Why I Returned to iPhone from Amazon’s Fire

two phones

1. Meerkat

At South by Southwest Interactive, Meerkat was The Thing. The buzzing of the early adopters was electric. Yes, I would be able to try it with my iPad mini when I returned to Denver, but who wants to lug something that big around for spontaneous video livestreaming? Meerkat, and now Periscope, have added a whole new reason for having a computer in your pocket or purse. My Fire Phone was not going to be invited to the party.

2. Starbucks and My Bank

I couldn’t find an app for my bank at Amazon’s App Store for Android or at 1Mobile Market. The Starbucks app that I downloaded from 1Mobile Market liked to stop working every now and then, complete with an irritating alert on the home screen announcing, “Starbucks has stopped.”

3. Pebble and Apple Watch

Although 1Mobile Market enabled me to download the Pebble app to my Fire, the performance was unreliable on the watch. And of course Apple Watch will have nothing to say to a Fire phone.

4. Security

In Marc Goodman’s Future Crimes, I read this scary statistic: 99 percent of all mobile malware is targeted against Google’s Android mobile operating system. The problem, Goodman asserts, is that Android devices are slow to receive updates and bug fixes to the operating system. That gives criminals the time they need “to find hole after hole in the Android OS and target it for exploitation.”

By comparison, Apple’s software is generally updated in a more timely manner on iOS devices. A friend of mine who works in information technology at a major bank recently told me they are switching from Blackberry to Apple for all bank-supported mobile devices, because Apple has the best security. Not Android. Since the Fire phone is based on Android, I decided that a move to Apple would put me on a more secure mobile platform. I’m not saying this was as important a reason to switch as Meerkat, but it was on the list.

5. It Ain’t Forever

When I learned from an AT&T rep that I did not need to sign up for another two-year contract in order to switch to an iPhone 6 Plus, that made my decision much easier. I had thought I would need to come up with nearly $1,000 to buy an unlocked iPhone, but the AT&T Next installment plan required only paying the tax up front, less than $100. I fully expect to switch back to Fire Phone 2 when it is released, probably this fall. Since AT&T is handling the current Fire phone, I’m sure the next one will be available as an upgrade via AT&T Next. There will probably be a fee to switch, but that’s a cost of my following Amazon’s gadgets as closely as I do in my weekly podcast. I will spend a lot more flying to wherever the Fire Phone 2 press conference is held.

6. The Six Plus is a Beauty

On visits to the Apple Stores here in Denver and in Cambridge, Mass., I always stopped by the phones table to admire the iPhone 6 Plus. I’d put one in my pocket each time, assuring myself that it’s not too big for easy carrying. I loved how thin it felt compared with the blocky Fire phone. Even in a quick review of its software, I found things to covet. For example, the photo editing on the iPhone includes an elegant straightening adjustment, so you can bring the horizon of a photo into perfect alignment even if you missed it when you snapped the shot. There is no way to do that on the Fire.

The larger size of the Six Plus makes it better for reading and watching video. The diagonal measurement of the Plus is 5.5 inches, compared with 4.7 inches for the Fire. I wasn’t sure when I switched, but it turns out the iPhone 6 Plus is big enough that I will probably retire two gadgets from my arsenal, the iPad mini and my Fire HD 6. Yes, they are nicer to read and watch on than the Plus, but the advantage is not enough to justify keeping them. I love it when I can pare down the number of gadgets I take on a trip. With the purchase of a fantastic $26 Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone, I can do real work at a Starbucks using the iPhone 6 Plus. It looks a little odd, because the keyboard is so much bigger than the screen, but I can write a script for the podcast or a blog post just fine.

7. Family Matters

I am the designated Tech Support for my extended family, and over the years I have convinced most of the clan to join Tribe Apple. During my eight months in the Amazon Fire desert, my iPhone skills got a little rusty. I was slower to figure out how to help my parents, in their 80’s, and my wife Darlene and her sister, and my sister, and my daughters–it’s a big network I support–how to make minor adjustments or solve irritating problems. Now that I’m back on an iPhone, I will be better able to help.

8. Text and iMessage

One of the most irritating aspects of leaving Apple for Amazon’s Fire was that I could not respond to text messages from my computer, a MacBook Air. It turned out to be a pain in the neck to disengage from iMessage, and for a while my family wasn’t able to send me text messages at all. Once I got it figured out, my messages showed up in green instead of blue, which designates iMessage. Where computer texting really pays off is in the ability to copy a web page link and drop it into a text message. I did this yesterday when I found a new biography of George Washington that I thought Dad would like. In just a few seconds I had the link in an iMessage on its way to his iPhone 5S.

9. I gave the Fire a Good Trial

I was swept away with enthusiasm for the Fire phone during the Seattle press event when Jeff Bezos triumphantly held one aloft and dazzled us with its innovative capabilities, notably Dynamic Perspective and Firefly. Even so, it was with some trepidation that I actually ported my mobile number from my then iPhone 5s to the Fire. The switch required that I leave Verizon for AT&T, which meant weak or nonexistent cell coverage on our occasional drives to see old friends in Casper, Wyoming. Still, I loved the Fire and over eight months I became an enthusiastic user.

Features which caused grumbling in the tech press, like the gestures enabling you to see right and left side panels without touching the screen, became second nature to me. Now I miss them on the iPhone. In order to reveal the quick menu of settings to turn on the flashlight or adjust the brightness, you just tilt the Fire and the settings appear. A different movement of the wrist reveals a left panel that, from the home screen, shows all the Amazon options for content–books, video, audiobooks, shopping etc. When reading a Kindle book, a flick of the wrist brings up the chapters and other navigation choices.

The Fire phone’s Dynamic Perspective, the beautiful 3D effect which took a lot of engineering to accomplish, is stunning in my opinion. The lock screens are beautiful, and you can’t help but move your head to peer around the objects, like a fountain pen, to see what’s behind them. It also, I believe, makes it possible to read a Kindle book by scrolling instead of tapping for page turns. This is a more natural way of reading, in my experience, and I miss it on the iPhone.

The other day I saw a QR code that interested me, but I didn’t bother trying to grab it with my iPhone. That was a great feature of the Fire phone. With one press of a physical button, I could activate Firefly and read a QR code without breaking stride. The same button, held more briefly, brings up the camera. That’s an easier and quicker camera activation, in my opinion, than the iPhone’s two-step process. You press the home button to turn on the screen, then you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, over the camera icon.

And of course the biggest thing I miss from the Fire is Mayday, Amazon’s revolutionary free 24/7 video chat tech support. I paid $99 for two years of AppleCare support for my new iPhone. I can reach a tech between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Central Time, but the wait for someone to answer the call is usually 10 times longer than I ever waited for a Mayday response. And when the tech does answer, I have to explain to him or her what I’m looking at on my iPhone. By comparison, the Mayday techs see my phone instantly and can, if I agree, take over the controls to fix a problem in seconds that I would still be trying to explain to the Apple rep.

10. Why I Returned to iPhone: The Long Form

You can read 11 full chapters of my transition from Fire phone to iPhone 6 Plus in a Wattpad story I wrote titled Time for a Change.  I want to thank listener David Enzel for suggesting that I post a summary of my reasons for the switch here. I’d love to hear your comments on Fire v. iPhone, so please weigh in below. You can also email me at PodChronicles AT gmail DOT com.


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TKC 347 Tom Semple

Tom Semple

Software Quality Engineer in Santa Clara, California 

Interview starts at 13:06 and ends at 39:32

So if you have Evernote installed on your Fire, then it will be one of the options. You can put it directly into your notebook. It’s not quite as slick as I’d like, but it’s better than copy and paste.


My “Time for a Change” story at Wattpad including Chapter 11, “What I Will Miss Most About the Fire Phone.”

Click here to follow me on Meerkat


iPhone 6 Plus (unlocked) at Amazon.com

Unlocked Fire Phone

Scott Galloway on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google (video) – January 20, 2105

Interview with Tom Semple


Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

clippings.io Kindle notes and highlights organizer

Marvin reading apps

Next Week’s Guest

R. U. Sirius and Jay Cornell, authors of Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Perspective” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

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TKC 346 Eric Migicovsky at SXSW

Eric Migicovsky

Founder and CEO of Pebble Technology Corp.

Interview starts at 7:54 and ends at 19:50

What we found is that as long as you’re open, and the watch is an open platform, people will hack on it, people will build. So there’s actually a Windows Phone for Pebble, there’s a Blackberry app. I’ll have to check to see if there’s an Amazon app.


Conversations at South by Southwest Interactive

Prof. Krystine Batcho of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY. She was a panelist at a session titled “Pros and Cons of Constant Connection (Interview starts at 1:19)

Katherine Malm (4:39), longtime Kindle Chronicles listener, who owned with her husband Peter Pan Mini Golf in Austin.

Trip Adler (19:53) Co-founder and CEO of Scribd. He was a panelist at the session titled “Seemingly Seemless Seamless. (Also mentioned: Oyster, Kindle Unlimited, Juli Monroe’s Teleread post on comics at Scribd)

Alistair Somerville (27:09), a sensory design and cognition expert at Acuity Design, a Pebble watch wearer and participant in the “How Digital Can Shape the Future of Books” panel.

Dan Franklin (33:20), digital publisher at Penguin Random House UK and co-leader of the panel mentioned above. (Also mentioned: Anna Todd, a traditionally published author who got her start on Wattpad; Claude Lévi-Strauss) 

Interview with Eric Migicovsky

Pebble watch site

Pebble’s current Kickstarter campaign


Apple Watch

A Faster Reader app for Pebble at Google Play store

Pebble watch at Amazon.com


Our Daily Bread

Upcoming Guests

Tom Semple

R U Sirius and Jay Cornell, authors of Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

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Disrupting Innovation – Book Publishing and New Media – Live Blog at SXSW15

panel photo

Panelists: Aaron Lammer, cofounder of longform.org; Jeff Umbro, digital marketing manager at Goldberg McDuffie Communications, Ryan Chapman, managing director of marketing and digital projects, BOMB Magazine, and Iris Blasi, Marketing director at Pegasus Books. Here we go…


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Serialized Fiction Panel at #SXSW15: Live Blog

IMG_20150316_093609Next up at South by Southwest, a panel about serialized fiction. There are a couple of folks from Plympton, a pioneer of the genre. And we’re off…

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SXSW Liveblog: Publishing Innovation – Next Century Reading

Up next here at South by Southwest Interactive: a two-person panel comprising Ashleigh Gardner, head of writer and publisher partnerships at Wattpad, and Jason Hovey, vice president of business development at Booktrack.

Naturally I will be interested to hear from Ashleigh Gardner, given my ongoing experiment at Wattpad. For comparison, I’ve also started a SXSW Journal at Amazon’s new entry into the community-writing space, WriteOn.

I am also familiar with Booktrack, because I interviewed co-founder Mark Cameron at Digital Bookworld for TKC 339. Here we go:


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Trying out Amazon’s new WriteOn at SXSW

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 9.42.21 AM

At the McDonalds lounge, I set up a WriteOn journal that I plan to tend here at South By. The setup was easy, and the writing area is well-designed, very similar to that of Wattpad, which I’m also trying out with an extended essay titled “Time for a Change.”

I need to leave time to talk to people and learn things, as opposed to writing about people and ideas, so my good intention to post daily to these two writing communities may not be realistic. Plus, I need to fill my Zoom recorder with clips for next week’s podcast. So far I’m lovin’ it all.


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TKC 345 James McQuivey


Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

Interview starts at 17:05 and ends at 40:13

I think the problem with the written word is that it is so easy to generate and—no disrespect to the best writers out there—but at least poorly constructed sentences are very easy to generate. It means that this is a particular medium that will be forever in flux, because someone will always say, “Oh, I’d rather do it over here, or I’d rather host it over here or I’d rather publish it this way.”


“The Jeff Bezos of 1999: Nerd of the Amazon” – the late Bob Simon’s 60 Minutes profile of Jeff Bezos (video).

“Is That the Old Days in Your Pocket?” – Chapter 5 of my Wattpad title, Time for a Change

“The Key Differences Between Alibaba and Amazon in One Chart” by Hayley Peterson at Business Insider – September 19, 2014

“Amazon Retreating in China? Not Exactly…”  by Doug Young at Forbes – March 9, 2015


“Amazon goes head to head with Wattpad in battle for fanfic writers” by Victoria James at The Guardian – December 8, 2014

“Has Amazon picked 79 pounds out of YOUR pocket?” by Tom Rawstone at The Daily Mail – March 6, 2015

Tech Tips

Help staying on the right page with your Kindle Voyage

Interview with James McQuivey

Forrester Research

Apple Watch

Samsung watches at Amazon

$100 Pebble watch at Amazon

Pebble Watch home page

Kindle Scout




Forrester Research’s Forum for Market Leaders in New York City April 14-15, 2015 (McQuivey will be keynote speaker.)


Confessions of a Muslim Girl (Wattpad) by Aaisha Sanaullah

Prayer Beads on the Train: A Collection of Stories Written on the MTA (Wattpad) by Anne Borne

Have You No Shame? And Other Regrettable Stories (WattPad) by Rachel Shukert

Time for a Change (Wattpad) by Len Edgerly

The Remains of War: Surviving the Other Concentration Camps of World War II by G. Pauline Kok-Schurgers


Eolake Stobblehouse on BlueInk Review selections. [CORRECTION: In the audio, I misstated the URL for Eolake’s blog. It’s eReaderjoy.blogspot.com ]

Next Week’s Show

Live (almost) from Austin, Texas, it’s South by Southwest Interactive!

South by Southwest: On Distraction and Sharks” – Chapter 6 of Time for a Change at Wattpad

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads


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TKC 344 Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson, Headshot

Editorial Director, Amazon.com

Interview starts at 17:17 and ends at 38:50

Dead Wake: Well this is Erik Larson, and if Erik Larson told me somebody had tied their shoes in an interesting way, I think I would read the book.


“Amazon may soon launch a wireless service” (video) – Nicholas Thompson, editor of NewYorker.com, on CBS News.

“Pros and cons of e-reading” by Richard Hollick at Making Book – February 28, 2015

Rave review of Amazon Echo from Leo Laporte and Mike Elgan (video) – February 11, 2015

“Regional Grocer Wegmans Unseats Amazon to Claim Top Corporate Reputation Ranking” at Harris Poll – February 4, 2015

Tech Tip


Interview with Sara Nelson, editorial director at Amazon.com

Best Books of the Month selected by Amazon’s book editors

Grove Atlantic

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Check out this terrific YouTube video featuring author Helen Macdonald.

Aquarium by David Vann

Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman (March Spotlight Selection)

Hausfrau: A Novel by Jill Alexander Essbaum (March Featured Debut Selection)

The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel by Daniel Torday

Barefoot Dogs: Stories by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

The Animals: A Novel by Christian Kiefer

The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot by Blaine Harden

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Also by Erik Larson: In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America

Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman

Omnivoracious blog, a.k.a The Amazon Book Review

Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the 70s & the 80s by Brad Gooch


“Time for a Change,” my first Wattpad publication

Click here for link to Apple’s livestream of the March 9 (10 a.m. PST) press event launching the Apple Watch

Pebble watch

Next Week’s Guest

James McQuivey vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

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TKC 343 Juli Monroe


Editor-in-Chief of TeleRead

Interview starts at 17:22 and ends at 39:20

If large-screen smartphones were going to replace the tablet, I would assume that I would start seeing people working on their big phones, and I still don’t see it.


“Cory Doctorow Rejoins EFF to Eradicate DRM Everywhere” – Electronic Frontier Foundation release – January 20, 2015

HAL 9000: “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” (video)

Cory Doctorow interview February 28, 2014 on The Kindle Chronicles – TKC 239

“Assessing the Health of Independent Bookstores” by Stephen Heyman at The New York Times – February 25, 2015

“E-Book of Malcolm X Autobiography Expected by May” by Hillel Italie at ABC News – February 20, 2015.

Kindle Scout

“Will Amazon’s Kindle Scout democratize publishing?” by Husna Haq at The Christian Science Monitor – February 27, 2015

Parallel Relativity by Calan Hunter – available for Kindle Scout sample and nomination for publishing

“Amazon’s product-finding Firefly lands on Fire HD tablets” by Kif Leswing at Gigaom – February 25, 2015

Pebble watch website

Pebble Smartwatch for iPhone and Android at Amazon.com – $99.99

Kickstarter for Pebble Time smart watch

“A Pebble in Apple’s Shoe” by Steven Levy at Medium – February 24, 2015

Tech Tip

“Kindlebox lets you send eBooks direct to your Kindle with Dropbox” by Amanda Connolly at The Next Web – February 20, 2015


Interview with Juli Monroe


1 to 1 Discovery website

“How to stream Amazon Instant Videos on a Nexus 7 or other Android Tablet (video)” by Juli Monroe at TeleRead – July 8, 2014

Amazon Prime Instant Video app for Android

“How to upgrade the Nook HD to Kit Kat with Cyanogenmod” by Chris Meadows at TeleRead – May 31, 2014


“Comic books experience on Scribd” by Juli Monroe at TeleRead – February 18, 2015


Angel: After the Fall and Spike, and comics by Jim Butcher at Scribd

Marvel Comics at Scribd

Comics app by ComiXology at Appstore for Android at Amazon.com

VIZ Manga

Kindle Unlimited

Oyster Books

Richie Rich Cash #014 at the Internet Archive

“Our Love Affair with the Tablet Is Over” by Zal Bilimoria at re/code – February 6, 2014

The Case of the Reincarnated Lover (The Warlock Case Files Book 3) by Juli Monroe

The Enthusiast Networker by Juli Monroe


Buzz Books 2015: Spring/Summer: Exclusive Excerpts from 39 Top New Titles by Publishing Publishers Lunch – free

Next Week’s Guest

Sara Nelson, editorial director for Amazon.com books, previewing “Best Books of the Month” for March

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Check out The Kindle Chronicles on Clammr!

Download the Clammr app to your iPhone or iPad here, set up an account, search for “Kindle” with the browsing tool, and listen to 18-second audio clips of the Kindle Chronicles that you can share on Twitter, Facebook, text message, or email. The Clammr snippets contain links to the full episode of the show, so they may be a good way to spread the word. You can also sample lots of other great podcasts.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

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