It ain't exactly Nexus-quality stuff, but Amazon selling phones for cheap while adding a little bit of its own DNA isn't a return to the phone of which we shall not speak.
The jokes were inevitable, of course. With the news that Amazon was sticking its mitts into the smartphone world once again — selling the new Moto G4 and BLU R1 HD for cheap in exchange for lock screen ads — it had to happen.
Return of the Fire Phone.
I own a Fire Phone. It's buried deep in box somewhere, probably next to my HTC First Facebook Phone. Or maybe I shipped it up to West Virginia. Same difference, really. But the point is we paid good money to have one around, just in case the damned thing took off and we needed to write more about it.
And that's not to say that I don't have questions about these two sponsored phones. The BLU R1 HD (I still can't decide if license plate names are better than froo-froo names for phones) is just $49 for Amazon Prime members. The Moto G4 will run you $149. In exchange, you'll have to put up with lockscreen ads, and some preinstalled Amazon apps. The latter doesn't bother me as much as the former. You find Amazon apps bundled with carrier-branded phones all the time. That doesn't mean I like it — it just means I'm used to it.
Lock screens are a little more sacred. They're generally the first thing you see when you wake a phone. And since the Moto G4 doesn't have a fingerprint scanner (that luxury is reserved for the higher-spec'd Moto G4 Plus) you're going to be seeing the lock screen a lot, just like the bad old days.
So that's question No. 1. Will you be able to install a replacement lock screen app? I've never used any, but there are plenty of folks who have — and we've got a good list of 'em right here. Question No. 2 has to do with the software as a whole. The first three generations of the Moto G had unlockable bootloaders. I could see where this Amazon version — that's what it is at this point — wouldn't want that to be available, as you could buy a $149 phone and essentially get the same software as one that wasn't on sale. And at that price point it's a real consideration. On the other hand, it could be wide open.
But neither of those things would turn either the Moto G4 or BLU's new phone into the dumpster fire that was the Fire Phone.
For one, both of these phones still have access to Google's apps and services. While Amazon has done a great job of building out its own app ecosystem, it's just not the same. Then there's the matter of the software itself. Even lock screen ads and a few pieces of bloatware are better than the weird 3D thing Amazon was pushing on the Fire Phone. It's not that it was horribly executed — it was just unnecessary and distracting.
So, no. Just because Amazon's doing its thing to a couple of phones doesn't mean the Fire Phone is returning from the puddle of slag it quickly became. Far from it.
On the other hand, maybe a little more Fire in our lives wouldn't be so bad. 'Cause we could always use a little more of this guy.