Amazon Kindle versus iPhone XS Max: choosing the best e-book reader

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2018
You bought your iPhone to do many things but when an important one is just reading e-books, there is a solid alternative. Appleinsider on whether a Kindle is worth your time and money.

Kindle versus iPhone as e-reader


If you're seriously trying to decide between either the iPhone XS Max or the Kindle and price is no object, then put Amazon's device down right now and just buy the phone.

It's the same if you're looking at an iPhone XS or an iPhone XR. What these devices can do for you dwarfs anything the Kindle is capable of.

Except for one specific thing -- there is one killer feature that makes Kindle a contender. It's not the battery life, though that will typically see you through a couple of weeks instead of a single day. It's not even the price, though that can easily be a tenth of the cost of an iPhone XS Max.

The killer feature for Kindle is how you can read books on it anywhere, even in the brightest of sunlight.

An iPhone atop a Kindle Voyage


So on the one hand, you have the iPhone which is practically a supercomputer in your pocket, and on the other you have the Kindle. Lightweight, readable in all weather conditions, and cheaper.

We're not going to pretend that the Kindle beats the iPhone all-around but we are going to claim that it's a solid choice for reading e-books. And in the right circumstances, there are reasons to buy one as well as your iPhone.

Complications

This is really about comparing the hardware. It's about the physical Kindles and iPhones plus the software on them for reading e-books.

Kindles come with their own e-reader software. For iOS devices you can get the Kindle app and the Apple Books one, both for free.

The Amazon Kindle and Apple Book stores, both on an iPhone


To make the comparison fair, we're looking only at Kindle titles on both machines. However, the two stores by themselves summarizes the different approaches the two companies take to books in general.

Amazon Kindle has a far greater range of titles but Apple Books look better. That's it. We tend to prefer the look of Apple's Books enough that we check out Apple's store before we go to Amazon's -- but the range of Kindle books is unmatched.

That said, if you buy a hardware Kindle device then you are stuck to only buying Kindle books. Whereas if you buy an iPhone, you get both: iOS devices can show you Kindle books as well as Apple Books.

There is an issue over how you actually buy books, though. While you can get both Kindle and Apple Books on iPhone, the process is different. Buying Apple Books couldn't be easier but buying Kindle books on iPhone most definitely could. It's a chore to buy a Kindle book to read on iPhone.

This is specifically because Amazon won't pay Apple a cut from its book sales and so Apple won't allow you to buy books directly from the Kindle app.

It's a corporate disagreement that results in our having a less convenient time. You have to go to Amazon on a browser, perhaps even Safari on your iPhone, and buy the book there. Then it gets delivered to your Kindle reader, whether that's an app on your iPhone or an actual Kindle device.

Still, you do get used to it and buying e-books does become the work of moments.

Where Kindle wins

Truly, the killer feature is that screen's lack of reflectivity in sunlight. It's an e-ink display instead of an OLED or Liquid Retina one which means it is lower resolution and it's also in monochrome. So far that doesn't sound like a win for the Amazon device.

And in practice it's easy to overstate the usefulness of the anti-reflective screen. We have only rarely had situations where we couldn't read our iPhone screens and we didn't get it once on a recent trip around sunny Los Angeles with an XS Max.

Detail from Kindle's controls for reading books


It's just that when you do get the problem, when you do struggle to read the screen, it's total. You might be able to shield the screen with your hand for a moment or contort to read it from upside down, but really you need to find some shade.

Whereas the Kindle is comfortably readable anywhere and for as long as you need. That can be a considerable time, too, as the battery is rated at lasting for 30 days on half an hour's reading a day.

It's also got adaptive lighting which means whatever time of day you want to read, models like the Kindle Voyage and Kindle Oasis won't ever be too dim or too blinding.

Where iPhone wins

Today's iPhones can match or exceed that adaptive lighting, though, and they do so through technology that also helps with reflectivity. The iPhone 8 and newer have what Apple calls a True Tone display and iOS features Night Shift.

True Tone uses the iPhone's sensors to monitor the brightness of ambient light and adjust the screen to suit. Night Shift alters the colors in your display, moving them subtly toward the warmer end of the spectrum.

So between these two, what happens is that late at night in a darkened room, the iPhone's display will be turned down so that there's little glare. Equally, in bright sunlight, True Tone adjusts the display to remain readable for longer.

When True Tone was first announced with the iPad Pro 9.7 inch model, Apple claimed that this made the display 40 percent less reflective than the iPad Air.

It's still not as universally readable as Kindle but, again, the iPhone XS Max has bene fine for us in regular use. And then there is the issue of what you actually see when you can actually see it.

Kindle and iPhone reading experience

This is not going to be as useful as you might hope: here are side by side screen grabs from a Kindle Voyage (left) and the Kindle app on an iPhone XS Max (right).

Detail from page of Kindle versus iPhone


You rarely see comparative screen grabs from Kindle because the resolution of the display is so much lower than from an iPhone. When you have the devices in front of you, those same screens look like this instead:

Photograph of a Kindle Voyage next to an iPhone XS Max, both displaying Kindle books


On these default font settings, the Kindle Voyage displays about a line more text than the Kindle app on iPhone XS Max does.

The iPhone one isn't just higher resolution, though, it also has finer font displays and to our eyes, the difference here is striking. Where the Kindle Voyage is fine, the iPhone XS Max is a pleasure to read.

It's also in color which makes no difference at all to the reading experience but it does to how it feels as you move around the app.

When you've finished a book and want to pick something else from your Library, hardware like the Kindle Voyage is in monochrome and shows you quite little.

An example Kindle library


Remember that this is your own library where you're meant to pick from the books you've bought. In this example, you're shown three books you've read, three you've marked as wanting to read, and four that are adverts.

By comparison, the Kindle app on iPhone is in color, it has that much greater resolution, and it uses all of this to show you more and finer detail.

An example Apple Books bribery


With this example you're seeing nine books that are in the library plus recognizable tops of three more.

In daily use, the iPhone's Kindle app is clunky enough that you regular have to stop to think what you want it to do. And sometimes the answer is that you need to force quit the app and try again.

Yet the iPhone experience is visibly so much better than the Kindle.

Excuses to buy both

You don't need an excuse to buy the iPhone, you can just go do that. If you're hesitant over getting a Kindle as well, we can help you there.

That's because for all that we did weigh up the differences and we did read on both, in practical, extended use, the Kindle Voyage does much better than we'd expected. The iPhone is literally heavier but it also feels figuratively heavier: there's something in that makes you sense a lot has been compressed into its casing.

Whereas the Kindle is light to the point of making you careless with it. When you know you'll want to read, just chuck it in your bag or a coat pocket. You'll never be conscious of its weight.

Then, think about the Kindle's battery life. It's far better than the iPhone's, but all the time you're using your Kindle, you're not using your phone. So if you get both, you're actually helping your iPhone's battery life.

And if that sounds like a post-rationalization of people trying to justify purchases, well, you've got us there. Yet there really is something to having a traveling bag that has both an iPhone and a Kindle.


AppleInsider will be at the fall "There's more in the making" event, where we expect new iPad Pros, and maybe even new Macs! Keep up with our coverage by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    Why not Kindle vs iPad?
    IMHO, it is the aspect ration of these devices over that of a letterbox shaped iPhone that makes them a better device for reading eBooks than the phone.
    I use the Kindle App on an iPad Mini and a 10.7in iPad Pro and find both of them superior to the Kindle for this application.

    I prefer smaller phones than the phablets we seem to have on offer these days. The new ones just don't fit into pockets and other recepticals. These are obviously not at good for eBook readering as a 4:3 screen. YMMV
    montrosemacsberndogGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 30
    maltzmaltz Posts: 129member
    For reading?  Kindle, hands down.  The screen is just so much more natural, regardless of the light level, especially if it's one of the backlit models.  (I guess they're technically fore-lit, but you get the idea.)  Factor in a battery life measured in days/weeks, and there's just no comparison.

    For almost ALL other tasks, though... iPhone/iPad definitely.  And of course, I still have the Kindle app on my phone because I don't always have both devices with me.
    mike1GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 3 of 30
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,389member
    My idea of heaven is reading a book (or e-book) by candlelight or other low lighting in the evening.

    My idea of hell is having to read an e-book in bright sunlight, ever.

    PS. Lovely taste in books, btw.
    edited October 2018 GeorgeBMaccurtis hannah
  • Reply 4 of 30
    Here's another killer feature of the Kindle: it's from a company that takes reading and books very seriously. Apple has a dilettante approach to its book reader. The latest iteration does nothing to make ready more enjoyable: same old stupid typefaces (not even an option for their serif San Francisco), no ability to change line-height for those books where the text is invariably too scrunched on a page, and most egregious: you cannot have a sample you've downloaded on one device available on another. 

    Oh sure, you can now add it to "Want to read", but even that pales in comparison to the Kindle where any sample you're interested in is right there for you to download. 

    Apple Books is pretty but shallow.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 30
    Why not Kindle vs iPad?
    IMHO, it is the aspect ration of these devices over that of a letterbox shaped iPhone that makes them a better device for reading eBooks than the phone.
    I use the Kindle App on an iPad Mini and a 10.7in iPad Pro and find both of them superior to the Kindle for this application.

    I prefer smaller phones than the phablets we seem to have on offer these days. The new ones just don't fit into pockets and other recepticals. These are obviously not at good for eBook readering as a 4:3 screen. YMMV
    Exactly, except that I use a 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

    Also, I have a number of outdoor allergies and live in a place where pollen is an issue nine months a year, so I don't do a lot of reading in natural sunlight. Compared with a Kindle on anything other than a cost basis, the iPad wins hands down — and it's not part of Amazon's personal data-slurping enterprise. Everything you read, Amazon's algorithms know about and Amazon has monetized or will monetize. Librarians lost their jobs in the early 1950s because they wouldn't give up patrons' reading histories to McCarthy-era with hunters. Now, people willingly, if unwittingly in most cases, surrender that information voluntarily.

    Another personal preference: at any hour of the day, I prefer reading bright text on a black background (something the Kindle finally got around to offering in the last year or so iirc). It's gotten to the point where reading a physical book is a major adjustment because of that.
    radarthekatberndogwatto_cobraargonaut
  • Reply 6 of 30
    maltz said:
    For reading?  Kindle, hands down.  The screen is just so much more natural, regardless of the light level, especially if it's one of the backlit models.  (I guess they're technically fore-lit, but you get the idea.)  Factor in a battery life measured in days/weeks, and there's just no comparison.

    For almost ALL other tasks, though... iPhone/iPad definitely.  And of course, I still have the Kindle app on my phone because I don't always have both devices with me.
    I agree. I have the max, a mini 4, an iPad Pro 10.5 and the kindle oasis 2 and I’d pick the kindle every time for reading books. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 7 of 30
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,869member
    If I am going to be reading a book, a book with black print on white pages for extended periods of time, I will go to my Kindle 100% of the time over my iPad and certainly over a phone. It is simply less fatiguing and closer to reading a paper book.
  • Reply 8 of 30
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,019member
    I like both, but prefer the iPad in dimly lit environments and the Kindle Paperwhite in brightly lit environments. It also depends on the content you're reading. If I'm reading a book, journal, or paper with a lot of cross references or web links the iPad's ability to jump out to Safari to look something up or follow a backstory is very important to me and the Kindle comes up short in these situations. One special use case for me involves programming books that have code listings. Being able to copy and paste code between an ebook and Xcode is a great feature, but just being able to have the ebook open on the same screen (or as part of a multiple monitor setup) is awesome. Finally, no Kindle I've ever used comes close to the responsiveness of an iPhone or iPad. Kindles are pretty pokey in general, but you accept it because the battery life is awesome. The Kindle App is fast on all platforms.

    I definitely prefer the Kindle App on iOS and macOS to Apple's native book reading app - except that Amazon needs to get off its butt and release a 64-bit app for macOS. C'mon Amazon, get with the program.

    When I purchase an ebook I am much more likely to buy it on iTunes if the price is the comparable because they do not enforce (that I can tell) any limits on the number of downloaded copies. I'm not trying to game the system, but I have so many devices that I very often hit Amazon's download limit. Amazon could fix this issue by allowing users to choose to float the number of active instances rather than the number of downloads. Instance limiting/floating requires an online connection, but the limits are usually large enough to allow you to reserve one or two instances for devices that do not have persistent connectivity while still floating a license or two between several other devices. By instance limiting/floating I am referring to the number of devices that have a particular book open in the reading app, not the number of devices that have the book in the reading app's library. Amazon's brute force approach is effective, but not user friendly.

    Definitely looking at the new Kindle Paperwhite for purchase if it shows up as a Black Friday deal. 
  • Reply 9 of 30
    This is a silly comparison… but I have to confess that I actually am buying buying an iPhone XS MAXTREMEWHATEVER for e-books.

    In an ideal world, what I'd like is a phone about the size of an iPhone 4 with all the modern goodness like an edge-to-edge screen and a baller camera, and an iPad Mini with OLED for reading at night. 

    I can't have either of those things (no way the rumored new Mini will have OLED), so I'm gonna give the MAXTREME a try. I’m just telling myself that I’m getting an “iPad Mini Mini” and giving up on the phone thing.
    macplusplusberndogargonaut
  • Reply 10 of 30
    The killer feature of the Kindle--the one, very surprisingly, not really mentioned in this comparison--is its lighting. To those for whom it matters, there is a world of difference between the comfort of reading on a backlit tablet screen--where the light source is shining toward your eyes--and the comfort of reading on a Kindle, where the light source is channeled toward the screen, mimicking the way light sources illuminate pages in a real book. This is not inherently "better" than backlighting--the vast majority of readers on electronic devices find backlit screens to be just fine. But it is the one feature that most differentiates the Kindle reading experience from that of a tablet, and if you're a reader whose eyes are sensitive to that difference, then the purchase price of a Kindle is worth it. It's the reason that neither my iPhone nor my iPad will ever replace my Kindle for reading books. 
    radarthekatargonaut
  • Reply 11 of 30
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,030moderator
    30 minutes per day for 30 days... isn’t that the same as 15 hours of battery time between charges?  Okay, it implies that the Kindle has more standby time between charges, but that’s a different thing from the Kindle having 30-day battery life, which is what many might infer when reading the article.
    berndog
  • Reply 12 of 30
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,414member
    There's another advantage to reading on a Kindle instead of in iBooks or in reading apps on Apple devices, which makes a difference at least to the way I read.
    I should admit that I tend to read multiple titles by the same and/or similar authors.  On a Kindle, if I think I've recognized a name or a place or term, I can simply search the entire content on my Kindle for that name, place or word.  In iBooks or reading apps, I can only search the title I'm actually in at the moment.
    Many of you may have no use for that capability, but if I want to know if Marlowe has confronted a certain cop in a different title, or if Iain Banks has used the same interesting
    ship name in more than one book, I can easily find out on my Kindle, but not quite as easily otherwise...but I do read on Kindle, iPhone, iPad, sometimes even on my MBP - notes and progress will sync between them.
    The Kindle battery life claims, btw, are not valid unless you barely use the backlight and rarely use wifi, but since they made it possible to read while charging that's of no consequence.
  • Reply 13 of 30
    taddtadd Posts: 93member
    So if I already have my iPhone X and I have ebooks, many, is there any reason to buy a title on Amazon for Kindle to read on my iPhone’s Kindle App?  What are the differences between the reading experience?   
    1.  Search across all of my titles.  Does this work on the Kimdle app?  It does Not on ebooks.  
    2.  Loan or borrow a book.  Not on ebooks.  
    3.  ????
  • Reply 14 of 30
    For reading books such as novels and short stories my Kindle Paperwhite is the best thing since ....well ... books.
    I have a very difficult time gauging the pages on an iPhone and reading the above on an iPad becomes torture after 30 minutes due to the back light.
    The Kindle's battery life, even lighting and read-anywhere specs make it enjoyable and a perfect replacement for a physical book in my hand.   The other thing I love about the Kindle is the fact that there are no interruptions while I am reading.  This is a major plus! 

    However there is one caveat!   Recently I tried reading a few textbooks (programming and biology), as well as a cartoon book (Marvel), and I found it impossible to do so on the Kindle.  The iPad won hands down, with the iPhone doing well for the cartoon book, but not the technical book (drawings etc).  I also found that highlighting books was much simpler on the iPad.

    So I take my iPhone and my Kindle on vacations, but my iPad and iPhone on business meetings.

    Great article, but one correction needed.  The Kindle doesn't just obtain books from the Amazon Kindle store.   There are many free Kindle/ePub sites that cater to the Kindle and let's not forget the Public Library which allows Kindle/ePub lending for up to 3 weeks.  If you use Libby or Overdrive these books are sent from your library to the Kindle with no late fees since they disappear after the allotted time.
    edited October 2018 dewme
  • Reply 15 of 30
    boredumb said:
     .....The Kindle battery life claims, btw, are not valid unless you barely use the backlight and rarely use wifi, but since they made it possible to read while charging that's of no consequence.
    I have had my Paperwhite for two years now and I use it about 4 times per week.   Although I shut off the wifi when I'm using it, turning it back on to sync the pages, I have found my battery life to be about 3 weeks.   I have recorded 6 weeks when I used it in standby mode for much of the time, some time in february.  But 3 weeks is my average.
  • Reply 16 of 30
    I have to chime in and talk about the lack of e-ink talk. the biggest advantage to e-ink is that it’s physical so you’re looking at a physical object versus pixels. eye fatigue is critical when reading and Kindles were made with e-ink to reduce eye strain! That’s the #1 benefit imho. e-ink also is strikingly visible in sunlight because, again, it’s a physical element you’re looking at, small physical balls that rotate and realign based on the signal provided to them. moving from a Sony PRS to a Kindle Paperwhite and finally a Kindle Oasis, i cannot speak highly enough about the positive affects of e-ink. And battery life is killer. Kindles are meant to do one thing and one thing only which is allow users to read books, distraction-free. who’s with me?!
  • Reply 17 of 30
    The killer app for the Kindle which you did not mention is that you can read a Kindle without being distracted by Twitter, text messages, email etc. When I curl up with my Oasis, I am making a conscious move away from the Internet and all of its delights and irritations. When I read a Kindle book on my iPhone XS Max, yes I’m reading a book, probably at the doctor’s office or some other place  where I did not bring my Kindle, and that means all of the other things I can do on my iPhone are just a tap away. I believe this means I read more immersively on the Kindle than I do on the iPhone. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 18 of 30
    That said, if you buy a hardware Kindle device then you are stuck to only buying Kindle books. Whereas if you buy an iPhone, you get both: iOS devices can show you Kindle books as well as Apple Books.

    This particular tidbit is not quite true.  I have a library full of epub titles that I read on both my Kindle and my iPhone.  The Calibre software has a robust conversion system which converts my epubs to mobi, and mails them to my Kindle account.  The books in my Kindle library that I did not buy from Amazon far outnumber those that I did buy from Amazon, and the latter group are mostly free ones.
    GeorgeBMacboredumbargonaut
  • Reply 19 of 30


    Photograph of a Kindle Voyage next to an iPhone XS Max, both displaying Kindle books


    I don't understand why one would compare a Kindle tablet to an iPhone.   Would it not have been more fair to compare the Kindle tablet to an iPad?  Tablet against tablet.

    Weirdly that would have evened out the price discrepancy.   But also, for myself, I always considered reading long things on a phone a painful experience.  Tablets are just better suited to outputting long documents.
  • Reply 20 of 30
    Many prefer the Kindle because of its lower tech but easier to read screen.

    That is also one of the reasons why I like my old Lenovo Thinkpad.   It can't display photos and videos with the brilliance, contrast and sharpness of a Mac.   But, for text, it's softer and easier on the eyes.
Sign In or Register to comment.