After a few years of rumour and speculation Amazon finally made good on its promise to bring a smartphone device to the market. This summer, and in typical Amazon style they brought that device with a twist dynamic perspective. The question remains is Amazon's foray into the smartphone arena worth your hard earned money? It really depends on what you are looking for out of a smartphone. Find out if it's for you in the full review below.
While the main features on this device are the Fire OS and the dynamic perspective, you still need to start at the hardware.
- 4.7" HD LCD display
- 1280x720 display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2GHz Quad-core
- 13 MP rear-facing
- f/2.0 wide aperture lens
- Optical image stabilization
- 2.1 MP front-facing
- 1080p HD video recording
- 32/64 GB on-board storage (no SD card slot)
- 2 GB RAM
While the design on this device is not "cutting edge" it still feels great in hand, it feels almost like a bigger iPhone 4s but a little sturdier. This feeling is compounded by only having one home button on the middle bottom bezel of this device, another tip of the hat to Apple’s handsets.
The other psychical buttons on the Fire Phone are the volume button, the camera/Firefly button, and the lock/unlock button. The volume button is placed fine on the upper left hand side of the device as expected, however the camera button is placed awkwardly halfway up the phone which makes it almost unusable as a camera and only passable as a Firefly button. The lock/unlock power button is placed on the top the device... now on a smaller handset this would be fine, but once phone screens hit the 4.5 inch mark it becomes cumbersome to reach and at 4.7 inches, on this device the button is very awkward to use.
The best way to get a feel for the Fire OS is to watch the full video review above... however if you'd rather read then follow me this way. This OS seems to be a mix between the OS that Amazon uses on their Kindle Fire tablets, for the main homepage at least. This is all about the showing you your last used apps, and with the one button on the front and the way the apps screen looks, it is very iOS-ish. The swiping gestures to close out apps and open up new menus is very MeeGo/BB10-ish, but while this simply sounds like a hogpog of OS’ mixed into one, after using the device for a week I have to tell you it's simple (and dare I say it enjoyable) to use.
The other huge features are:
Dynamic Perspective: This is that cool 3D effect that Amazon showed off at launch, and it uses the four front facing cameras that you see on each corner of the device to track your face and adjust the screen accordingly. While this is a neat trick there is not enough apps that use this technology as of yet, so it still a little gimmicky. If developers really get on board with this though, it could be huge. The flip side of that is of course no one could develop for it and it could simply be a one off for just this device.
Firefly: This is where the device will tell you what a song, movie, TV show, book, t-shirt...well just about anything is by "looking or listening" to it. This will work flawlessly if the item is something Amazon sells, but when you get to something that is not carried by Amazon it starts to falter. This is not too big of a deal since the amount of stuff that Amazon sells is almost limitless.
Mayday: This is a button you push for instant customer service. A live person will come up on your screen via video feed and either walk you through your current issue or they can use an option to give them control of the device and let them fix it for you. While I didn't use this feature myself I have watched others use it on their Kindle Fires and let me tell you it works very well and is a lifesaver when you are stuck.
While the 13MP rear facing camera takes some great pictures on the surface that are crisp and show a lot of detail, zooming in on them shows a different story. This device brings in WAY to much light into a shot when you take a picture. This shows by pixelation when you zoom in or with complete and utter over exposure (as in the second picture down or the last picture) when there is an abundant light source. My hope is that a software update will fix this issue because this camera has the potential to be a great camera but it's simply serviceable at best in its current state.
The only reason this section is here is that this device DOES NOT have access to the Play Store; it only has access to Amazon’s own app store. While this store has most of the Android apps everyone is talking about it only has 175,000 application available in total. This is far less than the 800,000+ apps that the Play Store has and it's about half of the selection of apps you will find on Windows Phone (300K + apps and growing).
Is the store going to be an issue for most users? I am guessing not, however, if you see your local TV/store/company is advertising an Android App it will not be available for you Fire device.
The big question at the top of everyone's list is "Is this device for me?" As always, it depends on what you want to do with your smartphone. If you want to tinker with it, place on theme/skins, jailbreak, or have access to all the Google services I can't recommend this device to you. However, if you are looking for a simple easy to use device and want to simply make calls, text, take pics to share with your friends, get on Facebook, etc. this device will work just fine for you. Oh and it also helps if you have an Amazon Prime membership because the entire device uses Amazon services which are truly great if have a Prime account.
It's really hard to rate this device on a 1 to 10 scale. For some it's going to be an 11 for others it's going to be -3, simply depending what you expect out of the device. For the average smartphone user my best guess is that they will happy with it and I will rate it 8 out of 10 for those people. However, be forewarned power users as your mileage may vary greatly.