Hey gang, Valkor here. Entering a new market – specifically, the mobile smartphone market must be tough; there’s loads of competition that's already established, but if you do enough to stand out amongst the crowd, then you can shine with your own light. And that’s exactly what Amazon, the company who made online shopping a household name, has done with their entry into the smartphone arena. Check it out, it’s Amazon Fire and it’s all kinds of hot!
When I first took the Fire phone out of its box, it looks similar to the iPhone 5s; hell when I brought it out and showed it to some of my friends, they also thought I had gotten back on the iOS bandwagon. But once you look past it, you can see that it’s much more than that. My first reaction when I picked up the phone was “wow! It’s heavy!” - Almost as heavy as the HTC One M8. The front and rear are made of glass with the rear emblazoned with the Amazon logo, and rubber around the edges. The front face features a 4.7” HD (1280X720) display and on each corner is a sensor (more on that in a bit). At the bottom is your home button and at the top of the face is your 2.1MP front-facing camera. Nothing on the right side, but on the left is your volume control, below that is the camera/firefly button (more on Firefly as well) and finally you have a slot for your nano-SIM card. Yup, if you’re getting this phone then prepare to change up (or down) on the size of your SIM. At the top of Fire is your power/standby button, at the rear is your 13.1 MP rear-facing camera and LED Flash and at the bottom is your MicroUSB port. Finally, we switch to the Internals; the Amazon Fire supports 32/64GB of storage, with no external option, running on Qualcomm SnapDragon 800 at 2.2GHz and 2GBs of RAM.
The phone runs on Amazon’s own “Amazon Fire OS”, which is based on the Android OS but does enough to stand on its own. And if you’re unfamiliar with it don’t worry as there is a nice tutorial at the start to get you adjusted. Once you’re at the main screen, you’re given a few app options on what is called a “carousel”, which will grow as you continue to use the phone. You can swipe your finger left/right to cycle through them and just below them is additional info or suggestions related to the app. For example, if you choose the email icon, you’ll get a list of the newest emails received. Also if you don’t want the app as part of your carousel, just press and hold it to get the option to remove it. Amazon Fire phone also works with tilting the phone left/right up/down. Tilting the phone right to left will bring up info such as weather, your schedule or any messages you may have received. Tilting left to right will give you a list of options such Apps, games, books, documents etc. FYI, you can also perform these functions with a swipe. If you swipe from top to bottom, you’ll access the notification screen as well as settings. If you swipe from bottom to the top, you’re given more app options; you can also access these apps by pressing the Home button. The tilting up/down seems to work best when using it with the browser, this way you don’t have to swipe the screen as it’ll scroll automatically. Even a slight tilt will cause the screen to adjust a little. And a bigger tilt will cause it to scroll faster.
Back to those four sensors featured on the face of the phone; they’re called “Dynamic Perspective Sensors”. I’ve only seen this work with a few features, mainly when you access the lock screen; when you tilt/shift your head the image moves with you, allowing you to see more along the sides of an image. It gives it a sort of 3D perspective if you will. It also works the same way when you access the main screen; as you shift your perspective, so do the icons and other images. The DPS also worked with the included game “Monkey Buddy”, allowing you to interact with objects that would normally be off-screen. But I found that DPS works great with the map app; if you shift or tilt your head, you’ll get additional places of interest or ratings.
Firefly is another great feature and works best if you’re an Amazon shopper; if you see someone reading a book that would be of interest or other objects such as posters or an ad in a magazine, you can either select the firefly icon or press the camera button on the side. Once the camera screen appears, you’ll also notice illuminated dots and as you hold the camera over the object, a pop-up will appear that will then give you additional information about the item. And it works on more than just books, you can show it video game box art, DVD covers, snack food packaging, hell I even tried my deodorant and it brought up info about that too. It’s a pretty impressive feature. And fans of recognition software such as Shazam will love this; Firefly can also bring up additional info on music playing or even a video you might be watching.
The Amazon Fire phone can work in one of two ways – either it’s a basic smartphone or if you love shopping with Amazon, you have a direct pipeline into the service. I should also mention that if you invest in the phone, you get one year of Amazon Prime, which allows you access to a vast library of movies, TV series, books and more. In the end, is the phone worth it?
The Amazon Fire Phone is a pretty basic smartphone when compared to similar phones out on the market; sure it has a few nifty features worth noting, but not much else. Is that a bad thing? Not really as I’m all about keeping it simple. And the Fire Phone fits the bill. The outside is a thing of beauty and while I’m guy crushing over the HTC M8’s gunmetal grey, the Fire phone is all covered in black with a glass outer shell that not only looks cool but it feels cool to the touch. And the rubber siding makes it easy to hold, so even with my sweaty paws, hanging onto the Fire phone was a cinch. Cycling through its menus takes a little learning, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be maneuvering through the menus with ease. The camera doesn’t offer much in terms of options, but it does take excellent quality images, though, for future incarnations, I would definitely put some focus into at least adding features in this area. I’m not a fan of the Dynamic Perspective Sensors and as of now, I don’t see a need for it. But the Firefly option is a definite plus in my book and great for those who enjoy shopping. Usually, you can get better deals on Amazon and imagine if you will, you’re about to pay 60 bucks for a game, but then you hit up Firefly and find out that you can get it for cheaper. A bonus is that you can buy it straight away and with Prime, you get two-day free shipping. I don’t see a problem with that as I’m the kind of guy that loves to save money. Finally, the battery life is pretty decent and I found myself at the end of the day with just enough to get me home. Ultimately the Amazon Fire Phone is an entertainment device, with immediate access to a plethora of media at your fingertips and it’s great for on the go or just chilling in your crib.
I’m still not a fan of the Dynamic Sensors, but I also had an issue with the upward swipe. Not so much when I’m scrolling through web pages or other apps, but when I’m on the main screen and I want to access more apps just below, I should be able to swipe up and it’ll bring up that page. But it doesn’t always happen – at least not immediately.
If you’re a fan of the Amazon product and love to shop on their site then picking up the Amazon Fire Phone is definitely worth the investment – plus points if you love to comparison shop, as Firefly works to not only give you more info about a product but allows you to buy it straight away. There’s always room for improvement, but as it stands the Fire Phone is a solid first entry from Amazon. And out of TOV 5 stars, Amazon Fire Phone gets a 4. and it’s been Valkor tested, TOV Approved.