5 reasons not to buy the Amazon Fire Phone
A 4.7-inch HD display, a 13 MP rear-facing camera and four front-facing cameras are not enough to make this a phone worth buying.Neil Churchill June 19, 2014
For a long time, Amazon was known as the online market place for the world's stock of second-hand objects. But when it first released its e-book reader the Kindle six years ago, it was a clue that the Seattle-based company was onto bigger things in the mobile tech world.
Yesterday it realised one of its aims and launched its first product into the incredibly competitive world of smartphones: the Amazon Fire Phone.
But was it worth the wait? Well aside from the hardware - 4.7-inch HD display, 13 MP rear-facing camera, global LTE, quad-core Snapdragon processor - it does have a couple of cool features, namely the four front-facing cameras that track the user's movement, allowing for 3D viewing or a 'Dynamic Perspective'. The phone also saves every photo you ever take onto Amazon's servers, where there is no limit on storage.
However, the most pertinent question of course is will this be a rival to the trio of dominance held by Apple, Samsung and HTC, and if not then does it challenge the second-tier statuses of LG, Motorola and Google? The short answer for both is no, but for these same five reasons:
Buzz off FireFly
No-one likes flies at the best of times, and fire flies? Forget it. But this one in particular may aggravate you more than most. FireFly is a service that enables users to buy items they experience in realtime from Amazon's online store, as quick as possible.
Linked to a button on the phone, once pressed and pointed at any object be it a product, song or TV show, the user is sent directly to the object's location in Amazon's online store. Pretty neat on paper and undoubtedly whichever Amazon boffin thought of it received several pats on the back.
But it ignores two key principles of today's society and particularly the smartphone generation: choice and more choice. If the button gave the user an option of buying the second-hand copy of Dostoevsky's The Idiot from the billion dollar company, or from The Ol' Bookstore in their local town - where the $20 could actually make a difference - it could have been very well received. Instead, FireFly reeks of a corporation's ingenious money-making trick disguised as cool, new, clever tech. As one journalist in Seattle put it: "the new gadget is less a phone than a pocketable cash register hooked directly into the retailer’s intelligent warehouses."
With its price and offering Amazon has missed its wide-scale target audience, and also ignored a great opportunity to give the world the low-end smartphone it has been crying out for. Amazon was very competitive when it priced the Fire tablet, adding to its reputation for producing fairly good and non-expensive products; products which were good value for money.
The Fire Phone is the opposite. Priced at $649 - AED 2,380 - contract-free puts the phone on the tailcoats of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S - two of the most competitive and advanced phones this decade. Had Jeff Bezos - Amazon CEO - and his team priced it closer to the $400 mark, it may have stood a chance against the similarly equipped Google Nexus 5.
Less of an App store, more of a crApp store
It still amazes us that phone companies will go to all the effort of producing a fantastic handset, only for its back-end app store to let it down. Amazon's app store has less than 250,000 apps and most are poorly rated and only for the brand's own tablet devices. Compare that to Apple's app store of over 1,000,000 options, the majority of which are the latest versions. Amazon has also missed a trick by not having anywhere near Apple's or Android's number of third-party programs.
It's a chunky monkey
While a heavy accessory is normally a sign that it's value is high, that's not the case with smartphones, which users prefer to be lightweight. Somebody forgot to mention that at Amazon, as the Fire Phone is both the heaviest and the thickest in its price range - another reason not to be in that segment - at 8.9 mm and 160 g respectively. “We’ve packed a lot of hardware and expensive material in,” Bezos said in an interview. Yeah, no kidding Jeff.
It's USPs are: useless, silly, pointless
The greatest trick smartphone manufacturers seem to fall for is believing that new features will sell a device on their own. But it's not the case. Aside from being new features have to be useful and ultimately built into the phone for a reason. But there's just not enough useful new features on the Fire Phone to warrant buying it. On the contrary in fact, one of its most spun selling points - the Dynamic Perspective - is just a show for the eyes.
Reviews of those who were present in Seattle for the launch say that while it is certainly impressive - aside from the 3D viewing it also allows users to browse content by titling their phones while adding a sense of perspective to some of its user-interface screens - it is essentially a big gimmick. And a battery hungry one at that. Our prediction is that it's much like any new toy: fascinating for the first few weeks, incapable of coercing a smile from then on.
In fact, that description can also be used to sum up the phone as a whole.