My Thoughts on Amazon's FirePhone
I tuned in late to Amazon's announcement of their first phone, the Fire Phone and from my first, preliminary look, it seems interesting. It has a dedicated camera button, something more phones should have, and free, unlimited, cloud storage. That's absolutely bonkers. It also comes with this tilt/gyroscopic/dynamic perspective, that's basically iOS' parallax effect on steroids. It uses four front facing cameras to detect motion of the phone, and of your head as well, to make the effect of peeking around the corner all that more immersive. However, those two features pale in comparison to the absolute coolest feature; Firefly. It's a service, similar to Google Goggles, SoundHound, Shazam, etc, that detects anything and everything around you, and then let's you buy it. On Amazon of course.
That's where the cool ends, and the not-so-cool begins. Because Amazon opted to run their forked version of Android, Fire OS, there is no access to Google Play, or even apps like Instagram, or even the official Gmail. While they may be coming soon, the fact that they're currently not there will most likely be a huge deterrent to most buyers. The second aspect that I'm not a fan of is the overwrought UI of the device. It's too glossy, too blocky, and just too much. Having gotten used to the simple minimalism of both Android 4.4.x and iOS 7, the UI of the Fire Phone feels like a step backwards into the dark days of Androig 2.3.x Gingerbread and iOS 1-6. It definitely shows a lot of promise though, so I'm hoping Amazon can clean it up by the time it gets into the hands of the users.
Now, because it's an Amazon device, running a forked version of Android, this will be a huge incentive for everyone who wants to use Android, but doesn't want to be tied down to Google. For those already invested in Amazon's ecosystem, the Fire Phone will be the key device in connecting you to and unifying your experience across all their services, from Kindle, to Fire TV, Amazon Music, and Amazon itself. They've done what Google hasn't been able to with Android & Chrome; create a single, unified experience. Because of this deep integration, I wonder if this will be enough to sway even the most diehard of Windows Phone and BlackBerry fans away from their tiny, non-app, ecosystems.
However, despite already having the pre-order site up and running, you're basically dropping $650 for a decidedly mid-tier spec'd phone that's locked to AT&T, and you'd have to wait at least a month before you'd actually get the phone in your hands. Even if you got it directly from AT&T, you're still dropping $200, which frankly is just too much for a phone in its first generation, with no guarantee of a second version. Remember when Facebook wanted to be the centre of your entire universe, and made two phones with HTC, the ChaCha, and the First? Remember how well they did? I'm not faulting Amazon for wanting to take that risk, but they most likely would've had a better shot as just packaging all of the features built into the phone as an app. Or, better yet, revamp the Amazon app itself and update it to modern UI guidelines, and bake Firefly into it, as that seems to be the main feature of this phone as it is.
TL;DR: Amazon made a phone when they could've just made a single app, and wants you to buy stuff with it.