So, Amazon doesn't exactly highlight this, but all of its Kindle Fires are Androids on the inside. Amazon slaps a heavy skin on top, so it's not at all recognizable, but it's Android all the same. Great, so you get access to all of the Android apps, right? Not exactly.
Amazon has strayed far enough from the Android path that it doesn't have access to the Google Play Store (formerly the Android Market). And while there are 50,000 offerings in Amazon's Apps for Android store, that pales in comparison to the 600,000 apps every other Android user has at their disposal.
A lot of what Amazon's missing is junk. But some very good apps got left out in the cold. Here's what you'll be missing most:
The Play Store isn't the only Google-built app that didn't make it over the water. Actually, none of them did. That means Google Maps, Translate, Drive, Earth, Calendar, Wallet, Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, and others aren't anywhere to be found among Amazon's Android apps. Which is a shame, because they're all the best at what they do.
This isn't a huge surprise since the original Fire didn't have a camera, but as of now you won't be able to browse your Instagram feed from your new Kindle Fire HD, either. If I couldn't see what Jesus Diaz has for dinner every night I think I'd kill myself.
Bargains! Good, cheap bargains on things you probably don't need but damnit they're such a bargain! Well, none of that on your Fire (at least not from Groupon). Although frankly, this might have just as much to do with the fact that Amazon owns a major stake in megacompetitor LivingSocial. Either way, Groupon's a notable absentee.
Firefox for Android isn't perfect yet, but if you use it as your main desktop browser, you were probably psyched about being able to sync all of your bookmarks, browsing history and all of that good stuff. No Firefox and no Chrome? As good as Kindle Fire's native browser is, it's always nice to have options.
Want to do some semi-serious photo editing on your tablet? Adobe's PhotoShop Touch is the current benchmark, and it's AWOL on the Fire. You can get PhotoShop Express, but it's not nearly as robust.
One of the banner features of Android is widgets. They provide super fast access to the information you want and/or instant controls for music, settings, or just about any program you want. They're really handy, but they live on your tablet's desktop. The Kindle Fire has ditched said desktop, so widgets wouldn't make any sense.
This list is just from a short skim through the top Android app and through stuff I have on my phone. There are many others (Speedtest.net, for example). In other instances, they'll have a free version, but not the more fully featured paid version, or vice versa.
Now, there are some options for getting these tantalizing forbidden apps onto your Fire, but none of them will appeal to the masses. It is possible to sideload apps on to the Fire, but doing so is a royal pain in the ass. And yes, it's possible to root the Fire and have it run a custom version of Android, but most people can't or don't want to. More importantly, you probably shouldn't have to. In terms of app ecosystems, Android is the hands-down winner.
Amazon may have more books and music than the Google Play Store, but here's the thing: in Android you can just download the Amazon MP3 app, or the Kindle App, and then you have access to all of those Amazon titles, plus Google's, plus pretty much anybody else's. There's no Amazon Instant Video yet, but with all of the other sources, you aren't likely to miss it.
That's not to say the Kindle Fires aren't more than decent. They are! But remember that there are some gaping holes in its game—the kind that don't show up on a spec sheet.