Is the Amazon Kindle the perfect gadget?
With a narrow focus and few flaws, Amazon's Kindle is almost perfect.
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At Reviewed.com, we like to debate everything. Music, movies, food, whether or not a toaster oven is a worthwhile appliance... everything. But if there's one thing that every single person on our staff agrees on, it's this: The Amazon Kindle is pretty much perfect, and it's the number one thing we're all bringing if we get stranded on a desert island.
It's also criminally overlooked. We spend months debating about small design changes to the iPhone, while the Kindle just sort of hums along, dominating the e-reader market with ruthless efficiency. The Kindle Paperwhite (MSRP $129, $99 right now at Amazon), with its backlit screen, is so good that it could never see a meaningful design change and I don't think many people would complain.
It's not even Amazon's top-tier Kindle, either. The $199 (down to $179) Kindle Voyage has a better backlight and is a bit more expensive, and the Cadillac of the lineup is the waterproof $289 Kindle Oasis, with its fancy schmancy leather charging cover. But as nice as the Oasis is, it's proof positive that there just isn't much left to "fix" with the Kindle Paperwhite—certainly not enough that we'd recommend spending nearly $200 extra.
And while it's true that the Kindle is never going to become the next iPhone, what makes it a killer gadget is that it's not trying to be. The classic gadgets—like the Sony Walkman, the computer mouse, and even the original iPod—had a clarity of purpose that wasn't muddied up by aspirations of trying to influence every aspect of your life.
Gadgets aren't meant to take over your entire life. They may be something you use everyday, but they're not something you use for everything. It's why the iPhone isn't really a gadget; it's something else entirely. The Kindle does one thing, does it well, doesn't cost a lot, and it has a battery that lasts for weeks on end. Other e-readers have come close, but the Kindle just nails it.
Of course, it wasn't always like that. The earliest Kindles were not great, and it wasn't until about five years ago that the Kindle really got its act together. That's due in part to tough competition from the Nook, Sony, and Kobo e-readers, which forced the Kindle to improve before mostly falling off the map in the US.
While we do think there are subtle improvements Amazon could make to its services, and we'd love if all the Kindles were waterproof, there really isn't much else we'd like to see changed. Adding almost anything else to it (besides a case) would only make it more expensive, without meaningfully improving the product. Even improving battery life seems like a waste of effort; after all, what could you do with three months of battery life that you can't do with two?
And in an age where one device (your phone) is quickly replacing every other gizmo you'd normally keep around your home, it's nice to see one single-use gadget is still standing strong.