Amazon Kindle Fire, the $35 “Education” edition

It was hard to miss the $35 Kindle Fire deal on Friday. Deep discounts extended across nearly all the Amazon Kindle product line but I limited myself to purchasing two units, augmenting the 2011-vintage unit we already had on-hand.

Our new tablets arrived yesterday and they are definitely a step up in quality from the original line. They’re faster, the UI is cleaner, the features more extensive with built-in cameras and microphone. The units are not so different in weight but they feel better made and more consumer ready.

The new Fires are also more obviously and in-your-face a marketing arm of Amazon and less general purpose tablets. That is hardly surprising for a $35 (shipped!) purchase but it’s one that as a parent you have to be really cautious with. I quickly enabled parental controls (something I’ve never done on our iPads) and disabled insta-purchases.

One of the two Kindles is replacing a first generation iPad mini, which was lovingly purchased as “gently refurbished” before being dropped from a height of about three feet to its death, approximately five seconds (give or take a week) after its arrival. That mini replaced a 1st gen iPad, which since the mini’s untimely demise, has been back in service — gasping and wheezing and doing its best to keep up. The Kindle is no iPad mini but it has a role in our lives to fill.

Speaking as a parent, having a $35 alternate is a very good thing. I don’t really care that it doesn’t run all the same apps (or even very many of the good apps). It connects to the net, does email and web, allows child to do most school related tasks. It is acceptable.

We’ll see how the school transition goes. I suspect teachers will applaud the built-in book reading and condemn the onboard videos. (There’s also a music app but really who wants to spend time setting that up?) At the very least, this new tablet will probably work better and more reliably than the 1st generation iPad that’s currently being hauled to and from school every day. Fingers crossed.

As for the second Kindle Fire, well, that’s going to younger brother who is currently trying to keep his Chromebook working. The 2012 Samsung Chromebook although initially appealing turned out to be one of the worst pieces of hardware we ever bought

His all-Chromebook school agrees. They’re transitioning next year away from these cheaply made, unreliable pieces of…hardware…probably to iPads if they can get a deal/grant/whatever through the school district.

Every parent was required to purchase Chromebook insurance. We’ve paid twice for replacements, and this doesn’t count the 2012 Chromebook we personally bought out of pocket and liked so much for the first few months until it started to fail and fail and fail and fail.

Compare this to our 2011 Kindle Fire which other than a loose charging port is still working well and our 2010 iPad, which we’re abandoning only because it weighs about as much as a baby elephant and it cannot run new operating systems.

Amazon isn’t pushing Kindle into the classroom the way Apple makes that connection. It’s a commerce machine not a expression of learning and expression. I may have to use side-loading to get classroom-specific Android software onto the boy’s new Kindle Fire. Last night, I got the technique down, just in case.

For $70 total shipped between the two tablets, it’s an experiment I’m happier to make than usual. Wish us luck. I know there will be more roadbumps than if we went the iPad route.


  • I have a Kindle Fire, must be a near original version, I’m thinking 2011 or 2012. I bought it thinking I was going to do some Android on Kindle work for a client, but it never panned out. I set it up, then proceeded to not even use it. Ever. What would you recommend I do with it? I don’t think you can even get 20 bucks for one on eBay. I don’t think you can update the OS or even download apps for it anymore. I might be wrong about that last part. It’s a shame, and a waste of money. I wish I could find a child, or even an elderly person that would use the heck out of it. :-/

    • As an owner of a 1st gen, I assure you that you can still update the OS (it’s done for your automagically) and download apps. You can also use it for watching videos, reading books, etc. If you really think you don’t have a use for it, why not call up some retirement homes or shelters and see if they have a use for it

      • I hope to find someone that can use it. I may try to root it and install something closer to stock Android. That would make it more usable. It was connected to wifi for quite a while and there was no automagic update happening, so I just did a manual update to the 6.3.4 OS version. It was on 6.3.2. Nothing noticeably different with the update. I’m pretty sure Amazon isn’t going to be putting out anymore OS updates for it.