One of the cooler things about the Amazon Kindle is the ‘free’ wireless access courtesy of Sprint’s EVDO cell service. This services is what allows the purchase of the Amazon content directly from the device. You can do this anywhere where there is Sprint EVDO service, so anywhere in US, basically, except for Alaska, parts of Montana (I think) and my Mother in law’s house (which is about two miles from a Sprint tower, go figure.) So, what else is this wireless good for? How about some web surfing?
Yes, web browsing is a feature of the Kindle. The experience is, shall we say, less than stellar. In fact, it is pretty much like surfing on a cell phone, only with a bigger screen. The browser is considered ‘experimental’ by Amazon and it lives up to that moniker. Now, before you say ‘well, what good is it, then?’ I’ll not only tell you, but show you how to make the best of the experience.
There are two ‘modes’ for the browser, basic and advanced. Basic is just like your average smart or dumb cell phone browser: you have a very basic-and limited-experience. Advanced, however, actually tries to interpret HTML correctly. It sort of works and seems like Netscape 2.0. You’ll get an ok rendering on some sites, good on others and not so much on the rest. Trial and error is the order of the day. I use advanced. It takes longer to display, but seems worth the trade off in speed.
USING THE BROWSER
To access the browser, make sure your Kindle is on the home screen by pressing the home key. Once the home screen is displayed, scroll to the MENU and click it. You’ll see the Kindle main menu. Scroll down to the ‘Experimental’ option and click it. When the Experimental screen displays, scroll to the Basic Web option and click the wheel. The next screen to display is the ‘My Links’ page. From here, you can select a link OR enter a URL. Kindle comes with a dozen or so preprogrammed links. You can add your own. Some of the links include: Amazon, Wikipedia, MSNBC, a couple of Yahoo! sites and others. Once you’ve selected a site, it could take a few seconds to a minute or more, depending on the complexity of the site. Most will load in a few seconds. I’ve had one or two sites actually lock up the browser and I’ve had to reset the device.
Navigating around a site is tricky. Most pages will be longer than what can be displayed on the screen, so they get broken up in to multiple pages. You use the hardware Next and Previous buttons to navigate them. To navigate links on a page, scroll up or down to the line on the page containing the link you want to click and click the wheel. A popup will display and contain the clickable elements or input fields. Select the one you want and click the wheel. Your link should activate or, if you selected an input box, another popup will display with the field. Use the keyboard to enter your data and click submit. This is basically how you interact with the browser. The menu at the bottom of the screen contains most of the things you’d expect it to contain, like ‘add to favorites’ and also things like ‘go to home page’, etc. The really difficult thing to overcome is the whole pointer mechanism. I call the ‘pointer’ an ‘elevator’ because that makes more sense (it goes up, it goes down.)
Don’t expect the browser to give you a terrific experience, it’s not an iPhone but it is a step better than an average cell phone. It is great if you are away from your computer and want to check something on the web, check out the weather, etc. It is terrific for that ‘gotta look up something quick’ experience or, if you are on the beach, in a restaurant, etc. As long as you don’t expect a whole, you won’t be disappointed. The browser works and does what it is supposed to do well enough.