According to new consumer survey data from ChangeWave Research, Amazon’s Kindle Fire is poised to become the first real competitor to the Apple iPad, with one in five planned tablet buyers (22%) indicating they will purchase the Kindle Fire. This is the first time since the original iPad’s launch that the number two device ever achieved a double-digit percentage in terms of consumer interest.

The data comes from a November 2011 survey of 3,043 North American consumers, who were polled on their past, current and future tablet-buying plans. According to the results, 2% of respondents had already pre-ordered the device, 5% said they were “very likely” to buy and 12% said they’re “somewhat likely” to buy.

Of course, the problem with surveys like this is that consumer interest doesn’t always mirror real-world buying trends. It’s easy to indicate you like a product, but it’s much harder to actually open your wallet and pay for it. That said, what this survey does show is the power of the Amazon and Kindle brands in the minds’ of consumers.

Unfortunately, Amazon may have to trade on its brand awareness and affinity to make the Kindle Fire a hit. The tablet has received mixed to downright negative reviews from a variety of sources including The NYT’s David Pogue, The WSJ’s Walt Mossberg, The Economist, Wired, Engadget, The Verge and others. Reviewers claim the software lacks polish and feels sluggish. “

“You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger,” was one of the more memorable Kindle Fire slams from Pogue. Meanwhile, Mossberg summarily dismissed it with just a few sentences:

“To be clear, the Kindle Fire is much less capable and versatile than the entry-level $499 iPad 2. It has a fraction of the apps, a smaller screen, much weaker battery life, a slower Web browser, half the internal storage and no cameras or microphone. It also has a rigid and somewhat frustrating user interface far less fluid than Apple’s.”

Yikes.

And yet, Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle, announced last week that the Fire had become the best-selling product across all of Amazon.com.

Still, we wonder how many unsatisfied customers will return their Kindle Fires later on? Or will the tablet be “good enough,” given its low price point?

If consumers buy, then regret, their Kindle Fire purchase, that could be a problem for the brand further down the road. As ChangeWave also notes, customer satisfaction is one of the key reason’s for Apple’s iPad dominance, with 74% of owners saying they’re “very satisfied” with their device. Only 49% say the same for all other tablet manufacturers combined.

 

November’s research also showed increasing tablet demand, including an uptick due to the holidays. 14% of respondents claimed they would buy a tablet in the next 90 days, a number that’s up 8 points since August. Despite the expected Kindle Fire gains, Apple still leads by a wide margin, with 65% indicating they will buy the iPad compared with the 22% demonstrating interest in the Kindle Fire.

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