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Amazon Fire Phone: 8 things you need to know


Amazon Fire Phone
Amazon Fire Phone

After what feels like years of speculation, Amazon finally unveiled its first smartphone on Wednesday.

The Amazon Fire Phone is an interesting beast. From one angle it clearly follows the blueprint set forth by the Amazon Kindle Fire. On the other, it contains some innovative features we simply haven't seen in any mass-market device before.

So let's whittle things down to the bare essentials. Here's what you need to know about the Amazon Fire Phone.

Internal specs are very 2013

For all its innovative features (more on which later), the Amazon Fire Phone is built upon a technological foundation that will be familiar to any Android fan circa October 2013.

It runs on the same Snapdragon 800 CPU that made its way into a number of devices towards the end of last year. Think the Google Nexus 5, the LG G2, and Amazon's own Kindle Fire HDX.

More than decent, then, but hardly cutting edge.

Display is bright but not sharp

If the Amazon Fire Phone's internals are 2013, than its display is more 2012. The phone's 4.7-inch 720p screen evokes memories of the HTC One X and the Google Nexus 4 rather than their more advanced successors.

With high-end Android phones currently sporting 1080p displays and moving on to QHD resolutions, this might look like a bit of an oversight on Amazon's part.

Still, the Fire Phone's screen is by no means a dud. It uses an IPS panel, for one thing, which means that colours should be clear and viewing angles should be exemplary. That last point actually feeds into the Fire Phone's headline feature, which we'll discuss in a bit.

In addition, Amazon reckons that its phone's display is the brightest ever, and has included a circular polariser to help boost outdoors viewing quality - a perennial issue for smartphones.

Camera is both clever and accomplished

Amazon looks like it's put some serious thought into the Fire Phone's camera. At 13-megapixels, and with an f/2 aperture and optical image stabilisation, it promise to produce shots that are both clear and crisp.

But it does much more than that. The Fire Phone's camera is key to its ability to quickly scan in objects and items and match them against Amazon listings and media files.

Speaking of which, Amazon appears keen to reverse the trend for stripping away physical hardware keys on modern smartphones - yep, it's another rare case of a smartphone with a camera button.

Firefly treats everything as a hyperlink

Not only does it have a physical camera key (did we mention how stoked we are about that?), but it also doubles up as a means to quickly activate Firefly. That's the system that we briefly outlined above, which enables the Fire Phone to scan in and recognise real world objects.

It will then take you to Amazon listings pertaining to these objects, making it the ideal shopping companion.

Firefly can also recognise text, so you can scan in phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses from printed material. Written web addresses, meanwhile, can act as links to open up the web page in the Fire Phone's browser.

The system can also use the Fire Phone's mic to recognise and identify music tracks and movie audio.

It could be the first decent 3D phone

Remember the HTC Evo 3D? How about the LG Optimus 3D?

If you don't, that's fine. They were smartphone evolutionary dead-ends from a time (back in 2011) when a lot of people thought that 3D was the future of entertainment.

Of course, while those crude glassless 3D efforts sank without a trace, Amazon's Dynamic Perspective system promises to be a lot more subtle and refined.

It uses front-facing cameras and motion sensors to track movement and the position of your face, subtly adjusting what's being displayed accordingly. You can reveal extra information or simply scroll within apps simply by tilting the phone.

Android, but not as we know it

Like the Amazon Kindle Fire range, the Fire Phone runs on Fire OS. This is a heavily modified version of Android, which is pretty much unrecognisable from Google's operating system.

In fact, so different is it that you can't even access the Google Play Store or Google's own suite of apps. Instead, you have to rely on Amazon's own Appstore, which has around 240,000 apps to its name.

It's surprisingly expensive

You know how Amazon pushes out its Kindle Fire tablets at a ridiculously low price because it knows it will make its money on the extra shopping you'll do? Yeah. The Fire Phone isn't going to be like that.

In fact, we'd argue that the Fire Phone is pretty expensive for what its is. The phone is going to be available on a two year contract with a $199 up front charge.

That's iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5 territory. Hmm.

It's US-only (for now)

As that last snippet of information might have suggested, the Amazon Fire Phone has not been announced for the UK as yet. In fact, Amazon's first smartphone is for US eyes only at this point.

It'll launch over there on July 25. As for the UK? Well, Amazon has simply told us to "stay tuned."

Read More: Samsung Galaxy S6 rumours

Prem Desai

June 19, 2014, 11:37 pm

Not sure why the article kicks off by rubbishing the hardware.

There is too much focus on the hardware nowadays and manufacturers are keen to still play the megahertz game (in the way cameras were sold because of their megapixels rather than image quality).

Yes, decent hardware is required, but if it's last years model wil 0.1% less power - who cares?

Same with the screen resolution fetish that's been going around recently. A decent screen is sufficient - does not need to be QHD or XYZ or whatever they are being called nowadays.

The price factor vs customer experience factor bear no resemblance (meaning it's not worth it).

Amazon have instead focussed on services, ease of use and customer experience.

I have not reviews this phone myself, but from what their launch video shows, they appear to have achieved this.

I would say it is better than any other smart phone on the market today.

I am not an impulse buyer, but I shall be getting one of these the moment they are available in the UK.

Martyn Butler

June 20, 2014, 10:28 am

Right off I am a 3D Fan - On IMAX ... even on TV / BluRay it can be great But this phone disappoints on so many levels - Its an AMAZON buying machine -
IF ONLY it could have recorded 3D content and output it via mini HDMI
I know at least three people that have bought it that will now walk away

Sean Cameron

June 20, 2014, 12:28 pm

'I'm not an impulse buyer, but I shall be buying this on impulse', right. You might want to wait until the reviews roll in, that is unless you are the ultimate Amazon fan (assuming those exist)


June 20, 2014, 1:32 pm

And how would you say it's better than any other smartphone on the market? Can't say I'm impressed at amazon only store. I'm assuming it means you can't change to another store ever.
From the brief clip I saw, The 3d effect on screen looked alright - smart use of the cameras, but needs software developed for it. Wonder how long before someone copies it.

Tim Sutton

June 20, 2014, 7:00 pm

Prem, I'm just not convinced that the sacrifices you will have to make using this handset would be worthwhile even IF this handset was subsidised to the same level as the Kindle Fire tablet.

It's running the same forked Android OS as the Kindle Fire, so that means:

- no Google Maps
- no Gmail
- no YouTube
- no Google Now
- no App store
- very little app support and almost no updates to the apps that do get converted.

When Amazon expect you to pay a premium price for midrange hardware while STILL using you as a captive customer for Amazon services and products... well, then I genuinely don't understand why anyone would want to buy this.

Buy a nicer phone for less, you can just put a shortcut to Amazon on your homescreen and not have to watch ads every 10 minutes.


January 27, 2015, 4:18 pm

Now that the Fire Phone can be purchased for around $200 and Google Apps can be loaded without rooting - does that change the opinion of folks?

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