4.7 inch HD touchscreen
3D Dynamic Perspective UI
12 Megapixel Camera
Optical image Stabilisation
Amazon Fire OS
Amazon Fire Phone Review
Somewhat like Google, Amazon's quest to become one of those mega corporations with a finger in seemingly every pie shows no sign of slowing down. Sadly, their first foray into the smartphone genre leaves a lot to be desired
Introduced July 2014
Review by Mike Leader
The Amazon Fire Phone is the huge American giants attempt to get their fingers into yet another pie. This time they have chosen to take on the Android Smartphone market, following on from the relative success of their Kindle Fire tablets
We say "relative" success because it is widely considered that the price of the tablets was so low that Amazon didn't actually make any money on them and can only gain anything if people purchase their apps.
However, the smartphone market is a little different in that unlike the tablet market, there are hundreds of smartphones to choose from, some of extremely high quality. It also means that Amazon have had to hook up with a carrier, which in the US will be AT&T while here in the UK they will partner with O2.
So the Amazon Fire Phone needs to impress, and it starts by offering the same 4.7 inch screen size as the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
The whole front panel is glass covered, as is the back too and while that makes for a slippery surface on the rear cover, the sides amend for this somewhat with a soft touch feel. It's a nice phone to hold in the hand, but doesn't look or feel like anything special.
Amazon have also insisted on adding a large prominent logo to the top half of the back cover which won't please a lot of people. It's not going to give you the same warm feeling as a Sony or Apple logo and you might feel it's more on a par with putting a Tesco or Asda sticker on the phone. It hardly gives it a premium feel.
Midrange screen but plenty of power
The 720p HD screen continues the not-quite premium, feel, with a resolution that won't disappoint but doesn't begin to compete with any of the current top of the range offerings.
Where the Fire Phone does score is with it's impressive storage options of 32 and 64GB, a fast 2.2 GHz processor and 2GB of RAM which is more than you would find in even a high end desktop computer just a few years ago. All of this means that Amazon's first smartphone offering will tick along very nicely with no signs of any lag.
Decent 13MP camera
Now it gets interesting. There is a decent 13 megapixel camera on the back, coupled with a front facing 2.1 megapixel "selfie" camera, and both of these can record full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second.
However it is worth emphasising that the 720p HD screen can't display full HD, but your photos and videos will look great on your HD TV.
Photos are impressive though, and you also get HDR and an LED flash to help with strongly backlit and low light situations. The camera also has it's own dedicated button on the side of the handset like the Nokia Lumia 930, always a welcome addition.
But it is basic in operation with no ISO or white balance controls, scene settings or very little else to be honest. The lack of complication will suit some, but it's what we expect to see on a budget handset.
4 more cameras!
The Amazon Fire Phone also has another four cameras mounted in each corner. The purpose of these is to power Amazon's Dynamic Perspective, which effectively tilts the view on the display in the direction you tilt the phone.
The point of this is to offer a 3D effect, so that you can view the contents of your screen at any angle, and the icons will still be facing you directly. This is one of the phone's main selling points, but the problem is, it is of no real practical use. In otherwords, it's really just a gimmick.
The problem Amazon has is that our brains are designed to adapt to changing angles so that we can still see and read signs at an angle. Otherwise a road traffic sign would always have to be facing straight at us for us to be able to read it, rather than several feet in the air at the side of the road.
Therefore, in our opinion, Amazon's gimmick serves no real purpose. The other big news is in Amazon's Fire OS operating system. This is a heavily skinned version of Android and is a lot different from the Android interface we all know and love, even compared to the customised UI's of Samsung, Sony and all the other big name manufacturers and we don't think it will be popular with most users
Built in user guide
There is a fairly lengthy user guide built into the phone when you start it up, which is as essential as it is useful. The reason for this is partly because you will find, or rather not find, a couple of normally familiar buttons like Back and Menu.
To go Back you need to swipe up from the bottom centre of the screen and it all takes time to learn and can be quite irritating, especially when you have got used to an operating system and have used it for a few years as most of us now have. Why would we want to learn a whole new way of doing things needlessly?
Those who are used to Amazon's Kindle HD series of tablets will find some aspects more familiar though. Amazon include a feature that you almost certainly will never find on another smartphone, and that's their Firefly app.
It can recognise all sorts of things via it's camera and microphone, from a can of beans to TV shows and music tracks - It is clever, but is effectively only designed to get you to buy more on Amazon. Basically, if it's available to buy on Amazon it will probably recognise it and at a prod of the screen will take you to the product on Amazon.
This is arguably the real purpose of the phone - because the idea is to make their profit by ensuring you buy as much as possible on their site. If it was cheap and cheerful that might not be so bad but it isn't, and with that we're going to pull a plug on the review right here because there is no other compelling reason to buy this phone.
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