Amazon Fire Phone

Midrange Android smartphone

Amazon Fire Phone review, rating and latest UK deals and offers

Somewhat like Google, Amazon's quest to become one of those mega corporations with a finger in seemingly every pie shows no sign of slowing down. Their first foray into the smartphone genre though sadly leaves a lot to be desired

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Amazon Fire Phone

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by Mike Leader

The Amazon Fire Phone is the huge American giants attempt to get their fingers into yet another pie. This time they have chosen to take on the Android Smartphone market, following on from the relative success of their Kindle Fire tablets.

We say "relative" success because it is widely considered that the price of the tablets was so low that Amazon didn't actually make any money on them and can only gain anything if people purchase their apps.

However, the smartphone market is a little different in that unlike the tablet market, there are hundreds of smartphones to choose from, some of extremely high quality.

It also means that Amazon have had to hook up with a carrier, which in the US will be AT&T while here in the UK they­­ will partner with O2.

First Impressions

So the Amazon Fire Phone needs to impress, and it starts by offering the same 4.7 inch screen size as the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

The whole front panel is glass covered, as is the back too and while that makes for a slippery surface on the rear cover, the sides amend for this somewhat with a soft touch feel. It's a nice phone to hold in the hand, but doesn't look or feel like anything special.

Amazon have also insisted on adding a large prominent logo to the top half of the back cover which won't please a lot of people.

It's not going to give you the same warm feeling as a Sony or Apple logo and you might feel it's more on a par with putting a Tesco sticker on the phone.

Midrange screen but plenty of power

The 720p HD screen continues the not-quite premium, feel, with a resolution that won't disappoint but doesn't begin to compete with any of the current top of the range offerings.

Where the Fire Phone does score is with it's impressive storage options of 32 and 64G­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­B, a fast 2.2 GHz processor and 2GB of RAM which is more than you would find in even a high end desktop computer just a few years ago.

All of this means that Amazon's first smartphone offering will tick along very nicely with no signs of any lag.

Decent 13MP camera

Now it gets interesting. There is a decent 13 megapixel camera on the back, coupled with a front facing 2.1 megapixel "selfie" camera, and both of these can record full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second.

However it is worth remembering that the 720p HD sc­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­reen can't display full HD, but your photos and videos will look great on your HD TV.

Photos are impressive though, and you also get HDR and an LED flash to help with strongly backlit and low light situations. The camera also has it's own dedicated button on the side of the handset like the Nokia Lumia 930, always a welcome addition.

But it is basic in operation with no ISO or white balance controls, scene settings or very little else to be honest. The lack of complication will suit some, but it's what we expect to see on a budget handset.

4 more cameras!

The Amazon Fire Phone also has another four cameras mounted in each corner. The purpose of these is to power Amazon's Dynamic Perspective, which effectively tilts the display in the direction you tilt the phone.

The point of this is to offer a 3D effect, so that you can view the contents of your screen at any angle, and the icons will still be facing you directly. This is one of the phone's main selling points, but the problem is, it is of no real practical use. In otherwords, it's really just a gimmick.

Our brains are designed to adapt to changing angles so that we can still see and read signs at an angle. Otherwise a road traffic sign would have to be facing straight at us for us to be able to read it, rather than several feet in the air at the side of the road.

Therefore, in our opinion, Amazon's gimmick serves no real purpose.

The other big news is in Amazon's Fire OS operating system. This is a lot different from the Android interface we all know and love, even through the customised UI's of Samsung, Sony and all the other big name manufacturers.

Built in user guide

There is a fairly lengthy user guide built into the phone when you start it up, which is as essential as it is useful. The reason for this is you will find, or rather not find, a couple of normally familiar buttons like Back and Menu.

To go Back you need to swipe up from the bottom centre of the screen and it all takes time to learn and can be quite irritating, especially when you have got used to an operating system and have used it for a few years as most of us now have.

Why would we want to learn a whole new way of doing things needlessly? Those who are used to Amazon's Kindle HD series of tablets will find some aspects more familiar though.

Amazon include a feature that you almost certainly will never find on another smartphone, and that's their Firefly app.

It can recognise all sorts of things via it's camera and microphone, from a can of beans to TV shows and music tracks - It is clever, but is effectively only designed to get you to buy more on Amazon.

Basically, if it's available to buy on Amazon it will probably recognise it and at a prod of the screen will take you to the product on Amazon.

This is arguably the real purpose of the phone - because the idea is to make their profits by ensuring you buy as much as possible on their site. If it was cheap and cheerful that might not be so bad but it isn't, and with that we're going to pull a plug on the review right here.

Our summary

Why? Well it's not a bad midrange phone but it doesn't have anything special going for it either. On top of that, the Dynamic Perspective thing is just a pointless gimmick while the Firefly app is simply a means of selling you more Amazon stuff.

And that's it's problem. The absolute worst issue we haven't mentioned yet, and that is the fact that it must be the only Android smartphone in the world that doesn't allow you access to Android's market, Google Play.

So not only can you not download any apps that are not in Android's own store - you have to go via the limited Amazon app store instead - you can't even update the apps that are pre-built into the phone, even though the phone prompts you to do so from time to time.

It's also expensive for what you get - flagship phone expensive in fact, and this is not a flagship phone by any stretch of the imagination.

Overall functionality is basic like the camera, and it's at best a midrange phone that, we can't emphasise this enough and make no excuses for repeating it, is designed with the sole intention of getting you to spend more on Amazon.

It brazenly doesn't even try to disguise the fact. Had they done it in the same way that they did with the Kindle Fire range, and at least gained some credibility by offering a decent device at a budget price we might have had a very different view - even my wife owns a Kindle Fire - but at this price even ardent Amazon fans would struggle to like it.

If you're still interested at least wait for the inevitable price drop following a run of poor sales but frankly there are many much better phones out there for the money.

Amazon Fire Phone UK Price Comparison

Don't worry, there's no obligation and you can change price plans and choose various options such as colours and memory size before you buy

O2 Network UK Exclusive

£33 a month
2 GB data
NO upfront cost
4G ready
£38 a month
5 GB data
NO upfront cost
4G ready
£48 a month
20 GB data
NO upfront cost
4G ready