Will Amazon’s phone be on fire, or will it be a messy burn?

June 18, 2014
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Years of anticipation made the Amazon Fire Phone today’s main topic among tech enthusiasts. Amazon built a reputation of solid devices, great services and prices that were hard to match. High hopes came with the announcement of the Amazon Fire Phone. Some were as surprised as they thought they would be, but many others welcomed the phone like that uninvited neighbor that always shows up to your reunions.

Amazon Fire Phone specs

  • 4.7-inch IPS HD display
  • 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 13 MP f2.0 rear-facing camera

firephone-announced Image source: CNBC

The Good

Hardware and build quality

The specs prove that this phone is no small contender. The processor, amount of RAM and display can match most current mid or high-end smartphones. The device also performs as such, as it showed no signs of lag or sluggish performance.

To make matters better, the phone is also pretty well-built, even if made without metal (save for the buttons, which are made of aluminum). The Amazon Fire Phone comes with a rubberized frame, along with Gorilla Glass in the front and back of the device.

This should make for a solid construction, mimicking their previous devices. The Gorilla Glass should also be great for scratches, but it is possible to crack it.

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Firefly

One of the few features that surprised me was Firefly, a tool that helps you take quick actions via photographs. One can save a phone number by taking a photo of a sign, for example. It’s also possible to search for products, music, movies, QR codes and more. Simply take a picture and let your phone do the work.

In a way, it’s Amazon version of Google Goggles, except a little more full-featured and paired with Amazon’s services.

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A free year of Amazon Prime!

This feels a bit like a bribe, but we can’t deny getting a free year of Amazon Prime ($99) is a huge incentive for buying the Amazon Fire Phone.

The Gimmicky

The mentioned advantages can be great for many users. Amazon is not one to adopt simplicity, though. They went all out with this smartphone, but I believe most features and specs will prove to be gimmicks. They will surely be fun and act as great conversation starters at bars, but most users will probably stop using them after the hype dies down.

The main issue here is software, and Amazon has a much different philosophy in this department. For starters, their UI looks nothing like Android, and it is not supported by Google Apps. There is no Google Play Store, for example. Instead, users are pushed into Amazon’s services and apps. This limitation could be one of the most important issues with getting an Amazon Fire Phone.

3D features

3D has been done many times in the mobile industry, and it has failed every single time. What makes Amazon think that they can make 3D displays happen? The online retailer is offering a glasses-free 3D experience with the Amazon Fire Phone. Along with it are some flashy features we know will impress many.

The device uses dynamic perspective, allowing users to tilt and move their phones along with their content and services. This is accomplished by using the gyroscope along with Amazon’s face-tracking technology.

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Four cameras are installed in the phone’s corners, while one is placed in the center, tracking your face at all times. In addition, these cameras sport infrared technology, making it possible for the device to track your face under low-light situations.

It works with lockscreen wallpapers, images, the Amazon shopping app and more. Ultimately, it is limited at launch, and Amazon doesn’t have the pull to make this a on-going feature. It will be a cool thing you use when you first get the Amazon Fire Phone, but do you really want a 3D environment in your smartphone? Past devices have proven that there is no place for this technology in mobile… at least not yet.

Mayday support

Also included in the software is Mayday support, which allows you to connect to Amazon’s tech support with the press of a button. You would get a live representative with knowledge on any issues you may be having. This is actually quite awesome, but do you really want it taking space in your phone at all times?

How often will you use it? Will it be enough to justify not making a phone call or reaching for your computer from time to time? Most of us will probably take advantage of it once or twice a year, officially making this feature what we like to call “bloatware”.

mayday

Do you even care about Amazon’s services?

As an Amazon device, the Fire Phone revolves around the online retailer’s services. It’s all about Kindle, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Music, etc. We know many of you love Amazon for shopping. The company also holds the best e-reading experience in the market. Not everyone cares for the other services, though, turning whatever apps you won’t use into more bloatware.

By nature, this phone is designed to be great for Prime subscribers. This could be who Amazon is really targeting, which does make more sense.

The executioner’s sword

Maybe we could handle all the gimmicks and annoyances if the phone offered a great deal. Here is where the executioner walks in and cuts Amazon’s head off. One of Amazon’s main points of sale was their prices, but this phone is priced right next to the best of the best.

The 32 GB Amazon Fire Phone costs $199 on a 2-year contract. The 64 GB version will set you back $299. To make matters more interesting, you can also get the device off-contract for a whopping $649.

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Though the specs are up there, I must say they are not quite on par with other devices on that price range. Amazon’s new smartphone may come with great technology, but we go back to the same point – it powers what most of us consider gimmicks.

And if all those inconveniences weren’t enough, there is an even bigger discrepancy with this device: it is only available for AT&T! So Amazon thinks they can have a successful launch on a phone with limited software, confusing features, gimmicks, bloatware and a high price… and they are limiting themselves to one carrier!

Granted, it is one of the biggest carriers in the USA, but I highly doubt they can pull an iPhone move on the industry. Apple is the only ones who could make it big on one carrier. I am certain it won’t happen with the Amazon Fire Phone.

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