Amazon Fire Phone

The best phone you probably won't want to buy

Of course we got interested when Amazon finally showed off the Fire Phone. Rumors had been flying for quite a while, but once we actually saw what Amazon had to offer, we had to take a look at it. It's Android at it's core — though not in a way we're used to seeing — and that's what we do here.

So is the Fire Phone more than Amazon Prime in your hands? With features like Dynamic Perspective and an a very custom user interface — and a complete lack of all Google services — the Fire Phone has it's work cut out.

Let's see what makes this thing tick.

Design and hardware

At first glance, the Fire Phone looks just like a mash-up of the iPhone 4S and the Nexus 4. You have a glass back and rubber outer "bumper" with all your controls and ports, with two security screws and drilled holes for the speaker at the bottom. It's a sturdy design and feels well-built, though we know glass-back phones don't go over well with everyone.

Amazon Fire Phone

While it's not really a looker — there is nothing in the design that says "WOW" — as mentioned it does feel solid. The bumper is actually a stainless steel frame coated with a rubberized finish to make things more "grippable". The power, camera and volume buttons are a black finish stainless, and both front and back are Gorilla Glass 3. The 4.7-inch display is probably smaller than the screen on the phone you're using now, but it is nice and clear at 720p and 315 ppi. Amazon lists the screen brightness at 590 cd/m2, which is a bunch of numbers that translate into bright enough to easily use outdoors in full sun.

Amazon Fire Phone

Internally, things are running on the capable Snapdragon 800 and 2GB of RAM. You've got either 32GB or 64GB internal storage models to choose from, and both of them are an AT&T exclusive for the time being. All things considered, you're presented with a tidy and well-built package, even though there is nothing in the design or construction that stands out.

Full specifications

Category Features
Size 5.5" x 2.6" x 0.35" (139.2mm x 66.5mm x 8.9mm)
Weight 5.64 ounces (160 grams)
Processor 2.2GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU, with Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM
Display 4.7" HD LCD display, with 1280 x 720 resolution at 315 ppi, 590 cd/m2 brightness (typical), 1000:1 contrast ratio (typical)
Cameras 13 MP rear-facing camera, multi-frame HDR, auto focus, optical image stabilization, f/2.0 5-element wide aperture lens, LED flash
2.1 MP front-facing camera
OS Fire OS 3.5.0
Storage 32 GB or 64 GB
Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content, and photos taken with Fire phone
Battery Battery size: 2400mAh. Talk time: up to 22 hours; standby time: up to 285 hours. Video playback: up to 11 hours; audio playback: up to 65 hours.
Video recording 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps (front- and rear-facing cameras)
Audio playback Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio processing
TV and Video Supports screen mirroring and Second Screen
Content formats supported Audio: Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3), non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, PCM/WAVE, AAC LC/ELD, HE-AAC (v1 & v2), AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AMR-WB+, Audible Enhanced format (AAX); Video: MPEG4, VP8, H.264/MPEG4/AVC,MPEG4 SP, H.263,AVI,HDCP2.x, PlayReady DRM; Images: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, GIF87a,GIF89a; Viewable docs: PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, DOC, DOCX, Kindle (AZW), KF8, TXT
Sensors Dynamic Perspective sensor system with invisible infrared illumination, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, barometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
Location GPS, Assisted GPS, GLONASS, Wi-Fi/Cellular location, and Digital compass
Cellular UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz), Quad-band GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), 9 bands of LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20), supports carrier aggregation
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, up to 300 Mbps with channel bonding; Bluetooth 3.0 wireless technology; NFC enabled
Headphones Premium, tangle-free headphones with remote and mic
Rating for hearing aids M4, T4
SIM Card Pre-installed Nano SIM card
Ports Micro USB 2.0
3.5mm headphone
Warranty and Service 1-year Limited Warranty included. Use of Fire phone is subject to these terms
Included in the Box Amazon Fire Phone with Fire OS 3.5.0
Premium headphones with remote and mic
Micro USB to USB charging cable
USB power adapter (5W)
Quick Start Guide

Dynamic Perspective

Amazon Fire Phone

One of the more interestings about the Fire Phone is what Amazon is calling Dynamic Perspective. You have five cameras on the face of the phone, and while one is a fairly standard 2.1MP front facing camera, the other four are wide-angle cameras that are specially designed to use very little power. Each camera is paired up with an infrared LED to track the movements of your face.

Amazon Fire Phone

The cameras use that 120-degree field of view and IR illumination to follow your facial movement so that the user interface can appear to be three-dimensional. Only two cameras need to see your face at a time for it all to work, and there is plenty of software going on to take all the input and deliver something that is very cool, even if it's not always practical.

To be clear — this is nothing like the HTC EVO 3D or the LG Optimus 3D. Nothing looks like it is coming out of the screen towards you. Think of it as a way to create layers of depth in the interface, where UI elements not only move from side to side or up and down as you tilt the phone, but can overlap each other. It works, and it works well. Seeing some of the lockscreen wallpapers Amazon uses in all their Dynamic Perspective glory is a nice visual treat.

Amazon Fire Phone

While Amazon uses Dynamic Perspective in many areas of the UI, they are bullish that third-party developers will get on board and tap into it's potential with apps and games. Playing games that use the feature, like To-Fu Fury (a really fun time-waster from Amazon Studios), use head movement and tilting the phone to expose more of the play area and do things like peek around corners. Developers can also use Dynamic Perspective in the carousel to add a little motion effect. It's not subtle, not extremely useful, but it is pretty unique and seems fairly bug free.

T0-Fu Fury

To-Fu Fury

The software

Amazon has taken Fire OS from the Kindle Fire tablets and worked it onto a smartphone. It's actually done very nicely, but if you're not used to just how things work there is a small learning curve to do more than the basics you're presented with. At it's heart, it is running atop Android 4.2.2, though you would never know by looking.

Amazon Fire Phone

The main component of the interface is what Amazon calls the carousel. It's a circular launcher, where you can pin apps, and your recent applications appear. You swipe through it horizontally, or use gestures and motion to shuffle things around. You have a left and right panel with more information that might get lost in the main view, and in practice it works well with one hand on a small screen.

Amazon Fire Phone

You can also swipe up from the four icons permanently docked at the bottom of the screen to open all of your apps, or swipe up from the bottom to return home from any screen. Swiping down will open the notification panel, which is hidden along with the entire status bar.

While looking through the apps you'll notice the complete lack of anything from Google. Google Play, and all asscoiated services aren't present on the Fire Phone. This is just like the Kindle tablets, so nobody should be surprised. Instead, you have full access to everything Amazon. This includes the Silk browser in lieu of Chrome, the Kindle platform instead of Google Play Books, and full access to Amazon Instant video. The latter are handy to use with the complementary year of Amazon Prime that comes with your purchase.

Amazon Fire Phone

A unique feature to the Fire Phone is Firefly. Amazon would like nothing more than to make it easy for you to buy from them, and this includes "real" goods as well as digital goods. If you think of the phone as a portal to all things Amazon, Firefly is the easy way for you to find what Amazon hopes you'll buy from them.

Amazon Fire Phone

While reading barcodes or recognizing a box to shuffle you off to the corresponding item at Amazon is a key function of Firefly, it can also do useful things like scan business cards or signs, then names, emails, URLs and phone numbers are turned into actionable links. Firefly can also identify music or movies and TV shows via buttons atop of the interface. Once it's found what you're watching or listening to, you're whisked to a screen where you can buy it from Amazon as well as share it with a friend.

Firefly

The Camera

Amazon has packed a 13MP camera with optical image stabilization and an f/2.0 lens into the Fire Phone. The hardware is capable of 1080p video recording, and Amazon touts it as an all around excellent camera. You'll also have unlimited cloud storage for your pictures direct from Amazon.

Amazon Fire Phone

We're not going to argue. With good (but not great) software and features like HDR, burst mode and a dedicated camera button, the camera certainly is capable and will turn out a great picture provided the person taking it is also capable. Here are a few samples, which are on par with any other great smartphone camera out there.

Give it enough light, and the colors are accurate, there appears to be plenty of detail and a noticeable lack of graininess. It even does fairly well using the LED flash. There's not a lot more to say here — the camera on the Fire Phone is as good as any current Android "flagship" and it won't be a reason to not buy the phone.

The bottom line

Amazon Fire Phone

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Amazon's Fire Phone. You have a basic design that is built solidly out of good materials, software that's speedy and well-optimized for the device, and interesting new features that don't seem to affect the operation of the phone in any negative way.

The "phone" part of the phone works well, as does Bluetooth, GPS and Wifi. Battery life was average, and the Fire Phone will last most users a full day unless they go crazy with the camera or Firefly. There is nothing that sticks out as a glaring issue that would cause me enough concern to advise against buying the Fire Phone.

But I won't be using it, and it's not the phone's fault.

The lack of Google services just kills it for anyone deeply entrenched into all things Google, and while the alternatives are fine, they aren't the same. I have no Google Photos or Google Drive to back up my pictures and videos, no quick access to Google Docs for all my work-related "stuff" and while Google has done a good job building out mobile interfaces to all their services, it's not the same. I need to know when Phil wants something on Google Hangouts, or when any of you have something cool to share with me on Google+. I've a feeling plenty of people will feel the same, and for an Android fan the Fire Phone is a non-starter in a great little package.

 

Reader comments

The Amazon Fire Phone review

84 Comments

That phone has some nice build quality.
Throw Google Services on it and here's your {iPhone Killer}.

Posted from my "KNOX-FREE" 4.3 Sprint GS3 Maxx...!!! (PREPAID)

So, I have yet to see this mentioned, where are the maps coming from? Is it Bing or something else. I was hoping it might mean a decent map option for my HDX finally.

Played with this in the store and it's a really cool phone. Too bad it's so restricted, and without the play store it's not even an option.

That's because they suck at sells.. They only know how close them when you make up your mind.. They know nothing about phones or the specs without looking at the box

Posted via Android Central App

Um... what?

Edit: I'm gonna go ahead and assume this comment landed in the wrong place in the thread, so never mind :-D

Posted via Android Central App

Only people who are clueless about phones will buy this because the att rep is going to make them buy.

Posted via Android Central App

From what I've seen, AT&T is actually pretty terrible at pushing their own exclusives, makes no sense whatsoever.

Months ago they had a huge in store booth showcasing Moto Maker (still there I think), yet when my mother was asking about it ALL the employees were clueless and we learned they weren't even stocking the card with the code to buy a custom Moto X in store.

I doubt they were any more aggressive in pushing the Facebook phone, etc etc.

Yup, there's tons of examples. AT&T is pretty much where exclusives go to die, with the exception of the iPhone.

Now, most exclusives are ill fated either way (the Kyocera Echos, MS Kin, and Palm anything of the world can attest to that); but if you're gonna have one you might as well put some effort into promoting it.

VZW's Droid line still seems to do well for one, the HTC EVO line was huge for Sprint, it's true those are mostly derivative designs but still, they're completely different production lines/SKUs for the OEM regardless.

Sprint and VZW did their best to promote those lines and it paid off, maybe for the carriers more so than Moto/HTC but anyway...

I wouldn't say squandered Nokia Lumia is actually #3 in overall sales for AT&T smart phones. The Lumia 520 really helped out those numbers. Other than that it's mostly Apple and Samsung selling

Good phone, bad OS implementation. Amazon got greedy; they could have implemented their interface as a custom launcher; hell, they could even make that available on Google Play for anyone interested. Removing all the GApps pretty much guaranteed a DOA product.
I know, there will be hacks that will allow flashing GApps on top of it, but that's not the point. The phone needs to natively support them in order to have a wide audience.

That's never been the Fire OS way tho, and their stuff runs much deeper than the launcher anyway, but the entire point is to constraint you to their garden/market. I'm not excusing it, just saying they have a totally different vision and Fire is a straight up Android fork, not a mere skin.

I'm not really sure why they're so driven to become a hardware OEM... Fire tablets were a good opportunistic extension of their Kindle strategy, they put out something decent for a price not many OEM were hitting (at the time). It made sense, if only for a while.

Getting into phones and streaming boxes with no price advantage seems like a pointless strategy tho... They were first and foremost and online retailer, now they're just as much of an online services company. How do you get as many service subscribers as possible?

You become a slut so to speak and you get your stuff on as many devices as humanly possible, worked wonders for Netflix. There's no need to try and control the hardware side, specially for the kind of consumer services they offer.

"I'm not really sure why they're so driven to become a hardware OEM..."

It is pretty straightforward. Amazon is targeting people who use their phone primarily for online shopping, many of whom are already Amazon Prime members. Their strategy is to give those consumers a phone that makes it brain-dead simple to buy Amazon products & services, and watch the money roll in. Their target demographic is shopaholics, not android enthusiasts.

Really slick Amazon Instant app (along with their other existing apps) can accomplish the same on stock Android tho, and it HAS to be cheaper to pay Samsung to preload them all than to create their own phone...

Those extra Amazon Apps Verizon is now loading onto all their phones (on top of the Usual Verizon Crapware) wasn't done for customer benefit and sure didn't do it out of the Goodness of Their Heart.

I can see this being popular with people who use all the Amazon media products (books, music, video) and don't care about having Google stuff. A woman posted on a craft forum I belong to, she had a new Android phone (S3? I think) and couldn't figure out how to get her Amazon music and books on it and assumed she would have to plug it into her computer and sideload everything. I told her, just download the apps, your books and music are in the cloud. It was like I was speaking in Klingon for all she could understand. I finally walked her through literally from "Look for the Google Play app, it looks like a shopping bag with a triangle on it" and got her straightened out, but someone like her would LOVE this phone. It's basically a Kindle Fire in phone size and has the calling/texting function. I love my Nexus devices for the same reason, just swap "Google" for "Amazon."

Whenever a new phone comes out I have a desire (shortlived or not) to own one. With this one, there is no such desire, quite the opposite actually...

Posted via Android Central App

i just want to play with the UI, i was tempted to buy one just to play with something different for a while but the month wait and the g3 ended up swaying me away, and i don't feel bad about not buying it.

I didn't test it for 11 hours, but I can tell you that it will never happen. Battery life is just average, about the same as the S4 or the Nexus 5.

I like the Dramatic Perspective feature. It sounds like they got their shit in one sock and their software works well with the specialty hardware so maybe we might see something similar with other manufacturers. The lack of Google services would be a deal breaker for me as well, but the AT&T exclusivity takes care of that first. I think it is great to see that they apparently managed to get all of the software and hardware working smoothly.

Posted via Android Central App

It seems Amazon has pounded a year of free Amazon Prime home to the press, I see it mentioned in every review, but not the fact you that anything you watch on this phone will still count toward your data limit.

Amazon offers free shipping with most orders anyways... This is really not much of an incentive. If they offered a similar thing like T-Mobile with the free streaming music, except with Prime content, it would be a slightly different story. Nobody really wants this and it's hard to be excited about it. Plus, it's got a small-ish screen for content viewing. If it was 2012, this would have been a bigger hit I think.

Not their best effort.

Why would anyone buy this when you have all the Amazon apps on Android and iPhone and cost the SAME as the best phones on the market. Am I missing something?

Posted via Android Central App

the amazon video app for iOS does not allow you to save "prime" videos to your iOS device for later playback
the fire devices do this.

Yep.. I played with it at the store the other day too.. very cool but I'm not an Amazon fan and its FAR too expensive not to mention limited.. The OS reminds me of iOS and it should. Both companies are focused on devices that at the end of the day ensure their other revenue streams continue to build without regard for the 'everyday' use nor those who embrace Android :) And I agree with Jerry.. you're hard pressed to even know Android is beneath the Fire OS :)

You guys don't get it. This phone is not intended for die-hard android fans. It is for people that use their phones primarily for online shopping and/or people that have spent more money in Amazon's market than Google Play. The latter group probably couldn't care less about the lack of Google services on this phone.

Ok but can do that on any phone. Those shopping apps isn't exclusive to this phone. It would be a great concept if it was a budget phone

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Let's see how fast this goes from $199 to Free on ATT. I have a feeling they'll have a hard time even giving these away. Nice try Amazon....next!

Posted via Android Central App on my white Nexus 4 with StraightTalk ATT

With Amazon money involved I wager it makes it to Black Friday. From that point on it will be free with a new contract.

AC guys.
Could Amazon someone how open up Google Play but restrict specific apps? I.e. movies and books? But still open to google play services?
I've always wondered if this was at the heart of the no Play Store.

Kindle brand items are the iProducts of the android universe. Limited and simple in their lack of options with a LOT of marketing behind it. Not really a bad thing in general, but not something people that frequent this site will really care for.

That said, i would recommend it too my mom for a new smartphone like i am sure others will. Simple enough for her to use and i can help her if she has problems.

Posted via Android Central App

I just bought the fire phone two days ago. Coming from an lumia icon, iPhone 5s. Then HTC m8. Then s5. Then g3. Not going to lie, I actually like the fire phone A LOT. the keyboard on it is awesome. The apps yes are a little short, but I'm not a huge app guy and I'm sure they will add way more just like how Windows is or they will eventually just get Google play. The software is actually pretty damn cool after you play with it for a day or two. Compared the the g3 (favorite phone) I'd say it comes close for ME. it might not be for everyone. But I if given a shot, it's one hell of a phone. And people thinking the whole idea it's just to buy their stuff. That's a complete bs lie. The phone doesn't even bother me to buy stuff. If I want to buy something it is very convenient yes, but it doesn't try to sell you on purchasing from them. The keyboard is as good as a blackberry keyboard (my opinion way better than any other keyboard). Trust Me guys, give this phone a chance and you wouldn't be let down. You just need a day or two to get used to it but it's insanely cool. Besides the fact I have to be on att luckily they're not bad where I am. Also the camera is pretty good. The only thing I will complain about is the lack of apps and I'm not even an app guy but you still, the phone just came out. Give it a month or two and see where the app store will be then. It's a great phone. Should've been priced around 99.99 to 149.99 though in my opinion. Still a good phone. reminds me of Windows. Getting better every couple months.

If your not an app guy and are complaining about the lack of apps, that's saying something. No Google Maps or Now is a no go for me.

Posted via Android Central App

The Amazon App store has been around for many years. The app situation for Amazon will not get much better. Most developers are already developing for 2 vastly different platforms - Apple and Android. and the market for Amazon is not large enough to make it worth developing for. And yes at its hart Fire is Android but it is so modified (forked) that it is really a 3rd platform. Also, Amazon does not provide an equivalent to Google Play Services so in app purchases, along with many other services, are not available through Amazon.
No, the app situation for Amazon Fire is not going to get better the way things stand today.

Sorry for me Android without Google Play is like a fridge with no food, a bank account with no money, a milk man but no milk. I think you get the point I'll never buy an Android device that does not have all the Google Play Services and Google apps that makes Android so awesome.

Am I right in concluding that Android Wear wouldn't work with this? And if it did, would it be limited more than it already is?

Posted via Android Central App

1 year old hardware specs and a 2 year old screen resolution. With a gimmick I don't want or need, I'll pass.

Posted via Android Central App

The hardware really isn't bad, it's just the screen's three year old resolution that bugs me

Posted via Android Central App

I have 2 Amazon Kindle E-readers and the newest one is the best one available (in my opinion). I have a Kindle Fire TV box and a Kindle Fire HDX tablet. I have been a Prime member for several years.
The HDX tablet is what has put an end to me buying Amazon hardware. They produce very good hardware and then lock it down to their infrastructure, thus nullifying the good hardware.
Most people are heavily invested in the Google or Apple infrastructures, due to the smart phones they have been using for years. So, it is very painful to try to switch to someone else's platform (or even between Apple and Google). Especially since a lot of the Apps/Tools/Utilities that they are used to having on their current platforms are not available through Amazon.
I will keep my Prime membership because it is a good deal (for me anyways) but I will not be buying anymore Amazon hardware.
In my opinion Amazon is trying to, as someone else said, be the Apple of the Android world. What they don't seem to understand is that they are NOT Apple. Apple has been a computer company from the beginning and all of these devices (phones, tablets, e-readers, etc.) are computers. So Apple started their smart phone business with an advantage. On the other hand Amazon is, and always has been, a marketing company. And that is what they need to stick with, because they do it well. Leave the computers to the hardware companies, because that is what they do well.

I hope MoDaCo comes up with a Play Services hack like they did with the Kindle Fire. Something as simple as YouTube and Play Music are huge in my household, and not having access to them is a big hurdle. It can be overcome, but still a hurdle.

This phone should be free if amazon tries to advertise themselves with this phone lol
They should really pay users to "buy" this phone ahaha

My wife got a Fire phone on Tuesday...and later this Saturday afternoon, she's taking it back to get an iPhone 5s.

Other than it being "foreign" to her, even though she is a Kindle Guru, the phone has powered off on her...with 50% or more battery remaining...4 different times during the middle of use in 3 days, and several texts that were not delivered. A cool phone, but too much too fast for Amazon we think.

Amazon is the best book provider of the world. Amazon knows a lot of consumer behavior. AMAZON DOESN´T HAVE ANY IDEA OF TECHNOLOGY AND HOW THE USERS OF TECHNOLOGY USE IT. I HAVE THE KINDLE FIRE HD, AND YOU CANT CLASSIFY YOUR BOOKS. THIS REVIEW IT IS TELLING ME THAT MR BEZOS HAS DONE IT AGAIN, THE MARKET HAS TO TELL HIM THAT HE DOESNT KNOW OF TECHNOLOGY.

Those who spend more on Amazon than on Google Play might find this phone useful. They might not care about the lack of Google services, because this seems to be for people who do a lot of online shopping.

The lack of Google might kill it for most Android fans, but it doesn't seem to be for Android fans so we're good here.

I do wish Amazon had made an app instead of or along with the phone. People would probably be eager to install Firefly.

Posted via the Android Central App on my Nexus 5