Kindle 3G Upgrade: Mini Review, Recommendations

The "Home", "Menu" and "Back" buttons are now to the right of the keyboard.

I’ve previously expressed my love for the Kindle family of devices, and on a whim decided to upgrade from the Kindle 2 to the new Kindle 3G with 3G and wifi. For others contemplating the upgrade, here’s what you need to know:

Pros

  • The new button layout is way better. Next/Previous button are on both sides of the screen, and Home and Menu buttons have been moved to the keyboard area, along with a new direction pad (“d-pad”) design that is easier to use, albeit different.
  • Smaller device footprint. Kindle 3 feels more compact and portable than Kindle 2.
  • The screen update time is noticibly better, but only slightly so. It’s definitely noticable and a welcome improvement, but don’t expect LCD-level performance here. It’s still e-ink.
  • Wifi! Not that on the more expensive model, you have both wifi support as well as the free 3G access.

Cons

"Next" and "Previous" buttons are now on BOTH sides of the device. A welcome change!
  • $189 for a bunch of marginal upgrades is a tough sell.
  • Keyboard is still ghetto. It feels like typing on a 1990’s scientificĀ calculator.
  • The Next/Previous buttons depress easier than before, but they’re also smaller and don’t have any nubs to identify the button by touch. This seems stupid.
  • Sharper screen. It’s a subtle improvement, but definitely feels crisper.

Recommendations

  • New users should go for it, and light readers should be perfectly fine with the Wifi-only $139 model.
  • Existing users with heavy usage patterns (at least an hour a day on average) should go for it. You’ll love the small speed improvements when highlighting and flipping pages.
  • Existing Kindle 2 owners with light usage patterns should skip this revision. Future models will certainly see further improvements and lower costs.

Amazon Kindle Customer Service Experience

Kindle 2 with M-Edge Leather Platform Jacket and optional e-Luminator 2 book light.

About a month ago I noticed the top of my Kindle 2’s e-ink display starting to go out. Starting from the top of the screen, row-by-row slowly ceased to display “ink” until I could no longer see the battery indicator area. I could surely have lived with this, but given that the device is less than a year old I gave the Kindle support number a call.

I purchase a lot from Amazon and have used pretty much every service they offer, including long-time Prime delivery service membership and I’m fairly certain that my Amazon book purchases would put me in their 99th percentile of perfered consumers–so perhaps the call handler knew to treat me better than the average Joe–but regardless, the process was a true 5-star experience. Abbreviated transscript of the call:

Me: The screen on my Kindle 2 is going out.

Rep: I’m very sorry to hear that. <additional scripted apologies designed to make me feel better> How about we overnight you a replacement?

Me: Srsly?

Rep: Sure. It’ll be delivered tomorrow morning.

Me: Sweet!

And that was it. The replacement arrived the next morning as stated. It took me less than 5 minutes total to deal with the issue. For a unit of anything under warrantee this is the level of service I would hope for. Bravo, Amazon!