Amazon unveiled its first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on Wednesday but to everyone’s surprise, the phone that should have set the market ablaze (owing to Amazon’s reputation with its Kindle series) gave rise to increased scepticisms. The phone sure has some really cool features, especially the dynamic viewing ability where the contents of the screen turn with you. But is this enough to get the attention and interest of the masses? The Fire Phone could go down in history as Bezos’ biggest mistake as he faces an uphill climb for trying to convince existing Amazon users to try out this smartphone. And the task is daunting enough without involving general Smartphone users.
Our team reviewed the specifications and features of the phone while considering all the possible factors that could have an impact on its performance in the market. Check out our review of the specs of the Fire Phone.
Fire OS 3.5 Operating System
Amazon refers to the Fire OS 3.5 as a forked version of the Android Jelly Bean (4.2) but somehow it does not remotely resemble the Android OS in any way because the company has already made its share of modifications to it. The modifications have also kept Google services away from this smartphone but you can integrate it in the phone by downloading its APK file. The grid is customizable and you can place apps in any order that you like.
You can even add content such as websites, books and other information in this grid. As for viewing the recent or frequently used apps, the Carousel feature not only presents these apps to you but each app in this also lists recent notifications. This is rather handy for the average user who needs to multitask. It seems that Amazon has once again camouflaged Google’s OS with its own twists and features. Some things can never change!
The 4.7-inch HD Display with Dynamic Perspective
With a 4.7 inch display, the device just falls a little short of being slated in the phablet segment. However, it should not be a turn-off as the display supports 720p resolution (in common terms, this mean High Definition resolution) which takes the pixel density up to 315 ppi. This is a good configuration but don’t expect it to deliver the quality that is provided by advanced display mechanics found in Apple’s retina display.
But considering the price tag on this device, the display configuration is totally worth it. The Fire Phone has a 590 cd/m2 brightness and 1000:1 contrast ratio along with Gorilla Glass protection.
The most striking feature yet is the dynamic perspective which allows the contents on the screen to literally turn as you change your direction. This also enhances the “Maps” feature where you can look around the city from different angles. You can find your way around better with this feature as you can get the proper understanding of the path or place from various perspectives.
And with the dynamic perspective, playing games on the smartphone will never be the same. You actually tend to move a lot with the game changing its visual perspective every time the dynamics of the game changes. It is one of the best features in this phone which really makes the content engaging.
Interface and User Experience
Now this is the fun part. The new Dynamics Perspective feature adds a whole new level of detail to the viewing capabilities which is a fresh new take for Smartphones. One of the best features of this phone is that it supports single hand operation. And this is not the usual single hand usage where you have conveniently placed buttons. You actually have to use a gesture to perform various actions. With a flick of the wrist, you can get an additional menu, manage pictures, and send text / video / image, and a whole lot more.
The Fire Phone is indeed the one hand usage device. The sensors also allow you to scroll up and down the pages by simply tilting it backward or forward. This auto-scrolling feature will definitely appeal to those who have had a hard time using their thumb to constantly manage the interface. Ardent readers are the ones who will benefit the most as they have less motions to perform and can read the content at greater ease.
For the inquisitive individual, this phone is really great for searching about practically anything with its FireFly feature. If it’s a book or a picture, just use the feature to click the photo and you would get the relevant information. It’s rather curious how the FireFly is able to show you the email address and the phone number whenever you scan any ad with it. And this does not get limited to only visuals. It can capture any audio that you want and you would get all the information related to it in an instant.
Amazon just doesn’t stop at this. It has integrated a MayDay feature which allows you to get live customer support via video calls. But the best part about this feature is that the customer support reps can actually control you phone and show you how things work. This is similar to the desktop applications such as team viewer and the video conferencing abilities of Skype. So whenever your get stuck, just call MayDay and you will have your issues resolved instantly.
With its 8.9mm thickness, the form factor of the form is neither too skinny nor too bulky. The dimensions are 139.2mm x 66.5mm x 8.9mm. As far as the weight is concerned, the device only weighs 160 grams and with the Gorilla Glass on both sides, the phone will have adequate protection to it. From these specifications, it seems that the phone might feel full in the hands but it is bulky and heavy as compared to the other phones in the segment.
SoC – Quad-core Snapdragon 800
The Fire Phone comes loaded with the Quadcore Snapdragon 800 processor. Of late, the quad core processors are becoming a trend as they have “better performance capability”, especially when multitasking. But it not completely proven yet. But this is good enough as per the price tag of the mobile. The processor clocks a speed of 2.2GHz and also supports an Adreno 330 GPU. Now with such configurations, it is but obvious that a 2 GB RAM would be needed to manage the apps.
The phones will be available in 32 GB and 64 GB variants. But this is pretty common for all Smartphones these days. So Amazon has decided to offer free cloud storage for all content that is associated with the company and users can even store photos (taken by the phone) on these cloud servers. Seems like Amazon managed to foresee the storage limitations well in advance.
Ok, so the camera is 13 MP for the rear one and 2.1 MP for the front. It is pretty much the standards these days and it should not come as a surprise to people when they see such configurations in the Fire Phone. The device has support for f/2.0 5-element wide aperture lens along with support for multi-frame HDR, auto focus, optical image stabilization and LED flash. And the best part about both cameras is that they support full HD resolution at 1080pi with video recording support at 30 frames per second. This is good enough to be compared with any mid-range digital camera. The 2.1 MP camera should appeal to the selfie loving generation which practically involves everyone including celebrities, kids, adults, elders and sometimes even animals.
The Fire Phone seems to be rather “sensitive” with loads of sensors which include a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, barometer, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor. Now that seems to be an extensive list. And our friend, the Dynamic Perspective, also has its own sensor system along with invisible infrared illumination support.
As far as cellular connectivity is concerned, the Fire Phone is compatible with 3G support along with UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz). Additionally, the device supports quad-band GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz). Since most communication networks are upgrading to 4G communication technologies, we can expect this device to be upgraded to maintain compatibility with the 4G network services.
The device is Wi-Fi friendly and supports ‘ac’ draft along with a/b/g/n. Wi-Fi channel bonding is also supported by the phone which is great for managing connections over an active network. The phone is integrated with the support for NFC as well as GPS with Assisted GPS and GLONASS.
As far as other connectivity options are concerned, the device is integrated with Bluetooth 3.0 wireless technology which is an old version but should be easy enough to manage. However, reports claim that this feature would not come in operational state. This means the company would be launching an update for supporting this feature. But there is no indication of when this could happen. Seems like we have to wait it out till we get some word on this. It is rather disappointing to see that a phone with near next gen features lacks a basic connectivity functionality that is present even in entry level phones.
Probably this is the most important feature that everyone looks out for. Irrespective of the type or category of phone, every user checks out the battery’s performance because no matter how great the phone may be, it is completely useless if there is no charge to keep it active. The Fire Phone comes with a 2400mAh battery which is capable of delivering 22 hours of talk time and 285 hours of standby time. However, this depends largely on personal usage and other factors. Video playback support for this phone is roughly 11 hours while audio support lasts upto 65 hours. The battery support is decent enough but not great. There are others that offer even better.
The device does have some good features but only time can tell how it is able to perform in a real world scenario. But the phone does lack some strength in terms of pricing, form, quantum of apps and differentiation.
The Amazon Fire Phone is priced between $649 and $749 (unlocked retail versions) while the ones with the contract costs around $119. Now this is almost 63% more than the cost of Google Nexus 5 (which has similar features) and almost similar in costs to Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S. In both cases, the cost value does not justify the features that have been provided in the phone.
From these specifications, it seems that the phone might feel full in the hands but it is bulky and heavy as compared to the other phones in the segment. This could prove to be a deterrence as users prefer to have a light weighted phone in their hands rather holding a bulky piece of technology.
The phone lacks adequate differentiation as the Dynamic Perspective ends up being a nice power-hungry gimmick while the FireFly would pretty soon end up in other smartphones under different branding. The music recognition feature in FireFly is already available in Android smartphones. So this is not something new. You could call the MayDay feature as a prospective component but it would also show up in other smartphones soon enough.
Amazon’s proprietary App Store has only 240,000 apps and most of them are poorly rated and not the most effective ones. This could prove to be the biggest challenge as the smartphone industry is driven by apps that offer greater convenience and a whole new level of device usage. This doesn’t even come close as compared to Android which has over 1.2 million apps in the Google Marketplace, most of which are monitored for QA.
In a nut shell, the phone is good but does not justify its pricing and depending on a one hand based operation with Dynamic Perspective viewing for success would be a futile effort. This may be a good effort by the company, but there is little hope that it could deliver the expected results. Unless the company is able to wield its magic and come up with a miracle, the phone would fail to make its mark among superior phones.
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