December 13, 2013 — If you get caught up in the tech specs between the Apple iPad Air and iPad mini, then compare them to the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and 7-inch tablets, you’ll drive yourself crazy: For most people, the issue isn’t whether the Kindle Fire has a denser screen with more pixels or if the iPad Air is bigger or faster. No, the issue is what you care about, how you want to use your shiny new tablet.
Here’s how to choose between an iPad and a Kindle Fire:
Are you already an iPhone or Mac owner?
If you’re already a happy iPhone or Mac owner, do yourself a favor and stick with an Apple iPad Air or iPad mini with Retina Display. You’ll be happy, and your apps and total integration experience will work seamlessly together. Your odds of happiness are high. On the other hand, if you don’t have strong feelings about your iPhone, try the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ or Kindle Fire HDX 7″ tablet. Both are sweet tablets. If you hate it, you’ll find new appreciation for iOS and Apple.
Are you an Amazon customer? An Amazon Prime customer?
If you already appreciate Amazon.com, that’s a good step toward a Kindle Fire HDX. But it’s not definitive. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can still stream movies and TV shows to your iPad and iPhone via an app. I do it all the time. Same goes for Kindle ebooks, which you can read on your iOS device. So that basic benefit is mostly a wash. But if you find yourself wanting to buy movies and TV shows from Amazon or you already have a library of digital content through Amazon, you might be happiest sticking with what you know.
Is your tablet for work?
The iPad and Kindle Fire HDX are both great for TV, movies, ebooks, and games. The iPad, however, is better for work-related tasks if you think you’ll be working with it. First, many more enterprises and businesses allow and support iPads, and if they already let you use your iPhone, enabling an iPad is simple. Second, the Apple App Store ecosystem simply has a broader range of high-quality apps available. While it’s true that most every big-name app is available via Amazon’s store and Kindle, I still see that the overall edge goes to Apple. Combine it with many more keyboard, case, and other accessories, and your decision will lean toward Apple for any serious work and travel considerations. That said, Amazon has been reducing the gap and as more people bring Kindles to work, more businesses will actively support them.
Is your new tablet destined for young kids?
Amazon has one feature I envy when it comes to kids: Kindle FreeTime. This feature lets parents create a profile for each of their kids that lets them choose what books, apps, games, and videos they can give their kids access to. With Kindle FreeTime, the navigation changes to a kid-friendly design, plus parents can set limits on the amount of screen time they’ll allow. You can even set a daily limit on total use or restrict certain categories — like games — while allowing web browsing or ebook reading. With Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, parents can pay $2.99 per month to get access to a broad library of content.
Apple, unfortunately, has nothing like this. In fact, if you are considering an iPad, you might want to be careful because it’s far too difficult to lock out work or play content from kid content. If you hand over your iPad, a kid might stumble upon an R-rated movie. Or get a notification for a meeting with your boss and reject the calendar invite. Or suddenly believe that swiping and deleting email is a fun new “game.”
Is price a major factor?
On the surface, at the time of this writing, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX registers a hands-down win on pricing. You get a heckuva lot of tablet for a compelling quality-to-price ratio. The WiFi-only Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ tablet with 16GB of storage comes in at around $394. (Which “Special Offers” that are basically ads on the screensaver and lock screen, you an drop the price down to $379. In my mind, the “Special Offers” lower pricing is not worth the savings, especially if you really use your Kindle Fire a lot, for years.)
The 7″ Kindle Fire HDX with 16GB and WiFi is about $244. This is an amazing price point, no doubt about it.
Comparatively, the WiFi-only iPad Air with a 9.7″ screen with 16GB of storage is $499 ($629 with cellular data capability).
The iPad mini with Retina Display with a 7.9″ screen with 16GB of storage starts at $399 ($529 with cellular data capability).
Conversely, to get cellular data capabilities with the Kindle Fire HDX, the price jumps $100 — to $494 in the 8.9″ model and to $344 in the 7″ model.
Hands down, the typical cost to buy a tablet is far more compelling with Amazon.
What if price isn’t the most important factor?
If price isn’t a core factor, I recommend Apple’s iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display. The screen sizes are slightly larger while the overall weight is still light. The build quality is insanely great. Beyond that, I’m obviously biased toward iOS and my Apple-oriented ecosystem. I believe Apple does a better job with the overall world of products it has created. When real-world usage of tablets gets reported by various analysts, Apple tends to come out on top.
So, when people ask me which tablet to buy, an Apple iPad or Kindle Fire HDX? First, I steer them toward the newer models. It’s just the smartest buy. Next, I steer them toward their favorite ecosystem Apple’s iTunes and App Store or Amazon’s Prime? Third, work or play? Amazon gets the edge for pure play because the cost is so favorable. But Apple takes the edge for work. Last of all, price. I believe in paying for a quality experience, and Apple delivers. Yet, Amazon’s quality-to-price ratio is wicked good.
I believe the difference is this: The iPad gives you a slightly broader range of uses in a slightly better operating system with a slightly better App ecosystem with far better accessories with far better iPhone, Mac, and Apple TV integration. For me, the it all adds up to a clear winner. But I’m not everybody.
All told, you can’t really go wrong with an iPad or Kindle Fire.
Check out current pricing at Amazon: