There was always a lot of talk that Amazon would release a smartphone. As time went on we heard different rumors and ideas, but nothing ever happened. That all changed earlier this year when Jeff Bezos went up on stage to present to the world, the Amazon Fire Phone. So now that it’s here, is it worth it? Can Amazon make the Fire Phone earn a spot in today’s competitive smartphone market?
Before we get started I want to note that I used the Fire Phone as my daily driver for a couple of weeks. That consisted of checking emails, updating social media, taking photos, browsing the web, and making phone calls of course.
- 4.7” Inch 720p LCD Display
- 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 800 Processor
- 2GB of RAM
- 13MP Rear Camera – OIS, f/2.0
- 2.1MP Front Camera
- Fire OS 3.5 (Forked Android 4.4.2)
- 32GB, 64GB Storage
- 2,400 mAh Battery
The hardware department is largely a matter of opinion, but in my opinion, Amazon killed it here. The glass back along with the nice curves actually made using the Fire Phone a great experience to hold in the hand. Is it better than something like the HTC One M8 or iPhone 6? Not really, but it’s not too far down that road. The only thing I think Amazon could have done to really improve the hardware is to make the device just a bit thinner. At 8.9mm this is definitely not the thinnest phone. Is it unbearable? No. Is it a bit annoying. Certainly. On a side note, the glass on the back of the phone is extremely easy to scratch. Within just the first few days the phone got some noticeable scratches on the glass back just from putting it down on the table.
The software on the Fire Phone is Android KitKat, but it’s forked beyond recognition. In fact Amazon even calls this skin Fire OS. So what did I think? Let me put it this way. It’s about as bad as the Jacksonville Jaguars this season. What really made this a rough experience was the overall functionality. Navigation was simply a pain. The concept sounds cool, but after using it in practice I wasn’t much of a fan. Moving around the software involved a lot of swipes on screen and a lots of gestures with my wrist to perform actions. I personally found it to be a pain and just annoying in general. It didn’t help that after a short time, things were laggy and sometimes had very late response times to an action. With the specifications and hardware on this device, this simply shouldn’t be the case.
My final and biggest issue with the software was the app situation. Of course I wouldn’t expect Amazon to ship the Google Play Store with this device. They have their own. But that’s not the problem. It’s really the sheer lack of Google Apps in general. I found myself constantly missing the YouTube app or the Hangouts app and then remembering that I can’t have them with this phone. Of course this issue flies out the window if you are someone who rarely or never uses Google’s services.
To talk about something good though, we have Amazon’s Firefly on this device and TL;DR, it’s the highlight of this phone. Firefly is designed to help you find information just by letting the phone take a look around. Let’s say you’re at Best Buy looking at a new camera bag and you see it’s on sale. Well Best Buy will do price match with Amazon, so why not check what their price is? It’s as easy as hitting Firefly, pointing the phone at the bag or the barcode, and then waiting a second for the Amazon listing to pop up. But that’s not all it does. You can also scan signs and flyers for phone numbers, email addresses, and more which you can then interact with or save.
The Fire Phone has a 13MP camera on the back and to keep things short. It’s pretty great, even better than I thought. Pictures have sharp details and vibrant colors. 1080p video recording is also found here and it performs as expected. Now this isn’t the best camera out there, but you certainly won’t be disappointed by it.
The battery life on the Fire Phone isn’t horrible, but it could be better. I used the phone for everyday normal usage and I could usually get about 7-8 hours before needing to charge it. That’s not horrible, especially considering I’d qualify as a heavy user. For the most part though, I usually had a charger handy at work or in the car.
The Fire Phone is Amazon’s first attempt at a smartphone, and that’s clear right off the bat. It delivers in some areas, but drops the ball in other very important ones. The lack of some apps, functionality, and the ecosystem really played a huge role on my thoughts in this review. Frankly, I wouldn’t suggest this phone to anyone. Does that mean Amazon is done in the mobile phone business? Nope. There’s certainly a lot of potential for this device, Amazon just has a lot of work to do first. The Fire Phone is the first spark, but it hasn’t lit the flame yet.