Product Review: Amazon Fire Phone 32GB

Amazon fans are rejoicing today as the Amazon Fire Phone makes its entry into the smartphone market. AT&T is the exclusive partner, so I got a first-hand look at the device. One word sums up my experience: frustrating.

Probably your mother’s device

Unfortunately, die hard Android fans aren’t going to love this device. Overall, it found it severely limited when compared to my Nexus 5. And considering AT&T also carried the Nexus 5, why not grab yourself a true Android experience.

People really hate how Samsung’s forking Android, or even ruining the system with it’s own Frankenstein-like creation, but Amazon’s actions are really much worse. Honestly, Amazon Fire Phone takes everything good about Android and throws it in the trash can.

Amazon Fire front

I ditched Google for this?

I see why an number of people left their Kindle Fire tablets behind for Apple, especially considering you get absolutely nothing by way of Google’s apps. And that’s important if you’re a Google user in the least.

Sure, I tapped into my Gmail account to access email messages, but Amazon wants you to rely on its cloud services, so your calendar is on another system. Practically speaking, that’s worthless if you try to consolidate everything to one ecosystem. What’s more, I couldn’t even tell you where you access your calendar online.

Where are my buttons?

My biggest gripe is that there’s no back button feature. I didn’t really think I’d miss this, but having to actually press a link at the top of the page to move back is cumbersome. Mrs. The Droid Lawyer says not having the back button is “lame.”

Firefly lost some flash

I really tried to love Firefly, Amazon’s exclusive search function, but I couldn’t get amazed. Despite Amazon’s extensive inventory, the only few things Firefly found for me were diapers, band-aid, and a bottle of ibuprofen. I guess one of three — I actually searched for a lot more with similar results — isn’t bad. Firefly seems a lot like Google’s Goggles app which worked about ten percent of the time with mixed (usually poor) results.

Camera crash

One of the features Amazon hyped was the Fire Phone’s 720p camera. I can let the 720p slide, but unfortunately, I found the camera too sluggish to really compete. The focus moved slowly, and I longed for some of Google Camera’s more robust settings. Amazon Fire Phone has a few settings, at best.

The smear game

Finally, the black, glossy finish (face and back) will drive you nuts. I can’t understand why manufactures still insist on using glossy covers for phones. I must have polished the phone five dozen times before I finally opted to wear silk gloves every time I handled the phone (kidding). The Amazon Fire Phone is a fingerprint, smudge, face oil, dandruff, gunk magnet. If you thought your current phone was hard to keep clean, welcome to hell.

Here’s why you’ll love this device

3D Fire

Dyanamic Perspective is awesome. This 3-dimensional effect will keep you occupied on every page. There are some interruptions, but in general, it’s a cool effect.

This phone is very easy to use. Discarding my obvious affection for stock Android, Amazon does do a good job at making an easy-to-use phone. There aren’t a half dozen buttons, tabs, or menus to choose from, and for the most part, every option is well laid out. With only one limited menu, the Fire feels a lot like an iPhone when you scroll through the apps.

All Amazon, all the time

Amazon is definitely in love with itself. That’s okay, because I love Amazon, too. Fire Phone brings everything you love about Amazon into the palm of your hand. Fire gives you access to Amazon Prime Movies, Books, and other media.

Size doesn’t matter

Fire Phone has a 4.7 inch screen, which is slightly smaller than my Nexus 5 screen. Normally, I’d have a problem with a smaller screen, but Moto X taught me to love the little guy again. Well, at least tolerate the little guy.

Amazon Fire back

The Amazon Fire Phone is comfortable to hold in one hand, which is not the case with my Nexus 5 or any larger screened device. Mrs. The Droid Lawyer agrees that someone coming from an iPhone would like the feel.

Easy access, front or back

Putting aside the fact that I hate the home button because it doesn’t bring me home, I actually really like this button. Samsung does something similar with its phones, and I think Amazon wants to capitalize on the “easy button.”

I’m also loving the quick access camera button on the left side of the phone. Since my phone assumed the spot previously occupied by my point-and-shoot, I take a lot of camera pictures. Having a camera button is pretty cool, even if the camera is a bit lackluster.

Camera capable

Okay, so the camera on the Amazon Fire Phone isn’t that bad. The 720p picture is decent, but what really makes this camera fantastic is its low-light capability.

low light Amazon Fire

My Nexus 5 didn’t stand a chance.

low light Nexus 5

Amazon Fire Phone for attorneys

Attorneys, don’t clamor to get this phone. This heavily edited version of Android will putrefy your entire experience. Harsh, but true.

The Amazon Fire Phone lacks any of the productivity tools you’ll need. As I mentioned earlier, if you’re an avid Google fan, kiss those tools, goodbye. Amazon Fire Phone does include a docs program, but it’s dumbed down and practically useless.

Amazon will have to significantly cut the price of its $650 Fire Phone to convince me this is worth grabbing. The phone was poised to fire up, but somewhere in the design process, Amazon forgot to ignite that flame.

Note: I couldn’t download the new OS update or make phone calls because of a provisioning issue with AT&T and the SIM card in my demo phone. When that’s fixed, I’ll post an update to discuss any new observations.

4 Responses to Product Review: Amazon Fire Phone 32GB

    • I should add – I have an original Fire, a Nexus 7, a Nexus 10, & an HTC Droid DNA on Verizon. Love my Nexi, but am not ready to cut the cord from Verizon.

      • If you don’t like AT&T, you’re not going to be able to cut the Verizon cord and get a Nexus 5. I really like Verizon’s universal data, which is significantly better than T-Mobile’s.

        • My son has a Nexus 5 & went pay-as-you-go with Metro PCS on the Sprint network. He’s happy but does have some coverage problems. That’s my issue: coverage

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.