January 26, 2015

Amazon Fire HD 6 Review: Kindle as Fitness Accessory?

By Crabby McSlacker

Did you know Kindle-type tablets can function as a fitness gadget?

I have to confess, before, when I'd think "Kindle" and "workout" I'd just picture a cardio routine so tedious I would have to read something to get through it.  I tend to be a more crazypants engaged exerciser; if I am able to concentrate well enough to read a book while working out, it's usually a clue I need to tweak my routine.

But I belatedly discovered there are fitness apps that one can load onto a Fire tablet that can provide inspiration and information! And you can then take these apps to the gym or schlep 'em along when you travel to bring your workouts with you. As opposed to reading about some revolutionary new routine promising awesome results and then arriving at the gym with no absolutely no recollection whatsoever about what was involved.

Plus, if you also have a Fire Stick Thingy on your TV, you can use your Fire to "fling" things at it.

Here at Cranky Fitness, we find much of what appears on television to be offensive or stupid or insufferable. So we highly approve of flinging things at your TV!

Oh wait... not that kind of flinging?

Sorry!  More on that later.

Anyway, what are some of the pros and cons of using a Fire Tablet for fitness?

About this Review of the Amazon Fire HD 6 Tablet

So yeah, disclaimer: I got the Fire 6 thing for free.

And as a health blogger, figure I should probably highlight the fitness aspects of the tablet.  There is a lot more info that I am too lazy to compile, so for more technical reviews of the device you may want to peruse the Cnet Fire HD 6 review or the PC Magazine Fire HD 6 Review or the Laptop Magazine Amazon Fire HD 6 review.

(And why do I keep calling it a Fire HD Tablet and not a Kindle Fire HD?  Because I'm just copying the Amazon people! For reasons unknown, they are all of a sudden dropping the old name and are highlighting Tabletness and de-emphasizing Kindlishness. Tablets are cool now I guess. And who am I to argue with the bestowers of free gadgets?  So Fire HD Tablet it shall be! But as far as I can tell, it's still a freakin' Kindle).

As to procedures, for this review I first tested the unit thoroughly at the Cranky Fitness Laboratory.

Then I took the Fire to my own gym a couple of times.

Then I took it with me on the road, which seemed a professional-fitness-blogger type thing to do, right?  This way I theoretically could have done hotel room workouts using the handy fitness apps.

Well, OK, I didn't because I didn't feel like it. And there was an ample fitness center at our hotel but whatever.  I could have used it in my hotel room to do workouts, right? That was the point.

And here it is in on the road, framed by bona fide hotel toiletry offerings ensuring authenticity!

Although hmm... I guess this photo could also just demonstrate that we like to steal hotel supplies and take them home and put them on our bathroom counter?

But wait: even tightwads that we are, we have not yet gone so far as to steal the glassware and the little paper coasters the hotel sets them on.  So that's how you can tell this is an authentic travel photo.

Um, could someone remind me what we were talking about?

Oh, that's right...

Why the Kindle Fire HD 6 Tablet is a Good Fitness Companion:


The HD 6 has a much more generous screen size than a conventional cell phone, so you can actually see fitness apps or websites (like Cranky Fitness!) or videos or facebook or porn if you are naughty or whatever you want to bring along.  See how luxurious the display is compared to my wife's puny iPhone?

Yet it's a lot easier to slip in a pocket or purse or gym bag than a regular size tablet or a laptop or 56 inch HDTV.

If you want to do weight training or functional fitness exercises and take along a library of exercise suggestions or videos showing proper form? You're probably going to get some raised eyebrows if you try to drag a big screen TV around the gym with you from station to station.

Value: A Lot of Functions for Cheap

Price: This is probably the major selling point of this device: it costs less than $100. That's pretty inexpensive. Can we repeat? A tablet computer for less than a hundred bucks!

My first calculator cost more than this.
(Well yeah, it was back in 1974).

Basic Functionality:  For a budget price, you get all lot of useful stuff. There's a camera, and a crisp HD screen and you can use a wireless connection to browse the internet and load apps and games and email etc. There is bluetooth connectivity too.

Amazon compatibility: If you buy stuff from Amazon, you've got access to all your books and music and videos and the Amazon store for buying more and more and more and more.

Do the "Fling"thing! This is apparently a way to share streaming content from your Fire to your TV. If you have a Fire stick or a particular kind of TV, you can use your television as a gigantic second screen and use the Fire as the remote. I am not properly equipped to try this out so I can only say: sounds nifty!

Books! Because, duh, it's a Kindle!  And if you're stuck on a treadmill, you can always read.

Fitness Apps:  You can download a bunch of apps for fitness. Because I am just now remembering this is supposed to be a fitness-themed review!

The helpful PR person recommended these:
Pop Sugar
Zumba Dance
Daily Burn
Gaiam TV
2014 Best Youtube workout videos

And I was quite excited to find BitGym, which takes you on virtual beautiful trails around the world and is interactive to match your pace on your cardio machine, using the front-facing camera. This was also going to be a glowing Bitgym review until I actually tried it and discovered: (a) you only get 3 free workouts a month unless you pony up for a subscription; and (b) the running pace felt slower than real life, when it should be, if anything, faster for motivational purposes. Hell, screw realism, I'd settle for super-powers! But anyway, the photography is awesome and gives you a real sense of the highlights of some stunning trails, so you still may want to check it out if you're not a cheapskate like me.

Not So Good Things About Working Out With the Kindle Fire


Yes, the size was listed as a "plus" for moving around in the gym, because it is compact but bigger than a standard (i.e., skimpy) smart phone.

But what if you, like me, have a big-ass smart phone, aka, a "phablet?"  I have a Galaxy Note 3.  It is almost as big as the Fire 6.

If you have a generous phone, then the Fire 6 is just too damn small to add much to what you already have. And as silly as it sounds, there is a certain amount of time one needs to invest in cultivating and caring for and updating and maintaining yet another digital device.  So it needs to add value, and if you are a "phablet" owner already, this probably wouldn't add much.

In fact, part of my Bitgym letdown when I took the Fire to the gym was that the immersive quality of the trail photography was lost looking at a tiny screen.

(Of course you can get a Fire 7 which is bigger, but it's also more expensive).

But if you have a normal itty-bitty phone?  This might be a really handy in-between device for, remember, WAY CHEAPER than a smart phone or a regular tablet computer.

Functionality Trade-offs

Storage: Seriously 8MG and no ability to add extra storage on? But you do have some Amazon Cloud storage, which theoretically helps make up for this.

Interface and compatibility:  The UI kinda sucks compared to most Android and Apple devices.  For example, you can't customize your home pages and have to just let the "carousel" (filled with Amazon-laden content) determine what you see when you first turn it on.  You can eventually find what you are looking for, but for us control freaks, it's annoying to not to be in charge of the home page.

No Google Play Store:  The Amazon app store does not have as many offerings as Google Play; if you have can't-live-without faves, you may want to see if they are supported before purchasing a Fire.

No Chrome Browser:  There is a browser and it works fine. But I miss my chrome which has by now learned a seriously disturbing but useful amount of information about me and what I might be searching for.

Relatively Lame Camera: I didn't do extensive testing myself, as I take crappy photos no matter what device I am using, but specs and other reviews lead me to believe it's not a strong point on this device.

Do you guys take any electronic gadgetry along when you exercise?  Any favorite apps or devices?


  1. Hola from Costa Rica. We actually have strong enough wifi this morning to be able to catch up a bit. Which brings me to my question about your gadget: is access to Amazon books and workouts available where Internet is not? Cell service is almost everywhere here, but wifi is very limited. Where it exists it is often weak or overloaded. So could I still talk to my cloud or to the shops? Bicycling is wonderful, but it's hard to be good about yoga and weights when on a bike tour. Maybe a gadget that brought me inspiring teachers would help.

    By the way, this country is wonderful. We are very, very glad to be here. Today we are looking out over Lake Arenal. A little later we will ride over the continental divide & continue into Guanacaste.

    1. Hola DRG and great to hear from you! Costa Rica sounds fantastic and so glad you are enjoying your trip.

      As to wireless: yes, you need it to stream, but the nice thing about gadgets like this is that when you DO have wireless, you can download books or videos or audios, and then view them or read them when you are out in the middle of nowhere. It's small enough it would be a fairly packable way to take advantage of spotty internet.

      Enjoy the rest of your trip and thanks SO much for popping in!

    2. Buenas dias, DRG! Hope you are in Guanacaste now. Looking forward to your return to the land of Wifi.

  2. When I requested and received a Kindle for Christmas I made a point of getting a Paperwhite as opposed to a Fire. Now I know why.

  3. I still have my original Kindle Fire, and it's even worse - there are a lot of apps now available for Fire that I can't use on my old thing.

    Anyway, I don't use fitness apps really, but do often bring my phone with me (I have a Samsung Galaxy 5 which, man, they need to start offering more workout belts that are big enough for these new generation HUGE PHONES) so that I can listen to podcasts while I walk/run.

    I would have been as disappointed as you were at the 3 workout a month limit. I think if I could get free stuff from an app, that would be great, but don't want to pay for that kind of thing. OH! I just remembered that I downloaded the 7 Minute Workout app. I've done it twice.

    1. Oh, I should say that I absolutely LOVE my fire for generic web surfing and of course for reading. But now that I have the Galaxy, I find that the screen is *almost* big enough that I've even used the kindle app on it in a pinch when I was travelling for work so I carted around one less gadget. I just don't think of the fire as a fitness tool, I guess.

  4. I have a second-generation Kindle that I used the crap out of (not for fitness things other than reading your book), but the Fire series just never interested me. My Nexus 7 tablet does just fine, though the only fitness-related things I do with it are browse forums, log food/exercise, and sync my Fitbit. Same with my phone, really. I'm too entrenched with the Google stuff at this point to try and switch over to Amazon. The latest Microsoft app stuff is intriguing, though, so if I were to switch to anything it'd be a Windows phone.

    As for current gadgetry I use, that would be Android phone with apps like Fitbit and Strava, and my Zune for entertainingly random music. :-)

  5. Well, I just upgraded my iPhone to the 6plus so it is probably almost the same size - I love everything my phone can do!!! I have an iPad mini but mostly just use it for work stuff.

  6. iPod nano. Suitable for Luddites such as myself. :) But I am a hardcore run-outside-in-all-weather-even-Chicago type, so I don't want to haul a big honkin' phone, let alone talk to anyone. :)

  7. If i take too much stuff with me when i exercise, i get all caught up in the stuff, the gadgetry, and it seems to take away from the exercise. Me (in my jeans, t-shirt, and jacket) and my sneakers are going for a walk now.

  8. Cranky,
    Nice review, thanks! I am shopping for tablets, so this is timely, even though I probably won't buy one for fitness purposes.

    That said, as I was looking at this I was thinking that one use for a Fire would be to have easy access to fitness timers, such as this Tabata timer...

    Good point about the more limited selection of apps. Yet, given the lengthy sitting sessions of the smartphoners in my gym, I can't imagine they're using them for fitness at all. :)

    Love the pro's and con's, and I grinned at your harsh assessment of your photo abilities. :)

    Tabby Dave

  9. ((Id use the fire to watch FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS :-)))

    1. And you would be right to do so. LOVE THAT SHOW.

      Texas forever, baby.

  10. I have one of the original Kindles, and a Nexus 7 table with a kindle app on it. I've wondered what the new kindles are like though; I think I will stick to my Nexus tablet. :)

    I have mapmyrun on my phone, because I like to track my distance when I walk outside, but other than that I work out in my basement where I have a computer, TV and DVD player, so I don't really use gadgets.

    1. P.S. I must be the only person in the world who is not in love with this trend toward bigger phones. I keep getting notifications that I am eligible to upgrade my phone, but I am hanging on to my current iPhone because I don't want to go bigger.

    2. Yes, I'm hoping they'll come out with a smaller phone before my dumb phone dies (in a few years) and I have to give in and replace my iPod touch with a phone.
      Mary Anne in Kentucky

    3. (Or the iPod dies, whichever comes first….)
      Mary Anne in Kentucky

  11. My iPod touch fulfills all my portable device needs. I can't really imagine using fitness apps that tell you what to do while you're doing it. That SO would not work for me. (I have an app to record my weight training, but not to coach me.) I listen to podcasts at the gym to block out their annoying music, and on the stationary bike at home to keep from Dying of Boredom, but when I walk outside I don't listen to anything.
    [free copyedit: "you get all lot of useful stuff" I don't know whether you meant "a lot of stuff" or "all kinds of stuff" there.]

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  12. My brother bought an iPad at Christmas so I have his Galaxy Tab4 for FREE!!!! I love it but even though I am supposed to look at youtube exercise videos and read books I mostly play Spider solitaire instead. That game is addictive! I do have a Kindle as well which I never use. I read on my laptop still for some reason. Habit I guess.

  13. I use no gadgets except for my little iPod shuffle... :) I watch the TV too in the gym as well as listen to my music...

    I am so bad with gadgets! :)

  14. Thanks for the info but don't think I will get yet another gadget! I have a GalaxyTablet and a Galaxy phone so don't think I will get another tablet. Does anyone know of a good fitness app on the Galaxy. Also what about an app that measures calories burned then I wouldn't have to buy another gadget. I hate having to learn how to use a new one....too old for that!!

  15. What? No giveaway to go with this lovely review? For shame Amazon. ;)

    Being a gadget whore, I currently have an 3 iPods (2 touch, 1 nano), an iPhone 6, a Kindle paperwhite, iPad, and a Microsoft Surface. The "oooh shiney!" part of me wants a kindle fire. The realist in me says don'tberidiculous. I can't see that this thing would really do anything better than the iPad I already own. My fav apps are Fitbit and the lolo apps. SWORKIT and Yoga Studio I hit here and there. (And does YouTube count? Because when I have wifi I can stream the BeFit channel...)

    I agree with JavaChick and Solarity though. I hate the bigger phones. Even my 6 seems too large most of the time. (Exception - watching Netflix on the treadmill while I travel.) Those huge 6+s and Galaxies remind me of the original cell phones, except wide instead of thick. :)

  16. I have the second Kindle model that came out. Not sure if I want/need one that's a tablet as I do have an iPad. Great review though.


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