Amazon Fire Phone Review
The long-rumored Amazon phone has at last hit the desks of reviewers nationwide. Known as the Amazon Fire, the $199 handset follows in the footsteps of the original Apple iPhone by being both pricey and only available (beginning in July 2014) from A T & T.
With a heavily customized Android OS, the Fire phone offers two major features not available on other Android devices, Firefly and Mayday. Firefly makes it very easy to buy. Push the Firefly button on the handset and a number of things instantly take place. It takes a photo, performs image recognition pulling out any recognizable item, phone number, email, etc., and stores (for free) a copy of your photos in a unlimited, linked Amazon account. It’s a simple matter to then call, email, text, or buy using the extracted data. (It’s also possible that Amazon’s analysis bots will troll through these same photos to freshen its recommendations and ads)
CNN was not alone in noting that Firefly’s ability to identify songs, books, and other Amazon-available items was not an afterthought, but a focus of the phone.
“Amazon wants you to buy its first smartphone, the Fire, which it unveiled Wednesday,” the news channel reported. “But it also wants you to use that phone to buy more stuff … from Amazon.”
Mayday, a feature brought over from Amazon’s Kindle Tablet line, makes is easier for novice users to gain confidence with their phones. One press calls up an Amazon staffer you can hear and see and who can draw helpful arrows and notes directly on your screen. The tech rep cannot see you, but they can hear your questions. Since the Amazon OS differs from iOS or stock Android, new users could require some assistance, no matter how long they’ve been using a smart handset.
The big draw for the Fire in terms of hardware is the use of four, user-facing cameras. These serve to track the user’s head movement, combined with device accelerometers, which detect tilting, these activate a modest 3D-effect on screen that Amazon terms, “Dynamic Perspective.” This novelty allows the user to manipulate pop-out menus, flyouts and other additional data tabs, almost as a second thought, by simple head or handset movements without actually touching the screen.
Details on the screen and camera resolution are included in the official specs, but none of the Fire’s hardware exceeds the current flagship phone expectations as currently defined by Samsung and Apple.
Whether the 3D effect captivates or annoys remains to be seen. Previous 3D phones featuring stronger effects from HTC and LG did not garner noticeable market share. The real draw for those who are otherwise undecided about buying a new Fire may be the offer of free Amazon Prime for one year. That’s an $89 incentive which effectively lowers the $199 price for those who would enjoy Prime. (Current Prime members get a full-year extension with the Fire.)
Executive summary: The Amazon Fire phone offers a few new tricks, adequate hardware, but it comes at a premium price. Its success may depend more on Amazon’s packaged deals, branding and marketing than on the handset’s actual design. It does not rate as best-in-class in general terms (camera, processor, screen resolution, lack of expandable memory, etc.), but they may not matter since it is firmly aimed at the consumer, not the business or technical market segments.