iPad vs. iPod touch vs. Kindle Fire: Which should you get?

iPad vs. iPod touch vs. Kindle Fire: Which should you get?

Comparing the pros and cons, costs and features, between Apple's iPad 2 and iPod touch, and Amazon's new Kindle Fire

Trying to decide between an Apple iPad 2 or iPod touch and an Amazon Kindle, either for yourself or as a gift for someone else? There's a lot to consider -- the quality and dimensions of the hardware, the features and flexibility of the operating system, the availability and diversity of the content, the difference in cost and value, and we'll take you through all of it, point by point, to help you decide.

Location

iPad vs. iPod touch vs. Kindle Fire: Location

The first and easiest filter is simple geography. If you live outside the U.S., Amazon has such limited content support that it might as well be non-existant. Apple by contrast has good support for apps and increasing support for music, movies, and more around the world.

  • Kindle is U.S.-centric
  • iPad and iPod touch have better international support

Cost

iPad is literally twice the price of the Kindle Fire and while an argument can be made that the iPad is by far a better value, if you only have $200 in your budget, you're better off considering the Kindle Fire or the much smaller iPod touch.

  • iPad starts at $499
  • Kindle Fire is $199
  • iPod touch starts at $199

Mobility

iPad vs. iPod touch vs. Kindle Fire: Mobility

iPad has a 9.7-inch screen. Kindle Fire has a 7-inch screen. iPod touch has a 3.5-inch screen. The iPad is good for running more expansive apps and immersive content, the iPod touch for more on-the-go, interstitial use. The Amazon Fire is a great compromise between the two size.

  • iPad is large and heavy, portable but not mobile, requires a travel bag
  • Kindle Fire is medium sized, can fit in most large pockets
  • iPod touch is small and ultra-mobile, easy to carry anywhere

Connectivity

iPad vs. iPod touch vs. Kindle Fire: Connectivity

If you need to access the internet away from your home, work, school, or other Wi-Fi hotspot, currently only the iPad has a 3G option. If you don't have easy access to a Mi-Fi or tethering, Kindle Fire and iPod touch go offline.

  • iPad has 3G option
  • Kindle Fire and iPod touch are Wi-Fi only

Hardware

iPad vs. iPod touch vs. Kindle Fire: Hardware

The iPad has amazing fit and finish and is absolutely best in class in most areas, with the notable exception of the rather pathetic front and rear cameras. The iPod touch is similar, though has a lower screen technology (no inter-plane switching) to keep costs down as well. The Amazon Kindle Fire uses the BlackBerry Playbook chassis which is great but not Apple great.

  • iPad is high-quality glass and aluminum with excellent display
  • Kindle fire is good quality, re-purposed plastic with good display
  • iPod touch is high-quality glass and aluminum with okay display

Software

Apple built the iPad and the iPod touch to fully take advantage of their iOS operating system, including all the great features like FaceTime for free video calls, tons of great built-in apps, and Safari, the best mobile browser in the business. Amazon has built a special version of Google's Android Gingerbread OS specifically tied to the Amazon store and to best show off Amazon store content. Because it's a "fork" of Android, it doesn't get Google's apps like Gmail, Navigation, or Market.

  • iPad and iPod touch run full version of iOS for multi-function usage
  • Kindle Fire runs special Amazon fork of Android optimized for buying and consuming Amazon content

Support

Apple has retail stores throughout the U.S. and in many cities around the world. In addition to their online and phone support, the ability to walk into an Apple Store and take a free class on how to setup and use your device, or get a Genius Bar appointment to fix it, can be invaluable. Amazon is the world's largest online retailer with a stellar reputation for online support.

  • iPad and iPod touch have not only online and phone support, but Apple Retail and Genius in-person support.
  • Amazon Kindle Fire has online support.

Apps and games

Apple still has the most apps in mobile, including over 100,000 specifically built to take advantage of the larger iPad screen and over a half-a-million for iPod touch. If games are a consideration, the App Store typically gets them first and with the best, most fluid graphics. Amazon has built their own version of the Android market with less content but arguably better curation than Google's.

You can also get a Kindle and other Amazon apps -- and Google apps -- for iPad and iPod touch, but you can't get Apple apps for the Kindle Fire.

  • iPad has access to purpose-built large-screen iPad apps as well as iPhone/iPod touch App Store apps
  • Kindle Fire has access to Amazon appstore approved Android apps
  • iPod touch has access to most iPhone App Store apps

Accessories

iPad vs. iPod touch vs. Kindle Fire: Accessories

Both the iPad and iPod touch have been on the market for years and have tons of great cases and other accessories available. Also, Apple allows accessories to connect via dock port, Bluetooth or AirPlay, meaning you can connect your iPad or iPod touch to a wide arrange of gear and gadgets, everything from cars to cameras to Apple TV, to special-purpose scientific instruments. Amazon Kindle Fire is just hitting the market so it will take a while for a lot of accessories to come out.

  • iPad and iPod touch have huge variety of accessories available
  • Amazon Kindle will take a while to ramp up accessories

Future-proofing

There will likely be an iPad 3 sometime next spring, potentially with a double-density display and other hardware improvements. There was no new iPod touch this year but there might be one next fall. Both, however, are mature, well supported products and if you want either now, you'll get a great device now. The Amazon Kindle Fire is a brand new device and inarguably an immature one at this point. Amazon will no doubt introduce a new, hopefully much better, hopefully much more internationally supported, Kindle Fire sometime next year. If you're not dying for one now, you might be better off waiting.

  • New iPad 3 likely in spring, but iPad 2 is solid now
  • New Kindle Fire sometime next year, current Kindle Fire immature
  • New iPod touch likely next fall, but current iPod touch is good now

Bottom line

While this is an iPad and iPod touch blog, and we're no doubt biased, the Amazon Kindle Fire is so new, so U.S.-centric, and so obviously intended to be little more than a front end to the Amazon Store that it's tough to recommend. Future versions could be outstanding, but right now you have to really not want an iPad or iPod touch, and really want an Amazon tablet to get the Kindle Fire.

  • The iPad is best if the big size is a plus and not a minus for you, if you want the most apps optimized for the most screen real-estate, if you want 3G connectivity, and something that can better replace a laptop or netbook for light computing work.

  • The Kindle Fire is best if you live in the U.S. and are a heavy user of the Amazon Store, if you want something smaller, lighter, and cheaper than an iPad but bigger than the iPod touch, and if media focus and pocket-ability is more important than flexibility for your needs.

  • The iPod touch is best if you want the smallest, lightest, cheapest, most mobile solution possible, if you want the most app and accessory choice available, if you want something that's as close to a phone-style experience that possible without being a phone.

Addenda: Other tablets

We didn't include other Android tablets here because they're simply not a mainstream alternative at this point, but if you're a hardcore Android enthusiast head on over to Android Central for a ton of coverage and help choosing between the myriad brands, sizes, and implementations, including the Barnes and Nobles Nook Tablet, which may be something to consider if you're leaning towards the Kindle Fire.

If you're a diehard BlackBerry enthusiast, check out CrackBerry.com for all the PlayBook info, and if you're lucky enough to find a webOS TouchPad still on the market, PreCentral.net has you covered.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 60 comments. Add yours.

Ckmcneese says:

just for clarification, I'm really confused on why the writer says that the iPod touch's display is just "okay" when it most certainly has the same retina display found in both the iPhone 4 and 4s. anyone know why?

Jimmy says:

iPod Touch does have Retina Display. This is the first time I've seen the Retina Display ever called "Okay".
I'm also curious what makes the Fire a mainstream alternative and the Nook Tablet something for hardcore Android enthusiast, especially since the Fire and Tablet run modified iterations of the same version of Android.

Dev says:

The Nook is more appealing to the hardcore enthusiast because B&N has made no efforts to make it more difficult, or to limit functionality once rooted. Amazon's position on rooting the Kindle Fire is not yet clearly established, but the fact that Amazon disables streaming video from Amazon on a rooted Fire suggests Amazon will not be as open to it as B&N. So, if you plan on hacking around the tablet, the Nook for the moment is the better bet.

Dominies says:

Way too kind to the Fire. Just a cheap tablet whose long-term value is questionable.

cardfan says:

Agree. I'm a fan of both amazon (spend thousands plus Vine reviewer) and iOS. But i wouldn't touch the Fire. Waste of money. No storage. Very limited. I'd basically consider it a media player and a limited one at that being mostly cloud based.
Ipad may be twice the cost but it will retain much of its value. But what you're really buying is the ecosystem (and not only apple's but amazon, barnes & noble, etc). You get much of amazon's ecosystem with an ipad with kindle and amazon apps. The prime instant is kind of redundant if you have netflix and the like.
I'd opt for an ipod touch before considering a Kindle Fire.

Mrsonnyson says:

Why are we comparing 10,7, and 3.5 inch anythings to each other?? What's better for you? This egg, this car tire or this stuffed bunny? Follow me after the break!

Kuruptlon says:

Haha reminds me of the SNL game show sketch Food, Sex, or Cars. "Your choices are: [ game board spins ] ..potato skins, Connie Chung, and a Pontiac Bonneville"

Aravind says:

I much needed this comparison between ipad/kindle fire/ipod touch. I was longing to own one of these and finally bought ipod touch. It can do everything that I needed. I couldn't just buy kindle fire just to read books and I don't have $500+ to own an ipad.

Chris says:

Just buy an iPad already.

Nicholas B. says:

This was so biased it's not even funny...

tyrin12 says:

We're a five-unit iOS family (2 iphone 4s, 2 iPads, 1 iPod touch), but I'm getting my mom a Kindle Fire for Christmas. Reason: she wants that size for a combination of portability and readability/usability (older eyes, this is important), and doesn't want us to spend the money on the iPad. I think she's on track here, although we'll see how the purchase holds up over time. My guess is that it will be just as easy to use in the long run, especially since this is her first touch-screen device. Plus, I'm excited to help her set it up and check out the competition!

Lovecore says:

Come to an iPhone / iPad blog, expect to have a bias for those devices... Android has many other tablets that are great. The Playbook is also an alternative, especially at its newer price for the season. Why is the iPod even being compared in this article? Comparing a tablet or two to an iPod is pretty Apples to Oranges to me...

blue5ft3 says:

The Ipod is not a joke, retina display you can text from it now and 32GB in a small package that can use any app you have and email, a WONDERFUL portable product, fits in any pocket or handbad, the Iphone I like to use as a phone and not waste 3g which the IPOD does not need check it out.

Elena says:

Ian,I ended up pkiicng up the Apple case today since my local store had it (briefly) in stock. You're dead on the ability to prop it up a bit as a built in feature makes a significant difference.

blue5ft3 says:

Seriously? Ipad2 or Ipad1 is better than about anything out there, and I DO love my ipod, 32 gb in a small package, can't beat them! Fire, I have an allergy to it I found out and sent it back lol. The kindle is seriously lacking for a first attempt, read the problems on amazon or any good review, hey I gave it a shot. It was better than the Samsung that should have been named Fire because that's what it did to me, started on FIRE, and I am on OXYGEN, no THANKS!

Sniper1087 says:

the question is not which is better, but if you are already into Amazon Ecosystem, the fire is your best bet, the price point is 199 which is cheaper than other devices, the Ipad is a good device, but if you dont want to spend a lot of money the fire is a fine replacement as a "Consumption Device" yes I dont consider the fire a tablet, is too sluggish for it. there are other tablets out there at good pricing like the Nook Tablet, Acer Iconia Tab 7 inch 339 on amazon, and Asus Transformer 379, which are below the cost of an Ipad 2, now you could get the Ipad on ebay for 430.00 or so, so good thing for us consumers is that we got a lot of options :D.

eric6052 says:

One thing to consider under the apps section is Amazon free app of the day. In their app stop Amazon gives away a free paid app. Sometimes the freebies aren't much, much but often they're pretty good apps. I've seen the full version of Docs to Go, Fruit Ninja, Plants vs Zombies and some other games. I can't say this makes the Fire a better choice than the ipad but it's something to be aware of.

Dev says:

Another point for the Fire that deserves its own callout is Amazon video, which does not exist on iOS. Its library is not as large as Netflix's, but it is free for Amazon Prime members, which is less than a Netflix subscription and also gets you free shipping. For some people, that is a pretty compelling reason.

Dev says:

Another point for the Fire that deserves its own callout is Amazon video, which does not exist on iOS. Its library is not as large as Netflix's, but it is free for Amazon Prime members, which is less than a Netflix subscription and also gets you free shipping. For some people, that is a pretty compelling reason.

Phillip says:

/ How you doin?, I relaly love the way u made the subject? maybe you could join my page and give me a few tipps. thank you in advance

Dev says:

Sorry, sometimes I forget about our neighbors to the North. Yes, this is a total non-factor outside the US

Dev says:

Sure, but since you can watch Netflix on all three devices, all 3 get that point, and it is not useful in deciding.
Amazon video might tilt you towards the Fire if you live in the US, and like the price/selection better than Netflix or if you are (or are going to be) an Amazon Prime member. Then, it is a sweet feature iOS cannot match. If you don't fall under those conditions, that feature means precisely bupkiss to you.

cardfan says:

If you're basing your decision on this, then you may as well get an ipad. Much more to be had in video. I don't see someone who is buying on the cheap also buying the Prime membership.

Dev says:

It is precisely people who are buying on the cheap who would be most interested:
Fire ($200) + Amazon Prime ($78/year)
vs
iPad ($500) + Netflix streaming only ($96/year)

cardfan says:

People who buy cheap like this don't do that math and are generally stupid although there's always your few exceptions. They wouldn't touch that Prime membership.

Guest says:

So wait...people who look at numbers first are too stupid to add those numbers? Wow, you managed to be arrogant, condescending, and willfully ignorant all in a couple of sentences. You win teh internet today!

cardfan says:

If you're basing your decision on this, then you may as well get an ipad. Much more to be had in video. I don't see someone who is buying on the cheap also buying the Prime membership.

A P says:

"iPad is literally twice the price of the Kindle Fire"
Uh, no, it literally is not, ROFL.
The base iPad is 2.5 times more, with models running close to 5x more.
That's why I haven't gotten an iPad yet. No way 16GB is enough for me (I was forced to get an iPhone with that and it sucks - I needed a phone that day and they had no 32's available), and if I bought 32, someday I would regret not getting a 64. In addition, although I would tether to my phone anyway, I still would probably want 3G capability should I ever want it (which could happen). So adding in a decent case, I'm looking at a cool grand.
I have a rather high end laptop that I paid half that for.
If I get a lower model, I'll regret it forever, but I just can't justify spending even the $700 for a 64 WiFi (I could do without 3G, but I wish I wouldn't have to chose).
I preordered a Fire, but cancelled it once I realized that it too did not have a SD card slot. That's my other problem with iPad - there is no reason at all that it does not have one other than the obvious fact they can charge to $100 more for iDevices for each additional 16GB, when you can get a 16GB SD card for $10 and have unlimited storage. I put up with it on my phone, but not on a device that costs twice as much as my PC.
I'll totally be all over the next Fire if they add an SD slot. Any device that doesn't do it beyond a phone (and even then, I hate it - so many many reasons why) I just will not drop that kinda dough for.

cardfan says:

The ipads will fall a couple of hundred in price come March. But I agree with you here. 16 gb isn't enough. But i'll also add 3G isn't worth having. Use your phone.

cardfan says:

The ipads will fall a couple of hundred in price come March. But I agree with you here. 16 gb isn't enough. But i'll also add 3G isn't worth having. Use your phone.

Beast says:

You can store as much Amazon content on your cloud as you like. If it's not from Amazon (pictures, documents, music, and video files from your hard drive), it's limited to 5GB. Though, you can purchase more storage space for a fee. As long as you get it from Amazon, you can store unlimited content on Cloud and access it anywhere! That deals with storage space! Use Cloud and you won't need an SD slot!

STL says:

Why even have this discussion?
.
Don't compromise on your requirements and waste your money by ultimately re-buying what was really wanted in the first place.
If you don't have enough money right now, then save.
.
Buy the iPad
You won't be disappointed and neither will your kid

cardfan says:

This trend towards cheaper end is a bit concerning. It's not that cheap doesn't sell, that's always been the case. But for blogs to actually be excited about these cheap products?
You've got limited resources and you want to make the best purchase. Often it's not the cheap product that is best. You spend the cheap price and wind up unhappy. Or it breaks down, has bad performance, doesn't get support, or lacks value.
Over Thanksgiving, i saw relatives new to smartphones sporting android phones. Their reason? Cheap. Nevermind they spent all day with the android "experts" in the family trying to figure them out. It was funny actually. Truth though is I've only spent 200 on iphones since 2008 with the iphone 3G as my first purchase. I've upgraded each year just by selling old one. Even if you skip a year you can still sell old one for enough.
For tablets, think about what you want to do with one. An ipad can serve many functions. A Fire is limited. 6gb of storage, limited apps, lag, shorter battery, no 3g or bt, no mic, no cameras, no major updates coming anytime soon. The screen isn't as sensitive. It's a shame people even call this a tablet. You'll always spend more money in the long run buying cheap products only to end up "upgrading" to the real product you want.

cardfan says:

Amazon's instant video service isn't very compelling. But doesn't matter since users buying on the cheap won't be forking over 79 or whatever it is for Prime.
Is video that relevant? I don't know too many who stream video that much. Even with the ipad, video serves more as a babysitter for the kid. You have to be on wifi which usually means home & tv's.

E6zion says:

I disagree entirely. I do almost all of my non-consumable purchases online... and the vast majority of it through amazon. $79 is NOTHING for free two day shipping. Shoot, to have stuff delivered to my door I am saving gas money as well as the time wasted going to the store. I'm sorry but over the course of a month (maybe even a couple of weeks) I make that up (assuming a minimal $8 USD an hour)--not to mention I don't have to pay tax. If you spend $1300 a year on merchandise, assuming a low 6% sales tax, again prime is paid for.
The fact that I get free video and lending (don't use the latter) is a bonus. I've watched a couple of series already for free. This alone would have cost me either the purchase of the series or three months worth of netflix (hence, prime is already paid for).
As a photographer, the iPad really is the best photo album ever made. Everything looks amazing on the small IPS screen. The difference between the Fire and iPad is near negligible for this purpose and again, $200 is nothing. A premium leather photo album alone will run you $100, not counting the cost of decent quality printing.
Flash may (arguably) be on its way out, but I can watch sports for free all day--cannot do that with an apple product...
Admittedly, the storage capacity is a limitation, but I does one REALLY need to carry that much data with them.
Lastly, some people really love iTunes--I for one, find it to be a pain in the arse. Amazon stores a record of all purchases. If I lose a song or show, I just re-download it. My niece accidentally reformatted my wife's iPod touch, and I lost $300 worth of medical software.

cardfan says:

@jayray
The entire purpose the device is to stream video?
I think you're connecting dots that aren't there. People are buying the Fire, which I never said wasn't selling, because of the price coupled with the desire to want a tablet that Apple fueled. Plus it doesn't hurt that the majority of people are stupid like yourself.
I don't really care to discuss what Amazon's video offerings are because i don't use them. If you care that much, you do the research.

jessicaxbrittney says:

I want the iPod Touch, but this lunatic sitting next to me wants a Kindle Fire. hehe ;)

Guest1756 says:

Amazon is not against you rooting your device- another plus.

Austinm says:

Get the iPad! I got the kindle fire and I HATED it! Two weeks later I decided together the iPad 2 because I already have an iPhone, Mac, and iPod nano (witch I enjoy very much). So i went to the apple store (and they were very nice there) to get my ipad 2. The minute I got my iPad 2 I immediately fell in love with it. It was perfect. I do everything on it. I am sending this from my iPad right now. Here are the pros and cons of the iPad and the kindle fire.
Kindle fire-
Pros- nothing
Cons- slow, fat, cheep, puny (that's a good way to describe it "puny"), waste of $200
iPad-
Pros-fast, thin, sturdy, VERY good quality, amazing screen, perfect for travel, lots of accessibility's, they have a 2 year advantage, easy to use, awesome battery, iCloud, and all of the millions of free apps you can download (there are a lot of other reasons)
Cons- nothing!

John Martins says:

The iPhone 4 is truly an amazing piece of technology. Apple has created intuitive design in it, and easy navigation. The App Store to me is the most greatest thing about any Apple device really. It has a TON of content like apps and games and it's seriously uncountable. Games like Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation (Read a review here: http://www.sytcorx.blogspot.com) have broken several mobile gaming download records on it's release week. Apps like Insta Paper are in the mix of Hall of Famers, too. The App Store is just really a nice store and has an easy way to go browse stuff. If you're undecided, get an iPhone 4 or better, and iPad so you can have more comfort.

Gadget expert says:

I prefer ipod touch 4th gen
it has a very impressive front camera and back
it fits in your pocket aswell. i dont see anyone walking round with a kindle fire in thier pocket, or a ipad!!!

Vameronr14 says:

Well if ur a adult why use it when u can get the phone

Gadget expert says:

the ipod touch can now be purchased for one hundred and fourty pounds from currys or pc wold

Sadman says:

Why is it tht everyone who posted a comment posted it at the same time?

Anonymous 1 says:

Should I get the Nook, Kindle Fire, or iPod? No iPads allowed!:(

Star says:

This itndrouces a pleasingly rational point of view.

Enrrique says:

O que curti e a parte de Bares, pois serve para todos, nao apanes para quem bebe.Parabens para voces pelo video,E voces sao irmaos???

Dunric says:

I find that the commentary of saying the Kindle Fire is just using a PlayBook chassis. Was any thought given into comparing the two before writing this? Sheesh.
Where are the stereo speakers, microphones, and 1080p HD cameras on both the front and rear 3MP still front, 5MP rear. Just because a device looks similar, doesn't mean it is.

unsecure loan says:

Ehun bat blog-mezu aste bat irakurri nuen eta bakarrik pare bat iruzkina joera i horiek, hau da 1 de ellos.

Gunny. says:

Here's what I'm after....Got Windows @ home but want a unit that I can toss in my duffle bag and when I'm on the road will access the web for my airline check in, will confirm my hotel rez. and ONLY provide me web access at WIFI locations....and did I say NO monthly charge ?? Dont need books, dont need photos...dont need NUTTIN" honey but, WIFI web access !
What say the mob ?? Talk to me.
Thanks in advance.

Angel says:

I read this because I was trying to decide between a Fire and an ipod for my 10 yr old he wanted an ipod for music and games. He also likes to read so planed on installing kindle app but know he will complain about the small screen for reading and watching video. was looking at Fire on amazon he can listen to music on it but not put in his pocket. Not as mant apps but they are increasing. I know the ipad would do all the above but not spending that kind of money for a 10 year to play with. Another bonus to the fire is he would be able to take it to school to read on(they allow kindle devices cause their reader). leaning towards the fire and giving him my old ipod nano since I have an iphone. my sister has an older kindle for reading and an ipod and says he can purchase music on amazon and transfer it to an itunes account so then he can access it on both devices.

Ashley says:

I'm 11 years old. I am trying to deside if I want a kindle, I pad 2, or an ipod touch. My friends say to get the ipad 2 but im not so sure. I love to read but all i've heard you can do on a kindle is read. i wanna be able to play games and listen to music too! i also want something small to be able to fit in my pocket. i dont know WHAT i want! my grandmother said that she would get me an one of them i want. but only one. im thinking the ipad 2. but im not sure. my school permits kindles at school because it is a reading device. i dont know what to get! help!!!

Eli says:

If you want something you can put in your pocket get the ipod touch because it's like the expirience of a phone but you can't call or text people. There is a huge app store and you can put music onto it. The ipad2 is (in my opinion) a bigger ipod with just a little better graphics. Plus it's small and portable (not that the ipad 2 isn't it's just not pocket portable)

Eli says:

I want the IPod Touch. I like the size and mobility of it and how well does it work with I tunes?

Jake says:

Very good can by a iTunes card reedeem it then you can by stuff

ebooks atamazon says:

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Jake says:

What's the difference between a iPod touch VS kindle

KermIt says:

Much appreciated article. Good ideas to consider. I now have a compromise of sorts. I bought Kindle 3G for reading and it's anti glare blocks sunlight. Then I bought the iPod Touch for its compact lightweight size and the ability to do many activities I use to do on my desktop. I pay zero for Internet access since I can use any wifi signal. So YES this article helped me!