Kindle Fire HDX Mayday Review
The biggest addition to Fire OS, however, is unquestionably the new Mayday button. In fact, Bezos was so excited about the new feature that he listed it as the “third leg” of the company’s device strategy, alongside “premium products at non-premium prices,” and that spiel about making money when people actually start using the devices. Swipe down from the top of the home screen or in an app like Books and you’ll get a handful of quick settings options — locking, brightness, wireless and Quiet Time, which lets you turn off notifications across the system or in particular content types like books and movies. To the right of all these is a small life preserver icon labeled “Mayday.”
Essentially, this is built-in video chat with customer support. Tap it and a video box pops up featuring a real, live human on the other end. Rest assured: while you can see them, they can’t see you, so there’s no need to put those pants back on — and for their part, they don’t have a work environment akin to Chatroulette. They can, however, see your screen. (Like most of these help sessions, there’s some fine print letting you know that the conversation may be recorded.) The assistant on the other end can also take control remotely or, if you prefer, walk you through step by step, so you can do it on your own next time. They’re also able to draw yellow arrows and circles, à la Monday Night Football, to highlight particular buttons and functions on the screen.
The service gives you access to Amazon’s support staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the company plans on hiring even more folks, in the hopes of bringing average response times down to 15 seconds. During our trial, it took a bit closer to 20, but Mayday is understandably short-staffed ahead of the HDX’s launch. The real test will come, as Bezos pointed out, on Christmas Day, when new Kindle owners attempt to wrap their brains around the new device, or just want to show the new feature off to friends. To be honest, we found talking to a floating support head a little awkward initially, and we caught ourselves gesturing to the person on the other end, even though they clearly couldn’t see us. It did get a bit more comfortable during subsequent trials, though we found ourselves grasping at straws for things to ask (“How do I turn on Quiet Time in reading?” “How do I check my remaining battery life?”).
Sometimes, however, you just have to accept that a certain feature isn’t necessarily for you. If you’re the sort who tends to feel savvy with devices fresh out of the box, or if you like to tinker around until you answer the question yourself, you’re probably not going to get a lot of mileage out of Mayday. And then there’s that age-old service line irony: if you need help turning the device on, getting connected to the internet or launching Mayday, well, you’re out of luck here. For all the tech-illiterate relatives who find themselves in possession of a Fire, however, the feature could be the lifesaver its name implies, from questions about locating the download folder (easier said than done) to getting app recommendations. Mayday may take much of the tech support burden off of those who buy the gadget for their loved ones. There’s also plenty of opportunity for pranks, but well, that’s part of the fun of new technology, right?