Amazon Fire Phone Review: That's All Ya Got?
Updated from 9:12 a.m. to include information on Amazon Coins.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) –– Amazon's
The Fire phone is an OK-at-best attempt at Amazon's entry into the smartphone market, and consumers should wait until the second or third generation to consider purchasing the phone.
I've been testing the device for a few days -- and if it wasn't clear before that Amazon is selling this device to have you buy more products, it becomes very obvious upon turning the device on. The Fire phone almost instantaneously brings you to the Amazon homepage.
Like iOS and Android, the Fire phone asks you to connect to social networks, like Facebook
Amazon has made it clear that it has two big selling points for the 4.7-inch device. The first is its Dynamic Perspective, which allows users to tilt the phone or their head and look at icons and pictures to give them a 3-D-ish aspect. The second selling point is the Fire phone's six cameras. Some of these cameras go toward giving the images a real-world feel, along with special sensors embedded in the phone
Dynamic Perspective is a nice addition for games, and the game that comes pre-installed on the phone, Monkey Buddy, does a good job of showing it off. If you're looking at clothing or sneakers or something that you would wear on Amazon's site, it's helpful, but not overly. Unfortunately, Amazon (and every other smartphone maker) hasn't figured out a way to let me try the clothes on without leaving my house. Maybe next time.
Amazon also allows you to swipe left or right from the main screen to give you more information. The left has a list of stuff, the right has added information. For example, if you're on Amazon's Silk Browser (which is much improved), if you swipe left, it brings up things like Bookmarks, Saved Pages, History and the like. If you swipe right, it brings up Site Links. Or, if you're shopping on Amazon, swiping left brings up Your Account, Home, Shop by Department, and swiping right brings up Inspired By Your History.
This is a nice feature, but occasionally the images look a little blurry when tilted. It's not something I would consider a must-have feature for a phone.
The other big feature, -- and perhaps the whole reason Amazon built the phone in the first place -- is Firefly.
Firefly is an app on the home page (or you can just hold the camera button on the left of the phone), which uses the phone's 13 megapixel camera to identify real-world products (books, soda, cereal and the like), as well as TV shows and movies. Then, if you want it, it's pretty simple to buy the product on Amazon.
However, Firefly is pretty temperamental. Depending on the angle, it might recognize the item or it might not. It recognized a book on my desk when it was right next to me, but at two feet away, it had a problem. It also had problems recognizing things like a highlighter, my work computer and countless other objects. I found myself getting frustrated, and constantly saying, "Firefly fails again."
As for the actual phone itself, I found myself disliking the keyboard, as I do not like the vibration upon hitting the keys. Perhaps I am too used to the iPhone (my personal phone), but this didn't do it for me. There is the option to swipe on the keyboard, though, which reduces the vibration to none.
Battery life is perhaps the one area where Amazon shines over Apple. In a two-day test of the battery, I did not have to charge it once with moderate-to-heavy usage (watching movies, TV shows, web browsing, texting and apps), whereas I would have had to charge my iPhone.
The camera is another area where the Fire phone stands out. The 13 megapixel images come out crystal clear. Considering that Amazon is giving you limitless cloud storage for photos, this should be a selling point ahead of Dynamic Perspective and Firefly, at least for now, while Amazon works out the kinks.