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Amazon Fire Phone Reviews: Solid But Overly Ambitious

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the disturbing-lack-of-actual-fire dept.

Cellphones 58

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon's Fire Phone launches later this week, and the reviews have started to come in. The hardware: "There's nothing terribly special about the Fire Phone's hardware, but there's very little to turn you off either." "The nice-looking IPS display in the Fire Phone gets bright enough for outdoor viewing, and it has nice viewing angles—a necessity for a phone that's meant to be tilted around and looked at from every which way." "An indistinct slab of glass and plastic, the Fire Phone looks more like a minimalist prototype than a finished product."

Software: "Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it's incredibly, hilariously inconsistent." "Firefly is the one Fire Phone feature you'll want on any phone you're currently using. Let's hope that it gets enough developer support that it isn't just a link to Amazon's storefronts." "First, and to be absolutely clear, Dynamic Perspective will impress you the first time you see it, and Amazon is pretty good at showing it off. ... But if there's some cool, useful functionality to be had from super-aggressive, super-accurate face tracking, the Fire Phone doesn't have it." Conclusion: "Smartphones are for work, for life. They're not toys, they're tools. Amazon doesn't understand that, and the Fire Phone doesn't reflect it."

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But... (4, Funny)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 2 months ago | (#47514497)

"But if there's some cool, useful functionality to be had from super-aggressive, super-accurate face tracking, the Fire Phone doesn't have it."

The NSA appreciates it tho.

Re:But... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514567)

From what I've read on /. the phone is nothing more then an attempt to create a 24/7365 advertising device for their own ego centric needs. There a cheap ass company to begin with, why would people expect something like their Kindle, or Fire Phone to be any different.

The NSA is literal being helped by the makers and service providers. And they should be the least of your concerns with the US and its other agencies, and throw in local/state law enforcement into that mix.

Re:But... (0, Troll)

dugancent (2616577) | about 2 months ago | (#47514589)

from what I've read on /.

You've already failed. This site is as unbiased as Fox News.

Bias (2)

Himmy32 (650060) | about 2 months ago | (#47514653)

If you don't want to listen to nerds or think this site has a bad bias, then the comment section probably isn't for you. Whenever you get a group of like minded individuals together, you are obviously going to get biased opinions reflecting their mindset. That isn't always a bad thing.

Re:But... (0)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | about 2 months ago | (#47515367)

That is untrue. There may be prevailing opinions on this site, but everyone is free to publish and read the contrary opinions and there is no agenda at work stamping trying to shape public perceptions. Good luck ever seeing or hearing dissenting opinions on Fox news.

Re:But... (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 months ago | (#47515097)

My quick personal take on the Fire Phone: it is functionally and aesthetically awful

Joshua Topolsky @joshuatopolsky

Just like Amazon's website.

"my preferred Android podcast app..." (0)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 months ago | (#47514499)

Lost interest right there. The author sounds hipster.

Re:"my preferred Android podcast app..." (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 months ago | (#47514607)

It does prove, however, that the world is being taken over by pod people [wikipedia.org] .

Re:"my preferred Android podcast app..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47530967)

Wait, what? Listening to podcasts makes you a hipster now and you refuse to read articles by podcast-listeners? Geeze, dude, that's pretty harsh. Just about everyone enjoys some talk radio, news, or interviews now and again. That's not limited to hipsters, hell, it includes my old-fashioned grandfather who listens to the news every morning.

How thrilling... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#47514551)

A phone with fairly tepid specs being sold for a flagship price (and AT&T SIM-locked, only) supported by one largely useless gimmick and a dedicated 'buy stuff on amazon' button.

Where do I sign?

Re:How thrilling... (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47514767)

As I understand it, the Fire Phone is the only non-Apple phone that streams Amazon video.

Re:How thrilling... (4, Insightful)

slinches (1540051) | about 2 months ago | (#47515099)

Yes, but only because Amazon refuses to release the app for Android because they want you to buy a Kindle/Fire Phone instead, so you can be locked into their walled garden.

Re:How thrilling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47527593)

Yes, but only because Amazon refuses to release the app for Android because they want you to buy a Kindle/Fire Phone instead, so you can be locked into their walled garden.

You have that wrong, they want to be walled into your wallet.

Re:How thrilling... (1)

Kevoco (64263) | about 2 months ago | (#47531227)

Knowledge Brings Understanding - Ignorance Breeds Fear

Re:How thrilling... (1)

slinches (1540051) | about 2 months ago | (#47532957)

True, but Understanding of others' Ignorance also Brings Fear

Also, it's a Futurama reference [wikia.com] .

Re:How thrilling... (1)

balaband (1286038) | about 2 months ago | (#47514795)

Thank you kind stranger for this wonderful review, so I can now follow slashdot's best practices - of not actually RTFA

Re:How thrilling... (2)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | about 2 months ago | (#47516133)

I think the specs race is basically over. Apple's specs allow them to make a fast phone in a small body with relatively good battery life. Android phones are generally made with the same 'generic' parts, and have comparable battery life by virtue of having a bigger case to cram a battery in. But all told, the phones are pretty close together, no matter what tricks each company is playing. (And I would argue that battery life is becoming a more dominant spec request as time goes on. I'd much rather have a longer lasting battery than a bigger screen, for instance.)

At this point, it comes down to being able to differentiate on things other than specs. The Android space is crowded. At the flagship level, everything is pretty close to everything else. Samsung is being reined in a bit on its Android modifications, so what we're looking at now is a bit of a race to the bottom on price.

So the specs for the Fire may be 'tepid', but they're probably not actually bad in any relevant way. The phone will hold up for at least a couple years. Amazon's only chance for their phone is to provide a compelling ecosystem, and they don't actually need to be the leader of the pack on specs to do that.

I don't disagree that this phone isn't actually that compelling, but it's not the specs that are sinking it. It could have top-of-the-market parts in there and you'd still shrug at it because the OS and Amazon integration just aren't good enough. The device just has too few merits to warrant much attention, in my opinion.

Re:How thrilling... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#47517015)

The CPU and GPU are fine, reports on battery life seem to vary, with excellent results if you turn the 'dynamic perspectives' thing off and don't firefly much, tepid ones if you actually try to use those features; but the screen is genuinely disappointing for a phone in that price range, although the internal storage is better than usual.

There's nothing offensively wrong with it; but the price tag befits a device that is genuinely compelling in some way, which it isn't.

So so phone... (1)

bayankaran (446245) | about 2 months ago | (#47517217)

Amazon is the worlds best organization for packing and shipping stuff. If they expect the money they can spend will give them an advantage in creating an exciting phone...its called hubris. A smartphone is a piece of jewelry. Its not like a book reader.
Amazon's smartphone breakfast, lunch and dinner will be eaten by companies like Xiaomi http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-22/the-latest-slick-cheap-smartphone-from-xiaomi-chinas-rising-mobile-power?google_editors_picks=true [businessweek.com] . They do only one thing...and they do it well.

Re:So so phone... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47519905)

Considering this phone is pretty much a store in your pocket, designed from the ground up to make it easier for people to buy things, Amazon might have a shot at making it sucessful. As long as consumers like buying things...

Re:How thrilling... (1)

Mr 44 (180750) | about 2 months ago | (#47516371)

I am excited for a google-less android phone. Read this article, and realize that this phone is our best and only hope:

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets... [arstechnica.com]

Re:How thrilling... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#47516921)

Unfortunately, while stock android is undeniably Google's little fiefdom, 'FireOS' is a pretty much point-for-point a replacement of hegemonic Google with hegemonic Amazon (somewhat more, arguably, given the 'silk' browser's extensive default reliance on server-side processing).

It is pretty stark how lousy de-googled Android is; but Amazon isn't really here to change the dynamic of effectively closed control of the platform, just who controls it. Getting models with a 'clean' AOSP firmware(typically excluding drivers; because it seems to be blobs all the way down on the mobile side) isn't hard; but using them is fairly grim.

they're also toys though (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 months ago | (#47514643)

"Smartphones are for work, for life. They're not toys, they're tools."

Eh, if that were strictly the case, the market would be a lot different. Smartphones are a lot of things: tool, toy, fashion, entertainment.

Re:they're also toys though (2)

jratcliffe (208809) | about 2 months ago | (#47515021)

Posting to remove moderation error (meant to click insightful, accidentally hit redundant!).

Re:they're also toys though (0)

ogdenk (712300) | about a month ago | (#47517587)

"Smartphones are for work, for life. They're not toys, they're tools."

Eh, if that were strictly the case, the market would be a lot different. Smartphones are a lot of things: tool, toy, fashion, entertainment.

Exactly.... if that were the case the Windows CE and PalmOS smartphones would have sold a lot better than they did in the early 2000's. They were actually much better suited for real work than Android or the Glitzy iOS interface. The CPU's were weak and they had no 3D acceleration but they were actually USEFUL.

The majority of smartphone users basically treat them as phones they can play games on and check facebook. There's maybe 3 people in my office that know how to use their phone effectively for anything else. And most of us were issued an iPhone 5S. I really wanted to keep my Milestone 3 because it was more useful for..... you guessed it..... real work. Now I'm stuck with a much faster, but overall less useful device.

Re:they're also toys though (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47519917)

Yup, smartphones are toys.
I haven't done a single bit of productive work on my smartphone.

Re:they're also toys though (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47530669)

some of them even are used as a (shocker!) phone.

"Indistinct and more like a minimalist prototype" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514681)

Translation:
less sleek than an iPhone = bad
more sleek than an iPhone = bad
looks like an iPhone but isn't = bad
is an iPhone = wow what a beautiful design steve jobs did it again from the grave

Content is the King! (2)

martiniturbide (1203660) | about 2 months ago | (#47514691)

The problem are not the devices, Google TV, Rouku, Fire TV.... and now Android TV are solid platforms, very nice to use, very powerfull, with a lot of potential. But the content is the problem. Netflix is good, but people just don't complete erase Live TV from their mind with they use it. Live TV should be a part of any intelligent TV device, broadcaster needs to stop being local and start being World Wide. The broadcaster needs to re-evaluate their buiness to really have a "SmartTV" take off.

I insist that we need the final "YouTube" for Live TV. Let all the broadcast to join it and put their live content on a single WW catalog.

Re:Content is the King! (2)

disposable60 (735022) | about 2 months ago | (#47515031)

Don't confuse Broadcaster (local, with local ads, and merely 'affiliated' with a network) and the Network (National, with national ads). The broadcasters's business model strongly resembles the car dealerships', and just like Tesla is getting well-funded pushback from the dealers, a proposed change in that model will get pushback from the state and local pols that depend on local TV to advertise in their districts.

Re:Content is the King! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#47515093)

That's kind of what the UK's Project Canvas was supposed to do. TV guide entries and on-demand catalogue entries both point to the same object in the database, so if you try to watch a show or movie that's not currently airing, it quietly redirects you to the appropriate streaming service instead. When you throw IPTV support into the mix you suddenly have a platform where there's no functional difference between content coming off the web, HDD, or airwaves, recorded or live. From that it's a short hop to a situation where every streaming content provider is offering up its wares (ad-supported) to the same audience and it's all consolidated in one place.

Of course with no generic live IPTV broadcasts in the UK, what happened is that each communications company built their own live IPTV silo that only their subscribers could use, and chased after exclusivity deals on streaming providers. Ultimately all that happened is that communications companies got the broadcasters and the licence payer (including the BBC) to fund their set top box R&D. Admittedly this raised the standard of set top boxes considerably because they were total garbage.

Microsoft tried a similar integrated interface thing for the Xbox 360, where one search box could take you to whatever streaming providers sold what you were looking for. The same interface would also have live IPTV. I don't know about the rest of the world, but in the UK most of the streaming apps just plain don't show up in it. The IPTV functions didn't appear at all.

Re:Content is the King! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47522725)

Broadcasters are "distributors".

If they all jump on one "youtube" for all their content -- what's to stop the studios who make the content from bypassing them and getting paid directly from the "youtube for TV"?

It's the same problem Apple had trying to cut deals with enough record producers and coming up with a standard price when they were developing the iTunes/iPod paradigm. It was more amazing for the consolidation of content than the technology.

Add this to the large ISP providers wanting to become distributors and choking speeds for competitors with Net Neutrality shenanigans and it looks like once again, nobody is going to play nice until they are forced to.

Face tracking? (1)

sinij (911942) | about 2 months ago | (#47514717)

Could someone explain to me, why would I want my phone to have capability to track my face? With a car analogy?

Re:Face tracking? (2)

CaptnZilog (33073) | about 2 months ago | (#47514777)

You want to let the NSA get a full 3D representation of your face, from multiple angles, just to make sure the citywide cameras can track you everywhere, so their job is far easier for them?

Re:Face tracking? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514897)

It's a way to make the display appear 3D. The camera tracks your face, determines which direction you're looking from, and adjusts the display accordingly. Ideally, it's meant to be 3D without glasses and without the strict distance requirements and eye strain of the 3DS. And according to the reviews, it works well but doesn't really have practical applications other than looking cool.

Pointless (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 2 months ago | (#47515013)

It's a way to make the display appear 3D.

That's what it does but not why you would want it. Like others here I'm failing to see any utility for this "feature". It's sort of cool as a technology demo but I just can't see any practical use for this. It does sound like a great way to reduce battery life, slow the interface, and create unnecessary bugs however. Possibly with a motion sickness chaser for some folks!

Re:Pointless (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 months ago | (#47515107)

Only reasonable thing I can think of is autofocus for video calls. But most phones already do a good job of that. Perhaps Amazon choose a poor camera and had to implement this in software.

Ok, I got nothing.

Re:Face tracking? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#47515185)

There were rumours before the phone's announcement that it would allow you to look at items in their catalogue at various angles in a natural way. Perhaps the content for that didn't turn up or they realised how time consuming it would be to make a Quicktime VR of every single item they sell.

Re:Face tracking? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#47515195)

One potential perk that they didn't think of is automatically orienting the phone's screen to face you without relying on the accelerometer. (If I put my phone down on the desk or hold it at a shallow angle, it doesn't know which way's "up", but the Fire Phone knows where my face is so this shouldn't be a problem.)

Re:Face tracking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47516437)

Just so long as it doesn't confuse your face with your ass.

Re:Face tracking? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47519941)

Or does a Microsoft and discriminates based on the colour of your skin.

https://www.google.co.nz/searc... [google.co.nz]

Re:Face tracking? (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 months ago | (#47514903)

So the phone can display a 3D model of a car, and shift the perspective and scaling of the car as the phone and / or your eyes move relative to it. Dynamic Perspective.

Re:Face tracking? (2)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 2 months ago | (#47515001)

well... everybody's just driving along fine, it's a four lane highway. Traffic is moving nicely. this is the current market.

Boom, you get to drive on the shoulda now mutha fucka.
                      Dynamic Perspective.

Re:Face tracking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47521629)

Samsung phones have a function where it can tell if you are looking at the screen (e.g. reading). If it detects you are, it won't lock/sleep.

I am glad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514759)

...they don't sell foxes, otherwise Firefox would be in trouble.

Oxymoron? (4, Insightful)

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) | about 2 months ago | (#47514881)

Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it's incredibly, hilariously inconsistent." "Firefly is the one Fire Phone feature you'll want on any phone you're currently using.

Why would I want to have a software feature on the phone i"m currently using that is incredibly, hilariously inconsistent?

Can't take the sky away however (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47515307)

On the plus side, at least it can't take the sky from you...

Oxymoron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47519707)

hilarity?

Re:Oxymoron? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47519955)

Amusement?
The only benefit I've found with Google Suggest is funny suggestions it comes up with.

Try it: Go to google.com and start typing something like "Why does my"

But.. but... how can this be... (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 months ago | (#47514985)

This phone from Amazon has the rounded rectangle look ad feel.... How can this be? It violates the patents of Apple. Only genii like Steve Jobs could imagine a rounded rectangle. Now Jeff one-click-patent Bezos is ripping off the intellectual property of Apple...

Re:But.. but... how can this be... (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 months ago | (#47516019)

This phone from Amazon has the rounded rectangle look ad feel.... How can this be? It violates the patents of Apple. Only genii like Steve Jobs could imagine a rounded rectangle. Now Jeff one-click-patent Bezos is ripping off the intellectual property of Apple...

Well, it's utterly possible that Amazon pre-emptively chose to license the patent. But unlikely.

Because it's a design patent. Which aren't really patents in the normal sense. A "normal" patent is a utility patent - it describes a machine that does something that usefully transforms part A to part B by some series of processes.

A design patent covers aspects of the non-utility parts of a device - a pattern, a design, stuff that is there for aesthetic purposes than for utility.

In the case of the rounded rectangles, the device In question must not only have rounded rectangular case, but also a grid of icons with a smaller subgrid of icons along an edge. The main grid lets you page through it while the subgrid remains static.

Samsung got in trouble because TouchWiz emulated exactly that, while everyone else used the standard Android home screen (which fails because it's not a grid of icons when you have widgets, and the grid of icons (app launcher) doesn't have the subgrid).

In effect, Google worked around the patent.

um (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 months ago | (#47515137)

It's an $800 phone
Proprietary store (you can't install standard google apps and I doubt your old apps will move to this phone)
Performance is about Equal or slightly better to existing phones you can get for $1 on contract like my HTC one(M8) or the Galaxy S5
Only new feature is "3D" which, like very "3D" offering in every other product to date, it's not actually 3D, it's fairly annoying, a gimmick and will get turned off within hours of getting the phone.

So you'd buy this why?

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my kindle. I shop on Amazon all the time and like it. The fire tablets were cheap when there weren't many cheap tablets out there. But this phone is DOA.

Silk browser (3, Insightful)

shoes58 (1203522) | about 2 months ago | (#47515157)

Had a Kindle I won at a work raffle. The Silk browser was such a huge bag of suck! And they won't let you install a different one. Oh sure, maybe there is a hack for it somewhere, but I couldn't be arsed to find one. I just bought a Nexus 7 and use the kindle to prop a window open. Wouldn't touch this phone on a bet..

First try (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 months ago | (#47515389)

"Firefly can recognize lots of things,"

Nice for a first try, but thanks, I'll wait for the Serenity model.

Not impressed at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47517043)

The 4 front facing cameras are obtrusive, if not creepy looking.
Don't like the design - has no personality - at all.
Don't like the arrogance (some would say superiority elitist complex) of Bezos in general.

A ready made no thanks.
Wish I could say I applauded the effort but frankly, I think it's a tremendous waste of resources.
Samsung are innovating the most right now, pretty sad considering Samsung is not known for innovation really.

Re:Not impressed at all (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47519965)

So what exactly is new and innovative from Samsung?

Just no fan of a Amazon phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47519829)

I like Amazon for buying stuff and watching some shows and movies. But I don't care to involve myself in any kind of Amazon hardware. Its the same thing I feel about Google's Chromebook or Apple TV or any device that really limits you to a certain ecosystem of content. Its like the device is more about advancing other products of that company then really providing a end user a more open experience. For example you can buy a Android phone which is by far more open then a Amazon Fire and you can buy a Roku player that by far offers more choices then Apple TV or Chromecast. I guess it depends on how you like being in a certain technology ecosystem. If your a Apple or Google or Amazon fanatic I guess you will like such devices that lock you into that system. For me as it seems technology always changes. I would prefer it follow me and not me follow it.

Bitcoin Integration would be awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47531009)

Amazon, as a huge retailer, has a tremendous opportunity to do get Bitcoin integration done right. Imagine if the Amazon phone shipped with an integrated Bitcoin wallet and if all purchases using the phone at Amazon offered a 1% discount for paying with Bitcoin. Amazon would save on credit card fees, the customer would get a discount and a seamless purchasing experience with no risk of identity theft.

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