Amazon Fire Phone hands-on

Amazon created a mobile device that speaks to its customer base perfectly, and the end result is the Fire Phone

To the surprise of few, Amazon finally unveiled its first smartphone — dubbed the Fire Phone — today at an event in Seattle. What was surprising, though, are the specifics that surround this latest Amazon Fire-branded device. The long-rumored 3D interface is a reality, but it's done in an interesting way with specialized hardware and being implemented in tasteful portions, not just as a gimmicky feature.

It also sports a good number of user-friendly features that will appeal to the mass market, including great camera specs, easy-to-use Fire OS software and the well-known MayDay button from the Kindle Fire tablets. But as is the case with any Amazon device, the Fire Phone is about far more than the specs.

The first thing to get out of the way is Amazon's 3D interface on the Fire Phone, which is all generated by a technology called Dynamic Perspective. It's part hardware and part software, combining to give you a really neat feature that is used generously throughout Fire OS and can also be tapped into by third-party developers. Four front-facing cameras and four infrared lights can be found around the front of the phone, each one specially-tuned to track your face movement and depth from the phone itself. That's paired up with the standard array of accelerometer, gyroscope and other sensors inside the phone to get a precise location of your head relative to the phone's display.

The end result is the Fire Phone knowing precisely where it is in relation to you, and then reports that information to any app or software layer that wants it. The main Fire OS interface has been turned to take advantage, providing 3D interface elements from the lockscreen to the status bar and inside of all of Amazon's first-party apps. The interface doesn't pop out at you as much as it drops down "below" the screen, giving you a sense of depth that's unlike what you're used to experiencing on a phone. The motion sensing lets you twist the phone to reveal slide-in panels from both sides of the phone, let you scroll up and down pages by tilting back and forth, and even view objects in 3D when browsing items in the Amazon marketplace.

Amazon Fire Phone

The entire wrist and head gesture-based interface takes some time to get used to, to be honest, but once you get your bearings of what movements get you where, you find it's quite natural. There isn't anything unintuitive about it, it's all what you would expect to happen in the real world — move your head to either side, and you can see "around" objects on the screen. It will take some time to see how this works out for third party developers as well, but Amazon is quite excited about what they've seen from the few developers they've partnered with to make apps and games for release.

Going beyond the 3D features, Amazon is introducing a new feature called Firefly that is basically a barcode scanner taken to the maximum. You can scan any bar code, phone number, object, sign or person, and Firefly will do its best to recognize what's in the photo. Products can be searched for and found on Amazon, phone numbers can be called or saved and other items can be added directly to third-party apps that plug into the Firefly SDK. Going a step further, Firefly can watch TV and movies or listen to music and give you information on those items as well — TV and Movies will even be recognized down to the scene and exact timestamp that you recorded, letting you start watching on your phone via Amazon Prime Instant Video right away.

Firefly works by leveraging on-device processing to pick out the important parts of the items you scan, then comparing it to an image library on Amazon's cloud of over 100 million objects. The entire process is handled in-house by Amazon, and considering it's the store where you can buy just about anything, it has the database to recognize anything you'd ever want to.

On the hardware side, there's plenty to like about the Fire Phone. If you're at all familiar with a Nexus 4, you'll feel right at home here. The device is clad in Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, with a soft touch feel around the edges between each pane. It makes the phone heavier to be certain, but it also gives a satisfying feel in the hand of a premium device. There are a couple exposed seams at the corners where the plastic comes together, but there's nothing out of place here that makes you think this is a budget device — and it shouldn't at $199 with contract or $649 without.

That's all backed up by a Snapdragon 800 processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM — more than enough power to run a 720 x 1280 display and handle all of the computation for the Dynamic Perspective and software features on-device.

Does Amazon have a winner here?

Amazon Fire Phone

The Amazon Fire Phone is certainly a step in a different direction from phones today. This isn't just a spec-matching phone to go out and play toe-to-toe with the Galaxy S5 and LG G3 — it's Amazon's take on what a phone should be, and it's packed in enough features and use-cases into a single device that more than a few people will be interested in it. How much appeal it actually draws will ultimately be limited by its price and carrier restrictions, but as a first start for Amazon in the phone marketplace, we're excited about the Fire Phone.

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Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • FireFly is a fun show. Also that app sounds very useful and I'd like to see goggles grow similarly or FF to be available on more devices. Posted via Android Central App via XT1060_NiT through spacetime.
  • Browncoats for life!
  • Browncoats Unite! Maybe Google Goggles will finally get some much needed attention now
  • But no Google Play, right? No bueno.
  • Right.
  • All of a sudden no longer interested
    That and based on Jelly Bean (apparently), US based only, Amazon tie in...... I like choice not much here.
    For those who can, it might be a good choice but personally I do not like to be Sandboxed. Some nice ideas, especially if it works as well as demoed, 'Firefly' and the 3D effect (parallax) which has been done in a sense elsewhere. Great release Amazon, just one I won't be able to experience
  • But there's a possibility you'll get a shitload of bloat on there, so I got that going for me, which is nice. Posted via Android Central App
  • Right because not having Google Play has been such a failure for Kindle Fire.
  • I'm more concerned about ATT exclusive. I really wish these phone makers would quit with the exclusives.
  • If this had a way to access the Play Store and utilize Android's features, I think it could be successful. Fire OS is just too weird and locked down for my taste. It's nice to see something different though. As a loyal Amazon customer, I wish them the best of luck. Posted via my Nexus 7 2013 :)
  • I bought my mother a kindle fire hd and she has issues with it due to lack of technological savvy. It is a good device, but I agree in that I don't like the way the OS operates, it is different enough to not be comfortable to use, at least for me.
  • Needs more apps.. Would love to win one
  • Look I live amazon for a lot of things and it's certainly got enough gimmicks to be interesting but bottom line is this isn't going to change much. Unless it's just that cool to look at the side of an icon?
  • Am I the only one that thinks the UI is ugly? I don't see much of a point for this phone honestly. Posted via Android Central App
  • Those fingerprint smudges though.
  • 'Tis the downside of glass on the back of a phone.
  • Well, that and being slippery, fragile, and heavy. Even the style is outdated now that Apple no longer does it. Really, I can't think of an upside.
  • Man, this phone reminds me of the Nexus 4.
    Just missing the glittery back. Posted from my caseless GS5, because I believe in myself
  • I thought it was a 13mp camera? Posted via Android Central App
  • Must have misspoke. Yes 13MP. Posted via Android Central App
  • Can the phone make calls to fires? Seriously though .. Amazon needs to come up with a new name for their products. Next they will be selling fire drones! Posted by a tuba playing,nexus 5 and 7 carrying future hacker.
  • Ha and I thought I was the only that thought Amazon Fire Phone was a stupid name. it works for the tablets but not so much for the phones.
  • I think this will be another success for Amazon. Clearly innovative. After initial exclusivity (market trial) with AT&T, when proven it will be released on other carriers.
  • Some cool tricks in that bag. Hope they do well and hope some of those ideas are useful enough to drive further innovation in other phones. Personally not my type but I like it. And would recommend it to others. Posted via Android Central App
  • if you think about it, this Amazon phone was made for their customers (mainly Prime) and future (Prime) customers. Anyone can throw high end specs into a phone and sell it, well unless your OnePlus One lol.
  • Burn! Get it? Fire? Burn... aww hell
  • Quite brilliant! That needs to be posted on their google+ account!
  • So Fire OS is a skinned version of Android or no? °Sony XPERIA Z2 white
    °LG Optimus G Pro white
    °LG Optimus L70 black
  • It would be more appropriate to think of Fire OS as a fork, rather than a skin. Amazon's changes are far more than cosmetic.
  • Far more than just a skin. The changes are deep. Posted via Android Central App
  • I wonder if it says "Powered by Android" on the boot screen.
  • Who is going to buy this over an iPhone when they walk into ATT? Posted via Android Central App
  • People buy the Kindle Fires supposedly. Why wouldn't they buy this too? The interface may have that initial wow factor needed to get people to pick it up. I think they will do alright. It will certainly outsell any of the Windows Phones that AT&T sells!
  • Well Amazon's tablets are very affordable for one thing. The same cannot be said about this phone.
  • Looks laggy, especially considering that it is running an Sd800, 2GB of RAM, and what I presume is a fork of Kitkat. Doesn't look very appealing even without considering the lack of google services and the horrendous UI.
  • Can definitely say at least in my short usage it was not laggy. Posted via Android Central App
  • Did we watch the same video? ಠ益ಠ
  • Not laggy at all... Posted via Android Central App
  • Not laggy for the first month at least, I have my doubts as to the longevity of the non-lagginess.
  • Wow Amazon congratulations on the new product talk about Amazoning can't wait to try the new phone. Congrats guy's
  • Looks like Amazon has a winner here, but not me, I'm a Nexus fan all the way. I know plenty of people that would really enjoy this phone right next to there Kindle Fire's and are happy in the Amazon world. Hats off the Amazon to keep something unique out there for "others" that want something different, shop, read, and listen all in one place.
  • I think this phone will do well and won't flop at all. It seems very intriguing and the act that amazon has a good ecosystem with lots customers
  • Zzzzzzzz Posted via Android Central App
  • Can't wait for the Kindle Fire GPE, it might be interesting enough to hold my attention until the Project Ara modules are released in January.
  • Looks neat. Just seems kind of...Midrangey.
  • ... It has one high end feature; the price!
  • The fact that users may need to buy apps they've already bought and switch on over to a new OS may be the reasons that people choose not to switch to Amazon phones. Posted via Android Central App
  • Agreed. I haven't used amazon app store in a very long time. I think i even bought apps from google play that I had for free (during app a day give aways) in amazon, just for simplicity sake and to have all my apps in one spot. If they could somehow partner with google or devs and make it so its cross compatible... or shoot why didn't they just have an amazon section (partnership) with google play to begin with . Who knows, but great point dizfunctions.
  • That is interesting. I hadn't considered that. But I guess that works both ways, people that have bought the Amazon tablets might have more of a reason to be interested in this phone.
  • Why does he say it is an 8mp camera when everyone else says 13? I think he is incorrect in the video.
  • Yes. That's a one-take video for you. As we link to in the article it is 13MP. Posted via Android Central App
  • I guess TouchWiz is off the hook now for having the ugliest UI on a phone Posted via Android Central App
  • Maybe, that's subjective, but if it doesn't lag like Touchwiz does on my S5 it would be an improvement.
  • Maybe ugly ;-)
    - But it reminds me of the Kindle Fire HD (KFTT) UI –and that’s also different from the standard (tablet) UI.
    - It may not be pretty, but for the KFTT it was VERY functional –recently used apps/items were always queued up on that carousel (unless you swiped them away). All frequent apps were on a Favorites screen that also was one swipe away.
    - While I love Nova Launcher, on the KFTT I always wound up going back to the Amazon UI –it just was more convenient. (Also, every Amazon tablet has been able to be rooted and Play added –I don’t see why this phone won’t be the same!)
  • This phone looks to be terrible in every way. I'm surprised at the lack of negative comments. Posted via Android Central App
  • It has the potential to be a good 'everymans' phone, having a good screen size, good camera and easy to use seemingly. Whilst it's unlikely to appeal to droid heads like us, the drones on the street may suck it up if the price is right... Which is looking like the toughest sell Posted via Android Central App
  • The hardware looks nice definitely looking forward to trying it out Posted via Android Central App
  • Looks a bit like a Galaxy S2 and a Nexus 4 gang raped an iPhone. Meh..
  • I see no reason at all why this phone should exist. Amazon tablets are really cheap for the specs they have - and perfect the average users who gives a crap about "real" android and just wants to read and watch movies. This phone is extremely expensive, nobody has a phone as his primary movie or reading device - and the lack of "real" android = google services is MUCH more apparent on a phone then on a tablet. Just stupid. For 299 - maybe. But for 600+ ? Are you kidding me?
  • Sadly, most people still think phones cost $199 or $299....
  • Nice looking device. AC App via Nexus 5
  • It's worth a look...but it has a midrange feel to me... Posted via Android Central App
  • the back looks good but i don't know why the front looks like four screws :D and ugly home button :/
  • Lots of redundant visual gimmicks all of which will get boring after a couple of weeks of playing with them and no Google Play store... What a waste. I am a long-time Amazon Prime user but I'd never consider getting something like this, regardless of the price point.
  • Hi how can I remove blank pages
  • Mildly creeped out by 4 front facing camera, that need to collect a huge amount of facial data and can see brilliantly in the dark. With all the Amazon tie ins and ability to easily buy what you see in the 'real' world, I would have thought the price point could have been more aggressive too. Be fascinating to see how it develops and who the core market is.
  • Two of the cameras are so the NSA can see you better....the other two is so Amazon can see your facial expressions when your looking at a product to see if they should push that product on you harder. This phone is nothing but a huge advertisement and not worth it to me. I kinda was expecting more but then again, I expect more from every phone...this phone ain't for me because if I want something from Amazon, I'll go to the website.
  • Nice device... Won't be getting it though, I need access to Google services and ability to customize my device with different keyboards and such. Don't like being locked to Amazon essentially. Plus that silk browser is horrible.
    So when is the next Nexus coming..? Posted via Android Central App
  • What a failure amazon! Sent from my HTC One
  • It's amazing how a lot of people are complaining about this phone when 9 times out of 10, it wasn't made for you. This is the first phone this year that's bringing something unique and different instead of the usual suspects (bigger screen, faster processor, ect.). As for the software? It's the first time I haven't heard no one mentioned side-load or root and custom rom which seems to always be the answer to every problem from the majority of the Android community. I think the phone looks pretty good. Reminiscent of the Nexus 4 even. Yet to be tested in real world use, but the camera seems promising. This phone is attempting to do what Motorola failed to do with the Moto X, be an everyday consumer phone. The hard-core will always go for the flagahips. Honestly though, I'm ready to turn in my hard-core card. Posted via Android Central App
  • I'm sorry but what do you mean by the Moto X not being a consumer phone? That makes no sense at all. Posted via Android Central App
  • Yeah, my S5 is reason enough not to look at specs when shopping. It is fast but the laggy and stuttering UI is infuriating. That said, 4.7" is on the small side. And the glass back, that is just flat-out stupid.
  • I think the phone is innovative, but will ultimately be a bust. By the time Amazon realizes the mistake of pricing and carrier restriction, it will be too late. The question is will they be able to keep up with the hectic release cycles of other major players.
  • The tilt feature is definitely interesting; that's the big standout to me.
  • Great looking device, geared towards those deeply entrenched into the Amazon eco system, just like how the iPhone is to the Apple eco, this wasn't intended for those ultra geeks on the Android eco system, who tend to be on this sites comments section,, I see Amazon's first phone being a good learning attempt for them, and they will move forward with it just like they did with their tablet line Posted via my outdated Droid RAZR Maxx HD using the Android Central App
  • This phone is way more closed in than even Apple, and I use Amazon but even so I like doing other things than just buying crap from them. Posted via Android Central App
  • Nice fingerprint magnet.
  • Why is nobody stating the obvious?? This phone is AWFUL... Bravo for releasing a "mid"-range phone in a market that you're trying to (apparently only 20%, due to the ATT exclusivity) break into.
  • Mid-range? Other than a slight step down in processor it specs out very close to a Galaxy S5. Considering that a "lowly" MotoX outperforms my S5 in smoothness and fluidity while a Lumia Icon with the same Snapdragon 800 processor puts it to shame in real world use, I'll wait and see rather than jumping to conclusions.
  • hence the quotes... i mean the specs are a notch below in almost every category relative to EVERYTHING coming out now. that QUICKLY puts this mid-range. granted, i was being facetious, but name one aspect of it that gives it an edge over the newest of phones out within the past month or so or anything being released within a month! zero reason to buy. it's all about having a selling point, and there's is that "it's amazon! yay!"... but, i have an amazon app on my android. and BTW, relative to the S5, it's worse in processor speed, screen size, screen resolution, OS version (built on a model of jellybean), durability (glass back is fragile, plus water resistance), dimensions (it's thicker), weight, battery size (plus you can remove the S5 battery and carry as many as you'd like!), memory (not expandable), price (S5 was merely $80 at Radio Shack recently) and bezel/screen real estate. LOL and that phones been out for what, 2 months? again... Bravo Amazon! you might sell1000 units, ha.
  • But like I said, specs and real world experience can be two different things. The S5 is the poster child for the notion that specs alone can not and do not make a great phone. I know, I own one. My wife's Icon with the Snapdragon 800 absolutely spanks it in speed, responsiveness, and overall fluidity doing everyday things. That's why you saw the S5 on sale for $80. Now, maybe this phone won't perform well. But make no mistake, it has all the hardware necessary to be a great phone...if it is done right. And the UI is a big deal and a huge selling point if it works well. But again, maybe it won't. The point is that between the UI and tight integration to Amazon it offers an experience nobody else can offer and the specs are in the same ballpark as other flagships currently being sold.. Just because it does not surpass any flagships does not mean it is not in that class. My personal initial impression is that it's gimmicky and too small for me. But not having used it I can't say that for certain and I won't hold its specs against it without trying it first.
  • Yeah i hear ya, the interface is the key point here. And even that concerns me, as the Kindle Fires are merely meh. . we'll see, but consider me (and i think the VAST majority of others) disinterested. i think that's the bottom line. which again goes back to my original point!
  • And to think people complain about Verizon plastering their logo on devices!! This device is a nice first attempt. But I'll wait for a price drop, or the ability to root and put custom ROM's. And since i don't see this happening, might as well wait for the LG G3, Samsung S(F,prime whatever) or Note 4, or the next Nexus device at that price. Since i'm on Verizon, it will be at full price anyway for me.
  • finally something new Posted via Android Central App
  • Is this the new EVO3D? But without the cool 3D camera and high end internals. My EVO was a battery hog in 3D. Combine that with the four cameras required to run this thing and let's just say I have my doubts that it is practical. Oh yeah, no Play Store either? And a glass back. Just when I thought everybody had learned their lesson on how stupid that is. And they say Samsung is gimmicky. At least it's something different I suppose. 3D on my EVO was actually pretty cool but the tradeoffs weren't worth it. This has even more compromises.
  • A swing and a miss. Nothing to see here. Kinda sad, actually.
  • How long until they have a fire-sale on this thing? See what I did there? :)
  • The launcher Amazon uses on its Kindles, which is also used in this phone, requires a tremendous load from the CPU. Also, the type of screen they're using is a battery killer. Those two problems are going to cause a lot of unhappy buyers and affect the longevity of this phone. Maybe they'll get version 2 right if they can keep the boat floating that long.
  • They're not using 3D by having a 2-layered screen as the technology Nintendo used for the 3DS (which has proven to be a failure on mobile btw), instead, they're using 4 front facing cameras and some special sensors like gyroscope and aceletometer to make the UI move as you tilt your head making a 3D-like experience but its not totally 3D IMO, but it works better and causes less motion sickness. Posted via Android Central App
  • Looks great but what about app support? will it also run apps from the google play store?
  • So, basically it is not a real Android and uses the dumbed down Fire os? If this is true then it is a handful of limited junk with a cool picture pasted on the screen...
  • This pretty much guarantees that we won't see amazon video on any other Android device. The only reason to get this phone is for access to amazon's content, and if you could do that on any old device, there world be no reason to buy this.
  • +1, although I can use Dolphin or Boat in the desktop mode with flash installed (on 4.4.2!) and watch my Prime movies via a browser. A bit clunky, but it works.
  • I have my doubts they will be able to build off of their tablet sales success. I'm actually not sure how many tablets they have sold, but I do know some people who have bought them, so I imagine they've done relatively well. But they moved into the tablet market at a perfect time. I don't believe this is the "perfect time" to dive into smartphone market. I also believe that people are much more likely to experiment and take a risk on a tablet than a phone.
  • I'll pass. Especially at that price point. (Non contract) Posted via Android Central App
  • When I think of this phone I think of bowel movements simultaneously.
  • Hey. Clean up the phone before you photograph it! You have smudge marks and dust all over the phone!
  • One amazing feature of this new born phone is that it recognizes everything painting, song, food items etc. based on the appearance or sound of the objects. This feature is called Firefly tech. And the other technology called Dynamic Perspective that adjusts what users can see as they tilt or move the phone. It runs on Fire OS, the Android version of Amazon
    The special features of fire phone make it unique - especially the Dynamic perspective and Fire fly .I think its a good product by amazon.