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Amazon Fire Phone review roundup: Americans are taking one for the team

Amazon announced its first foray into the smartphone market last month with the Fire phone. The device runs Fire OS 3.5, which is a customized version of Android, and sports a 4.7 IPS LCD HD display, 2.2GHz quad-core processor with Adreno 330 graphics processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 13MP shooter.

Most of the uniqueness comes from within the Fire Phone, namely the 3D feature Amazon calls ‘Dynamic Perspective,’ which allows you to view objects on the display from multiple angles just by tilting the phone. In addition, FireFly is embedded within every Fire Phone and brings the ability to simply scan various products via the camera lens and purchase it directly from Amazon.

The Fire Phone will ship this week and for now is an AT&T exclusive in the United States for $199.99 on a two-year agreement, or at $649 (32GB) or $749 (64GB) off contract. There is no immediate plans for Amazon to bring the Fire Phone to Canada, but are we missing out? The early review say nay. Here’s a roundup of what various tech sites have to say about Amazon’s first smartphone:


The Verge:

“Time and time again, however, the Fire Phone has reminded me that there’s a difference between good ideas about phones and good phones. A big difference.”

“The five (yes, five) cameras that peer out from the phone’s front panel are nakedly shown, and they just feel out of place, like exposed screws in luxury furniture. Yet they’re the only distinctive thing about the Fire Phone”

“The rear-facing, 13-megapixel shooter in particular takes clean and clear images in most situations, as good as almost any Android phone I’ve used. It’s slow, though, occasionally painfully so, and it has focusing problems that really hurt video capture — footage I shot was often pulsing in and out, hunting for focus. The Fire Phone takes good photos when you get the shot, but it’s definitely prone to missing it.”

“Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it’s incredibly, hilariously inconsistent. It figured out the type of Jelly Beans I was shopping for, but only offered them to me in massive bulk. It identified my Dove deodorant as the wrong scent; it turned green tea into citrus; it logged the wrong kind of Trident gum.”

“Firefly is a powerful idea let down by its execution”

“Dynamic Perspective makes for awesomely fun lock screens with much more to them than first meets the eye, but it does nothing to meaningfully improve the smartphone experience.”

“Ultimately, the success and potential of the Fire Phone rests on Firefly and Dynamic Perspective — cool technologies that both rely on developers finding better ways to use them. Right now, they’re just fixing a problem nobody has.”


Wall Street Journal:

“[…]the Fire is the grown-up equivalent of a 9-year-old riding a bike with his hands in the air. “Look, Ma, no hands!” It’s a neat gimmick, but it won’t get you very far.”

“In the past five days, I couldn’t once get the Fire’s battery to last to day’s end—a telephonic cardinal sin.”

“Don’t expect to get all the apps you love: Though it runs on a version of Google’s Android operating system, Google apps like Maps, Drive and YouTube are locked out. And the Fire can’t transfer most app purchases from previous phones.”

“The controls that track your head, which Amazon calls “dynamic perspective,” never become as natural and predictable as just touching the screen with your fingers.”

“The Fire does some things well. None is a reason most people would switch.”


Engadget:

“Amazon’s debut phone isn’t bad, per se, but there’s little incentive for anyone to switch carriers or platforms to buy it. Its unique features don’t provide enough utility, and come at the expense of both battery life and performance.”

“Amazon appears to have put so much effort on the Fire phone’s unique features that it didn’t focus on making the device attractive. It looks more like a prototype than a phone that’s supposed to compete against well-designed beauts like the iPhone 5s, LG G3 and HTC One M8.”

“Though it’s not horrible by any means, the Fire’s display quality is not on par with other flagships.”

“One of the biggest disappointments about the Fire phone is its agreement with AT&T. It’s also not launching with any international availability. Even worse, the phone is locked to only function with AT&T SIM cards, so if you plan to travel internationally, you’ll need to be lucky enough to get an unlock code, either through the carrier or unofficial means.”

“Dynamic Perspective works well most of the time, but I still noticed plenty of flaws. Choppiness was the most frequent issue, and it usually occurred because I was moving my head around too much and the sensors simply couldn’t keep up.”

“My calls into Mayday connected between 10 and 20 seconds, with my average wait time coming out to the promised 15 seconds. With my permission, each rep was able to view and remotely control my device to answer my questions; one rep even drew on my screen to show me how to get to a desired feature.”

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ZDNet:

“The bottom line for me is that I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the Fire even though it’s unclear how Dynamic Perspective and Firefly ultimately fare among developers and the broader market.”

“There’s nothing more annoying than a smartphone with a camera that doesn’t measure up. The Fire Phone’s camera measured up and worked well in the field. Amazon doesn’t overwhelm you with settings. Editing tools worked well. The setting that’s most interesting is Fire’s lenticular setting, which takes a series of shots to create a 3D view”

“Firefly’s performance was decent, but there were multiple times where it didn’t recognize the product. I was hoping that Firefly could scan my pantry, focus on the cereal shelf and then create a list for me so I could schedule delivery. That scenario didn’t quite work out. Firefly’s database needs to evolve”


New York Times:

“Some of the Fire Phone’s headline features feel as if they were born of the same superficial impulse.”

“Dynamic Perspective provides a sensation of three-dimensional imagery. While technically impressive, the system rarely makes for a substantive improvement in how you’ll use your phone… Other instances of Dynamic Perspective are downright annoying. Take Auto Scroll.”

“Also, this phone is no looker. An indistinct slab of glass and plastic, the Fire Phone looks more like a minimalist prototype than a finished product.”

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