Amazon-Fire-Phone-AH-7

Featured Review: Amazon Fire Phone

August 2, 2014 - Written By Alexander Maxham

A few years ago, Amazon made it’s first leap into Android hardware, with the Kindle Fire. Then they brought out the Kindle Fire HD and HDX the following two years. Now fast forward to 2014. Amazon has announced the Fire TV and the Fire Phone this year. We’ve already reviewed the Fire TV, and we thought it was amazing. In fact, I went out and bought one after returning my review unit. That’s just how great I thought it was, and still do. But we aren’t here to talk about the Fire TV, we are here to talk about the Amazon Fire Phone, which is exclusive to AT&T, and US only. So there’s a really limited market for this thing, unfortunately for Amazon. And the pricing of it definitely isn’t helping them out here. Amazon and AT&T are selling the 32GB Fire Phone for $199 on contract, and the 64GB model for $299 on contract. Or $649 and $749 off contract. Quite the opposite of what the Kindle Fire’s and Fire TV are priced at. Which is usually pretty cheap.

While there are some bad things about the Fire Phone, for instance the lack of Google services, there are also some good things like Firefly and Mayday. And of course we’ll be covering all of that in this review as we always do. We like to keep everything blunt. As we don’t want our readers purchasing what they think is a great phone, then it later turn out to be a dud.

Specs

  • 4.7-inch 1280×720 resolution IPS LCD Display
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU, with Adreno 330 GPU
  • 32GB/64GB internal storage, with no expanded storage available
  • 13-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Amazon Fire OS 3.5
  • Bands: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 – LTE 700/800/850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600
  • Dimensions: 139.2 x 66.5 x 8.9 mm
  • Weight: 160g
  • Battery: 2400mAh non-removable

Amazon-Fire-Phone-AH-23

Hardware

The hardware on the Amazon Fire Phone is actually quite unique. To most of us it looks like an iPhone from the front and a Nexus 4 from the back. But there’s more to it than just that. You may have noticed the 5 cameras on the front. Yes there’s 5 cameras there. One in each corner, plus the front-facing camera. Now what these four cameras in the corners do is allow the phone to use Dynamic perspective. So you have a sort of live wallpaper on your phone, which can be moved around by moving the phone around. Many have said it’s a gimmick, and I’m actually inclined to agree with them. While it does look cool, I don’t see any real use for it. You’ll also see that there is only a home button. No capacitive menu or back buttons here. Which makes things interesting. The entire OS is gesture-based. For instance, you have to swipe up from the bottom on the right side  to go back. That took me quite a while to figure out, actually.

On the back, there’s glass there. Which after owning the Nexus 4, I’m not a huge fan of this. While it looks nice. It is going to get scratched up very easily. But we do have an Amazon logo with the 13-megapixel camera and flash on the back. The Amazon logo is actually raised a bit, so you can actually feel it on the back. On the left side you’ve got the volume rocker and Firefly/Camera button (spoiler alert: I really like the dedicated camera button, and always have) along with the nano-SIM card tray. On the top is the power button, a speaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the bottom is the other speaker and microUSB port for charging it.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that this thing is tall. Literally. It’s almost as tall as the LG G3, which has almost a full inch advantage on the display. That’s just how large the bezels on the Fire Phone are. Which is necessary for all the cameras on there, but I still think a 4.7-inch phone should be a bit smaller. It is a little unnatural to hold in the hand thanks to the power button being up top, but after a few days you do get used to it. But that goes for just about any phone really.

Display

It is a 720p display, so you’d think for someone that uses a Quad HD display as his daily driver, there’d be some complaints. But nope. Not really. I’ve said this before, but at 4.7-inches and smaller, I still think 720p is the perfect size. Why? Because you still have a pretty high pixel density. It’s 312 ppi here on the Fire Phone and it actually looks really nice. It is an IPS display, so it is nice and bright, and you can definitely use it outside in the sun. Which is important right now since it is summer. Would I like a 1080p display on the Fire Phone? Of course, but it’s not that necessary, in my opinion.

Amazon-Fire-Phone-AH-9

Performance

Now this shouldn’t really surprise anyone seeing as the Fire Phone is running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with an Adreno 330 GPU inside. But the performance is top notch. I was playing some games on the Fire Phone and had no issues at all. No lag, or stuttering. Which is always important. No issues switching from app to app either.

Battery Life

While we do have a 2400mAh battery inside, we’re not getting amazing battery life like we saw on some other smartphones out there like the LG G2, HTC One M8 or the Galaxy S5. But it is enough to last you through an entire day, on AT&T’s 4G LTE network.

Software

Screenshot 2014-07-29 11.36.40

This is going to be a long part of the review, actually. The software, I have mixed feelings about. I actually liked the software on the Kindle Fire HDX. Although on the Fire Phone, not so much. On the home screen, you basically see your most recently used apps, in a carousel. And when you swipe over to one, it’ll show you data from that app below. Of instance with the Gallery app, it’ll show pictures you’ve recently taken, or the Speedtest app will show recent speed test results. Swiping up from the bottom brings you into the app drawer. Which you can see apps on your phone and in the cloud. By in the cloud, it’s apps that you have already installed on previous Amazon Fire devices and ones that come pre-installed.

Here’s some food for thought though, the brand new Amazon Prime Music service that launched recently, yeah that wasn’t pre-installed on the Fire Phone, surprisingly.

As for the Silk Browser, I still actually like it. I’ve had no real issues with it at all. It’s not as great as Chrome, but on the Fire Phone you’ll have to deal with it, unfortunately. All the other Amazon apps on here look pretty decent and perform pretty well, as well.

Onto Firefly, one of my favorite features, actually. With Firefly, you can use the camera to view a box of something or another product and it’ll bring it up on Amazon’s website, give you the price, and allow you to order it from right there. Which is pretty neat. But the funny thing is, if you hold up the Fire Phone box in front of it, it can’t find out what it is. So obviously it needs some work. But this is one of those features that I think needs to be in an app and pushed into the Play Store.

As far as Mayday goes, it’s just as great as it was on the Kindle Fire HDX. You can easily just hit the Mayday button from the Notification panel and within 30 seconds or so, an Amazon rep will appear to help you out with whatever issue you have. Again, another feature that needs to be made available on all devices.

Amazon-Fire-Phone-AH-21

Camera

We’ve got a 13MP camera here on the Fire Phone, which actually takes decent shots. Which you can see in the gallery down below. The gallery app on the Fire Phone is a bit confusing, but not too bad. But don’t forget, you get unlimited cloud storage for pictures with the Amazon Fire Phone. So take as many pictures as you want.

The Good

  • Amazon: If you’re heavily invested in Amazon, this is going to be a great device for you.
  • Camera: 13MP cameras seem to be the norm these days. But Amazon has managed to get a great camera in their first phone
  • Firefly: I absolutely love this feature. Being able to pull out your phone, take a picture of a product and it shows you the cost on Amazon is amazing. Sure it’s already available in their Play Store app, but this is even quicker because of the dedicated button.

The Bad

  • Exclusivity: Not only is the Fire phone exclusive to AT&T, but it’s also exclusive to the US. Which makes the number of people that can buy this thing, really small.
  • Gimmicks: Amazon, get rid of the Dynamic Perspective, yeah it’s cool, but you guys spent way to much on it.
  • No Google Services: I feel that I say this on every Amazon hardware review. but the lack of Google services is a big con for the Fire Phone.

TL;DR

As far as a companies first phone goes, this actually isn’t bad. We’ve seen plenty worse, anyone remember the G1? Or the Dell Streak? Yeah that was when Android was very young, but still. I think that if Amazon had priced the Fire Phone at around $200-300 off contract for the 32GB version, they’d have a definite winner. Especially if it wasn’t exclusive to AT&T. Because looking at the bands it supports, there’s no real reason for it to be exclusive to one carrier.