Amazon recently held a press event with their new fire line of devices. Like the Fire TV, the Fire Phone is a heavily customized – unsupported fork of Android. When I mentioned unsupported – Google Apps are not installed on the device, and this is how Amazon wants it. In turn, they are offering their own app store. This is a relatively high end phone, and with it comes a high end phone price, and limited to one carrier (at least in the US). The phone has a 2.2Ghz Quad Core Arm based CPU with Adreno 330 graphics. The phone has 9 band LTE (there are more than 2 dozen), and support all GSM-2G/3G bands. There is also NFC, Bluetooth, and Wifi-AC support. The phone has a 4.7” display, 13MP rear camera, 2.1MP front camera, Dynamic Perspective System, and runs Fire OS 3.5 which is a fork of the Android OS that is catered to Amazon and its services. All of this will cost $650 for the 32GB or $750 for the 64GB model. 1 year of Amazon Prime is included for a limited time, and the phone will only be supported for AT&T. AT&T will have a contract price of $200 with a 2 year contract.
What is Good?
Obviously, the specs are good. The fact there aren’t many 64GB phones make it a worthwhile option, but this is likely due to the fact there is no micro-SD card. The Firefly feature is good as well as it helps people find the information on music, items, and shows – even if it is directed to buying the items on Amazon. The addition of headphones (quality ones) are a good add on which is lacking with most phones. A 2200mAh battery is acceptable, but I would have expected better.
What is Bad?
First, exclusivity with AT&T. Yes, I understand that AT&T partners with Amazon for their cellular connected Kindles, but this is provided by Amazon for free. Therefore, the consumer shouldn’t complain on the service. However, when you are spending $650 on a phone, you should be able to decide which carrier you are going to spend another $50 – $100 per month on. I might have even given them a pass if all Amazon based services were free, but I seen nothing of that. So, if you are with not AT&T, and even if you are an Amazon Prime Member, Amazon has just given you a big FU!
And while I know this is the way of the future – no micro-SD card support. I personally think it will make more sense to have smaller storage, and a micro-SDXC card then the integrated storage, and be limited. And yes, my Nexus 4, and my Nexus 7 has no micro-SD card, but saying this to be hypocritical is like buy bacon when you are opposed to pork only because bacon is the only thing sold in the store. When there are no competitive options, this is not an indicator of the right direction.
What is the Gimmick?
One, I find the 3D perspective system as more of a gimmick. Yes, it is cool that you have a near 3D experience, and there might be some niche scenarios where this could be helpful, but I am sure they could have shaved $100 off the price of the phone without the perspective system. Next is the Fire OS. This is why even though I use almost all of Amazon Prime Services, I would never buy an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. I find the OS more of a gimmick at best, and a flaw at worst. I am a purist. I believe that anyone making forked or custom versions of an Operating System should be willing to support that OS for the foreseeable future. This includes security updates. Now, Google builds the Android OS which is what the Fire OS is built on. They make the UI so simplified and to my knowledge no way around it. There is no support for Google Play Apps which still dramatically outnumber the number of apps in the Amazon App Store. And if there is a security issue, Google has to fix it, then make it available. Amazon then has to acquire that update, and do whatever they need to do, and finally it can be pushed to the appropriate device(s). And this is why Android is so fragmented. Provided Amazon has a full time team to fix these issues, the OS is just a gimmick. At worst, it is a flaw.
As for Me?
Obviously, I wouldn’t get this phone. There are a few good qualities, but at the price tag they are putting out, it is comparable with the iPhone which while the iPhone has a smaller screen – has more in the way of apps, features, and security. Also, the OS doesn’t get by with a hand me down. I just can’t justify the price with the good, and in the end – that is what needs to matter. The OS just will not be a viable solution when you are looking at a means of communications. I might consider the Fire TV set top box if I had a TV, but I don’t see me relying on my TV for a source of communications neither. The exclusivity with AT&T is also a reason why I would never consider this product. A plan with AT&T is at minimum $65, and this only includes 2GB of data. Keep in mind if you use your phone as Amazon will want you too – you are going to use more than just 2GB. This will mean overages. Now your digital features of that Amazon Prime membership became either/or less useful / more expensive.
I will be sticking with my Nexus 4 on T-Mobile, and use my PC on Wifi for the digital benefits of Amazon Prime. When the time for an upgrade comes, I will choose the latest Nexus phone, and even if Amazon’s phone was available for T-Mobile, it will not be for me.