An iPhone Veteran Evaluates an Amazon Fire Phone

| In-Depth Review

Page 8 - Closing Thoughts

 

This is a very good (and good looking) smartphone considering that it's Amazon's first attempt. Of course, a lot of technology and ideas were gleaned from the iPhone's seven year head start. I like most of its features, and I liked the tasteful GUI.

It has some innovative features like Firefly and Carousel. I didn't start a checkbox list, but the Fire Phone appears to have many features that a modern user would want: control over location services, encryption of the contents, a full-featured 13 megapixel rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), 802.11ac, a pleasing 4.7-inch display and a Snapdragon quad core processor.

Amazon doesn't even offer a 16 GB version, and its low end model with 32 GB is priced roughly the same as the iPhone with 16 GB. I think the Fire Phone is fairly priced. Also the customer service and documentation are very good. They have to be. Amazon doesn't have Apple's global network of retail stores where customers can walk in and get help.

In comparison, the Fire Phone is missing the most advanced features of the iPhone 5s: hardware encryption, Touch ID, the formidable aluminum machining, the Motion Coprocessor, the 64-bit A7 chip, and Apple's legendary expertise with power management. I anticipate that the Fire Phone will fall even further behind when Apple's iPhone 6 is announced, we think, in September.

Also, Apple is less restrictive with apps. For example, Apple doesn't try to block any of the fine Google apps available for the iPhone. If you want the Barnes & Noble Nook reader, you can have that too. Plus, even though Firefly is helpful when it comes to shopping, Apple in contrast, has no interest in scanning your surroundings with video and audio.

The Fire Phone is a better product than I expected it to be, but it's not in the same league as the iPhone 5s. It's unlikely to lure Apple customers away. On the other hand, if a customer isn't inclined to engage Apple and its ecosystem but they appreciate a well crafted, tastefully designed, convenient smartphone with a generous display that's also a nifty Amazon shopping tool, then Amazon has much to be proud of in this first effort.

Because it has many strengths, is well supported, is well designed and fun to use, it can earn a 3.5/5 rating. (Solid+). But it can't be great because of the app restrictions Amazon puts in place (no Google Maps) and the absence of the very advanced technical features found by comparison in the Apple iPhone 5s.

Comparison Chart

A review has to have a comparison chart, but this one needs explanation. First, it's only for some selected items I consider of interest. Also, it compares shipping products only. If you're interested in more complete technical details see:

 

Brief Spec Comparison
  Amazon Fire Phone Apple iPhone 5s
Size (in.) 5.5 x 2.6 x 0.35 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30
Weight (oz.) 5.64 3.95
Display size (in.) 4.7 4.0
Display Res (pix) 1280 x 720 1136 x 640
CPU 32-bit quad core
Snapdragon
64-bit dual core
A7
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 802.11a/b/g/n
Storage (GB) 32, 64 16, 32, 64
U.S. Carriers AT&T AT&T, Verizon
Sprint, T-Mobile

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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