Is Amazon's Fire phone worth the sacrifice?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: June 18, 2014

 

As expected, Amazon unveiled the long-awaited smartphone earlier today at an event in Seattle. The online retail giant already has quite a successful line of gadgets that they’ve created on their own, like the Kindle e-Readers and the Kindle Fire tablets. For a long time, Amazon has also been a huge third-party retailer for many major carriers, but finally the inevitable has occurred: Amazon joined in on the smartphone fun with a smartphone of their own, now known as the Amazon Fire phone.

 

The name is fitting considering “Fire” is already used not only for their tablet line, but also as the name for their operating system, Fire OS. Fire OS is what is considered a “forked” version of Android, which means that while anything running Fire OS is technically running on Android, Amazon has certain limitations in place that make it special - and when I say “special” I mean “limited”. The Amazon Appstore has significantly less applications available compared to Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and even the Windows Phone Store, weighing in at only 240,000. It’s not a small number, but it is when used in comparison to other major platforms out on the market.

 

Depending on how important you think having an extensive app store is, this may or may not sway your interest in the new Amazon Fire phone. While there are certain limitations put in place from the get-go, the phone also has a lot going for it in other areas. The phone has decent specs with a 4.7-inch HD (720p) display, a quad-core 2.2 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage (with free unlimited cloud storage for photos), and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera with optical image stabilization. It also looks like the phone has 4 cameras on the front for something they call “circular polarizer”, which might be the “3D” aspect of the phone.The phone also has a dedicated camera key, a dedicated Firefly key (which we’ll talk about in a moment), and made with a rubberized frame with aluminum buttons.

 

Overall, it does look like a well-rounded phone with some unique features. The “Firefly” button I mentioned in the previous paragraph is part of the new Firefly feature, which is a feature that uses the camera to detect QR codes, games, movies, books, URLs, and more. Firefly also uses the microphone to listen to sounds, in case you hear a song that you don’t know the name of and you want to know who it’s by, and also gives you the opportunity to purchase the song. Amazon Fire phone users also have access to Mayday, Amazon’s 24/7, 365 year-round live customer service line, so if you’re somebody who worries about whether a company really cares about you or not, Amazon seems to have you covered.

 

Unfortunately, as rumor suggested, the phone will be sold exclusively through AT&T with a starting price of $199 with a 2-year contract. In a day and age where we are starting to get spoiled by phones like the Moto X, Moto G, and Nexus line, the price doesn’t sound too appealing given the certain sacrifices you have to make in the name of Amazon. One must also consider whether the Amazon Fire phone would really benefit them or not. Prime users will undoubtedly get the most use out of the phone, but Prime costs $99 a year to use and includes goodies like Prime TV & Movies, Music, e-Books, and (my personal favorite) free shipping on a lot of Amazon’s retail listings. People who aren’t interested in the $99 yearly fee, however, may want to rethink whether the phone is really a good purchase or not.

 

Honestly, it seems like a nice phone. Personally, I think I would probably pick one up for myself if it wasn’t only available on AT&T. As a current Amazon Prime subscriber, it seems like a good choice. That being said, it is only available on AT&T (for the time being), so any hopes of picking one up right now are slim to none for me, which is a shame. I think Amazon might have shot itself in the foot with this one. If you’re an AT&T customer, great. If you’re a Prime subscriber, even better; this phone might just be the phone for you. Without being both of those, however, you’re ultimately going to miss out.

 

So now that we know what the Fire phone is all about, what are your thoughts on the phone, readers? Do you plan on picking up a Fire phone of your own? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Images via The Verge