigabytes after OS updates
  • memory, it is 500MB which makes apps usually have to save states rather then be retained in memory
  • edge tapping, this might be my big, clumsy fingers but I have a hard time with buttons recognition on the edges
  • SD card write access for third party apps for conventional file saves, this would be nice though I know is currently prevented because of a security precaution
  • file organization by folders only, currently Android OS tries to index all the files into four libraries (Documents, Images, Movies, Music) and some apps use these libraries; knowing all file types is a big task and folder organization would mean my family photos don’t get grouped with my web development photos
  • the calendar app to get a notification daemon, currently the app needs to be open to display reminders
  • a setting to define the Text to Speech (TTS) default app; I selected the online TTS app by accident and now when I want to hear pronunciations I have to be online

Book’em

The tablet has a great reader, for both books and the newsstand. It has easy to look at text and is enjoyable to use. I get the feeling the Amazon tablet was created with the intention of expanding on the Kindle stand-alone reader. The Kindle app behaves just like a Kindle product: intuitive to use, responsive, and the standard extra features. The tablet is worth the price, IMHO, if used just for reading.

Doggie in the window

I like the Amazon store and use it occasionally. The first time I bought something I used the web browser, but I learned since the Shop Amazon app provides a better interface: increased font/image size, good organization, a shelf to compare products… it made it kinda fun. I also found it good to write the reviews in.

Power

Battery discharge time depends on screen brightness and wireless. I’ve noticed that using Bluetooth uses a good amount of power. With a slightly dimmed screen and no wireless, I will get about eight hours from the battery. Recharge time with slightly dimmed screen and no wireless takes about four hours to charge; with Bluetooth it takes about seven hours. When not in use about four percent battery discharge will occur in about eight hours.

Accessories that will probably be needed

  • a $10 stylus will help keep the screen clean
  • a $10 cover will help with accidental bumps
  • a $5 microfiber cloth will help clean the screen
  • a $30-$50 keyboard will help typing a lot
  • a SD card will help if planning to use for any amount of time

Tips

  • to move/delete/categorize an app press the app for a few seconds
  • to save home page space categorize the Amazon apps that have a content-page/tab
  • to save home page space turn off to display “Recent Items”, these will still show in the “Recent” content page; Settings > Apps and Games > Amazon Application Settings > Home Screen Settings
  • to switch apps more efficiently with the app switcher touch the window’s title bar
  • to help efficiency consider using the tablet with the orientation as upright – the Android OS is used on many phones where this orientation is common and many apps are designed with this in mind
  • to help performance, it appears to me, it is improved with only a few apps open; apps can be closed in the app switcher by swiping them
  • screenshots are done by holding down power and volume down at the same time for two seconds, a click will sound if successful; it will be saved in Internal Storage/Pictures/Screenshots
  • the tablet will shutdown on its own on a low battery, it does so at zero percent

Keyboard shortcuts

system:

alt   + tab    app switch
ctrl  + t      tablet notifications
space          page down (in browser or readers)
shift + space  page up
alt   + space  search
space + space  lock screen quit

typing:

alt   + left/rght  cursor move to line beginning/end
alt   + up/down    cursor move to doc. beginning/end
ctrl  + left/rght  cursor move to word before/after
shift + arrow      cursor move and select text
                   (+alt/ctrl use as modifiers)
shift + backspace  cursor erase forward character
alt   + backspace  cursor erase line
ctrl  + x/c/v/a    cut/copy/paste/all-select

Silk browser (generally the same as Chromiums):

ctrl + t    tab new
ctrl + tab  tab switch
ctrl + w    tab close
ctrl + l    location bar
ctrl + f    find
ctrl + h    history
ctrl + m    menu
ctrl + r    reload

apps:

menu + b          browser
menu + c          contacts
menu + e          email
menu + l          calendar
menu + p          player (music)
menu + backspace  desktop

Apps I liked

basic:

Converter Free                a unit converter
Dictionary - Merriam-Webster  offline, good defs
DroidEdit                     a nice text editor
File Commander + Cloud        very nice file manager
LastPass                      password manager
MapQuest
NPR News
Podcast Republic
Radar Express
ruler(cm, inch)
Stellarium Mobile Sky May     a nice star chart for a few
TK Music Tag Editor
Weather by MacroPinch
WordWeb - English Dictionary

entertainment:

IMDb
TED
Watch ABC

games:

CSI: Hidden Crimes
Cut the Rope: Time Travel HD
Doodle Numbers
Geometry Dash
Monument Valley
Pocket Mine
Quick Logic Puzzles
Simple Mahjong
Solitaire
Survival Run by Bear Grylis
Temple Run: Oz
The Hunger Game Adventures
The Secret Society–Hidden Mystery
Where's my Water?

Question(s)

01-screenshot

  • Unicode, never could find a way to enter unicode characters… no character map and no key combinations possible
  • are there finger covers I can buy to keep from smudging the screen?