An iPhone Veteran Evaluates an Amazon Fire Phone

| In-Depth Review

Page 7 - Applications, Help and Documentation

 

One of the first things I wondered about is whether the Fire Phone has the same control over apps knowing your location as the iPhone. For example, you may wish not to have your latitude and longitude dropped into the EXIF part of your camera photos. The answer is that you can. Amazon says:

"Enhanced Location Services are default disabled.  Customers may enable Enhanced Location Services in Settings > Location Services > Disable Enhanced Location Services—and then select which applications they want to enable or disable."

Another thing that interested me is the scope of the Amazon Appstore. For competitive reasons (and perhaps for security reasons) Amazon won't let you access the (Android) Google Play Store. Fortunately, the Amazon Appstore seems to have most of the apps that are critical to the modern smartphone user.

The first thing I did was download Netflix and the Weather Channel apps, and they work just like their counterparts from Apple's App Store. I read that many of the popular apps like Facebook, Pandora, Twitter and Yelp are also available. Amazon also includes the myAT&T app. Regarding the number of apps, Amazon said:

The Appstore currently offers over 240,000 apps and games already available globally, many of which are already compatible with Fire. [Emphasis mine.]

Netflix app was as expected, fast and sharp at 720p.

That's far less than the million plus apps in Google Play and Apple's App Store, but what good are all those apps if a significant fraction aren't of interest? So long as you have the core, important apps every smartphone owner needs, you're good to go. However....

The exclusion of Google products means that good Google apps are not available, like Google maps, which is virtually a standard. You'll have to use Amazon's maps app, and that may be a critical, disqualifying issue for some customers. Even Apple recognizes the excellence of Google maps and allows its customers to make a choice in the heat of competition with its own Maps app. This was a mistake on Amazon's part, even if the company hates to let Google know what you've been up to. The customer has to come first.

By the way, you quit an app in the same fashion as the iPhone: double-click the home button to bring up a list of running apps. Swipe the icon upwards to kill the app. (That might be a good thing to do after you run Firefly and are done with it.)

Help and Documentation

There is a nice help section that includes an eight chapter User Guide and also a separate Wi-Fi help. An introductory Quick Start video is always available as an app. Then there is Mayday which I described above, and it's very good.

Screen shot from Amazon's intro video on the Fire Phone.

There is built-in email feedback and trouble shooting. Finally, there's a page that affords a request to be called by Amazon customer service.

Next: Closing Thoughts and Rating

Product: Amazon Fire Phone

Company: Amazon

List Price: Varies: See Amazon product page.

Pros:

Includes a year of Amazon Prime, 4.7-inch display, Firefly, Carousel, 13 megapixel camera with OIS, 802.11ac, Mayday, very good documentation, 4G-LTE, easy Amazon shopping, user file system mountable on Mac (with AFT app).

Cons:

Not as technically advanced as iPhone 5s (no fingerprint authentication), restricted to Amazon Appstore (Google maps prohibited), Firefly, no hardware encryption, can get very warm, Gorilla Glass back may concern some.

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