The Fire Interface

The operating system that runs the Fire is Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but you would never know that just by looking at it or even when using it. Amazon has provided a highly customized overlay that makes the interface unique to the Fire. The Fire has only one home page, which is shown in Figure 10.

Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet ReviewFigure 10: The home screen

The Carousel holds the large scrollable items you see at the top of the screen. They represent everything that you looked at recently. Below that is the Favorites area. Touching any item on the Carousel and holding it for a moment will allow you to add that item to your Favorites or to delete it from the device. Tapping any item on the Carousel or in the Favorites will activate that item, whether it is a song, movie, book, or app.

You can add more than four Favorites. If you do, you simply swipe up on the screen to see them, as shown in Figure 1.

Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet ReviewFigure 11: Additional favorites

Unfortunately, you cannot rearrange your Favorites; nor can you create groups on the Carousel or in the Favorites. This is reminiscent of the omissions of features that were in the original Apple iOS operating system that were added in subsequent versions.

Just above the Carousel items is the main menu with seven choices: Newsstand, Books, Music, Videos, Docs, Apps and Web. These choices are simple and obvious. We’ve seen novice users who were confused by the Apple iOS on the iPad or iPhone because they didn’t know that Safari was a Web browser. Amazon eliminates that frustration by simply calling it “Web” on the menu.

At the very top of the screen is a notification bar. This shows your name on the left; the current time is in the middle; and an icon that leads to the settings and Wi-Fi signal strength, and battery strength indicators are on the right. Tapping on any of the icons on the right brings up controls for the rotation lock, wireless settings, volume, sync, and screen brightness. At the right side of this menu is the word “More.” Tapping on More gets you into a full-blown settings menu with listings similar to those found in other tablets. There is also a notification shade like the one found in other Android devices and in the newest version of Apple’s iOS. Just drag you finger downward from the top to see your current notifications.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.