Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX tows the company line across the board. Even though this is an Android-based tablet, don't think you'll be getting any Google Play apps here.
Amazon Appstore for Android
It may be called the Appstore for Android, but it's a mere shadow of what's actually available on true Android devices, or iOS for that matter. While their are plenty of great games and apps that play magnificently on the Kindle Fire HDX, they're mostly old, and the overall selection pales in comparison to that of Google Play.
Of course the essentials are here. You can't launch a tablet without Facebook and Twitter, but while many of the big gun social networks are here, there's no Instagram - yes, the HDX lacks a rear-facing camera, but what about selfies? And sometimes we want to look at other people's meals and mirror shots rather than take our own.
Great games include the zombie blasting Dead Trigger, the addictive Plants versus Zombies, the high frame rate Riptide GP2, the brilliant Ticket to Ride, Rockstar's classic Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the ubiquitous Minecraft.
All these games run exceedingly well on the new HDX. The frame rate is butter, loading times are in significant, and everything is priced competitively to its Android and iOS counterparts.
However, several of these great games have sequels, which have not shown up in Amazon's Appstore. There's no Plants versus Zombies 2, no Dead Trigger 2, and certainly nothing like the system pushing Infinity Blade series or the insanely inventive Ridiculous Fishing on iOS.
There's also a dearth of quality productivity apps, nothing that comes close to Apple's Pages, Numbers or Keynote. Actually, the most notable absence here has to be apps like Gmail and Google Drive from, you guessed it, Google.
Things are a lot less dire for streaming media apps. Netflix, HBO Go and Hulu Plus are all here, as well as cable apps likes ones from AMC, Comcast and Directv. For music and radio you've got essentials like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Sitcher Radio, Soundcloud and a few more.
Podcast fans will be disappointed that there's no strong contender here. Sticher and Podcast Addict have selection, but leave a lot to be desired when it comes to interface, compared to Pocket Cast or Apple's own Podcast app.
Games and productivity apps are one place where Amazon's walled garden feels claustrophobic. Whether it was Amazon's own decision to shut competitors out or it was out of their control, it doesn't really matter. The Kindle Fire HDX is simply a less productive tablet because of it.
Bottom line, Amazon is well behind Android and iOS when it comes to apps, falling somewhere around Windows Phone 8.
One place Amazon is ahead of the curve is in customer service. This is thanks to Mayday, an awesome take on tech support that your Kindle Fire HDX purchase entitles you to.
Even the most tech savvy user occasionally needs some help, and when that happens, it's never fun digging for customer service numbers and waiting in a queue for help. That's what makes Mayday a world beating feature.
With Mayday, help is just a touch away. The help app or the Mayday button in the notification summons a video chat with tech support. A window appears on your screen with the face a helpful customer service, ready to answer your questions and guide you through the solution.
Your video chat helper can see your screen, but not you, and can draw on your screen to point out icons and make step by step help extremely simple. It can be a little bit unnerving to have a stranger's face pop up on your screen, but it feels normal pretty fast.
What's even faster is the wait time for help. Amazon's stated goal is help in fifteen seconds or less. We used three times in our review period, during different hours of the day, and each time that gurantee came through.
We did have one disconnect from the service. Our video chat dropped about ten seconds into the chat, and while we were able to immediately begin a new session that didn't break, customer service made no attempt to reconnect with us. Also, service reps never asked for contact info, like other support services do, in case of dropped call.
That's really a nitpick though. Amazon's Mayday reps are knowledgeable and friendly, and at your beck and call 24/7/ It's absolutely the perfect service for someone who's not terribly comfortable with technology, or those who hate traditional phone customer service. Basically, it's perfect for the kind of customer who would want a Kindle Fire HDX.