The Amazon Fire has never managed to carve out a majority market share in the tablet market. Too many people likely consider it a souped-up Kindle to take it that seriously for anything more than media.
But the Amazon Fire Phone could very well be a more stable contender within mobile devices. Not only has it managed to match many features that you see with other top brands, but in some ways it has easily surpassed them.
The 4.7′” display is, of course, high definition. No one expected any different, as Amazon is pushing media like movies and TV shows just as hard on their phone as they do on their tablet. More interesting is the eye tracking technology. Using four cameras placed through the phone, it tracks the movements of the user to change what is shown on the screen.
It also features one-handed shortcuts that use the movement of the phone itself rather than the touchscreen to issue commands. For example, you can tilt it to navigate the panels, or swivel for primary settings and customer support access.
That is another interesting thing. Amazon is offering free. 24-hour video customer support from your device. If you need help you can swivel or tap the Mayday button, and you will be connected within seconds to another person. An unusual but certainly helpful feature. This is over both WiFi and the AT&T network.
With the camera, they have boosted things beyond what might be expected. It comes in at 13 MP, though there is only one, with optical stabilization and panoramic view/filming. They also tacked on a couple of additional features to sweeten the deal, like auto-suggest for long range shots, though nothing too impressive.
Under the hood we have a Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz processor with 2GB RAM. You could pit this against the latest Samsung devices, which is great for a speedier, media-focused phone.
Storage is another awesome addition. You have 32 GB on-board storage, which is higher than most and doesn’t get stingy like Apple. Plus the unlimited cloud based storage through you Amazon account that you already get with other devices.
One of the coolest feature is the Dynamic Perspective, or what we all expected to be the “3D effect”. It’s a motion control effect that takes advantage of 2 of 4 front facing additional cameras in different situations. It can be used inside games, apps and helps you even scroll pages without touching the phone. This dynamic perspective effect relies on track your head in real-time by using motion sensors and 2 out of those 4 additional front facing cameras. It’s quite interesting.
Another great thing, this time for Amazon is Firefly, which can become one of the greatest mobile marketing tool ever invented. With Firefly Amazon Fire Phone users can identify almost everything by using phone’s camera and a dedicated button. If you press the dedicated button, Firefly can take advantage of the microphone to identify a song(like Shazam) or a movie and prompt you to buy that song/movie or take advantage of the back camera to identify a product, a barcode. Amazon claims that Firefly can identify 100 million items.
For the moment they are offering a year’s free Prime service for new members. For current members you can get a year of free service added to your account as a credit. Syncing your account should be a lot simpler than it is with Apple, as trying to connect a device to the iTunes store can be so riddled with errors that you want to rip your hair out. Same with Android, with their often buggy and poorly monitored apps and content. Amazon has always been a bit more consistent on cloud access and user friendly controls.
While the cost of the phone is just short of $650, there is a contract plan with AT&T that gives it to you at $199. This is more than, say, buying an iPhone 5S with Verizon. But given it is a brand new release, the cost is still decent.
I have a little personal story here. About three weeks ago I started to have issues with my Android based smartphone. It was one of a long line of them, and I finally got fed up. In spite of having been a long time Google girl, I gave in and purchased an iPhone.
For the most part, it has been great. I like Apple in spite of myself. It is the same kind of feeling you would expect from the majority of non-brand loyal geeks who are more commonly found complaining than rejoicing at the feet of Big Tech.
This phone makes me wish I had waited. I will admit to being a big fan of all things Amazon, even if I never really got into their leap for tablets. Seeing a phone that connects so fully to Prime and the various features I use is enough to make me broody about the iPhone I have sitting on my desk beside me.
Ultimately, my verdict is that this is cool. But it is also a first release, and nothing is as great as it sounds in the first release. A couple of years from now, when my contract has ended and Amazon has inevitably slipped their way into the telecom market, I think I might be making another switch.
Sorry, Apple…we both knew my heart was never really yours.