The Kindle Fire vs. the Apple iPad

By Micah McDunnigan

When Apple first released the iPad, the device was peerless in its capabilities. Now, other manufacturers have come forward with their own devices to give consumers more choices in the tablet computer market. Among these is Amazon's latest version of its Kindle eReader, the Kindle Fire. The device does not have all the features and powerful hardware of an iPad, but matches many of its features with a substantially lower price tag.

Operating Systems

The iPad, like Apple's other mobile devices, uses the iOS mobile operating system while the Kindle Fire uses a modified version of Google's Android operating system. Without violating the device’s terms of service, you can only download apps for your iPad from Apple's App Store. The Kindle Fire’s Android operating system allows you to get apps from Amazon's App store or manually install them by sideloading APK packages. It is technically possible to install apps from the Google Marketplace onto your Kindle Fire, but Google requires you to have your device registered with a Google account. The Kindle Fire does not give a standard method for registering your device to a Google account, so installing apps from the Google Marketplace is technically possible but practically difficult. The Kindle Fire's operating system also allows you to use the device without ever connecting it to a computer, whereas the iPad requires you to use a computer for certain configuration and maintenance tasks.


Both the Kindle Fire's Android operating system and the iPad's iOS are app-centric, so many of their uses overlap. The Kindle Fire's function as an eReader is mirrored by the iOS Kindle app, which lets you read any of your Kindle books on your iPad. The iPad can also download apps to purchase and read ebooks from Amazon's competitors. The devices' ability to use major social networking sites, play games and use professional productivity software also comes from the apps you can download from the device's respective app store. Apple's app store has a larger selection of apps, which allows you to use your iPad for more purposes than the Kindle Fire, but Amazon is working on increasing its own store's offerings to expand the Kindle Fire's functionality.

Media Options

One of the major draws for both the iPad and the Kindle Fire is their ability to store and stream multimedia content. In addition to third-party apps that allow you to stream music or video from a variety of sources, both devices have their own interface for using your music, movies or TV shows. The iPad synchronizes your multimedia content through iTunes, which lets you select which items from your iTunes library you want to put on your iPad to play later. The Kindle Fire lets you sideload music and videos through a USB port, stream music from your Amazon Cloud Drive and stream movies or TV shows from your Amazon media library. You can play media that you physically stored on your device anywhere, but if you want to stream your media from the Internet, you will need to either connect to a Wi-Fi network or have a mobile broadband-capable device. You can choose between a Wi-Fi only or broadband-capable iPad, but the Kindle Fire only comes in Wi-Fi models.

Hardware Specs and Price

The Kindle Fire does not try to compete with the iPad on hardware specifications. The iPad is a larger device. It also has an LED screen, compared to Kindle's IPS screen; a ten-hour battery life, compared to Kindle's eight-hour battery life; and its smallest hard drive size is twice the size of the Kindle Fire's 8GB drive. Unlike the iPad, the Kindle Fire does not have a camera and the Kindle Fire's 1GHz dual-core processor is not as powerful as the iPad's 1GHz dual-core processor. The area where the Kindle Fire competes with the iPad is in its price. For similar features, the Kindle Fire costs about $200, whereas the iPad can range from about $500 to more than $800. The iPad was not the first consumer tablet computer to go on the market, but it was the first one to meet with wide commercial success. The device's hardware and price reflect its target market of consumers who want the most technologically advanced tablets and are willing to pay accordingly. The Kindle Fire specifically sets itself apart with its price to target consumers who want the capabilities of a tablet computer, but would prefer to forgo having the latest and greatest hardware to save hundreds of dollars.