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Old 07-29-2014, 11:05 AM   #1
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Kindle Fire Phone - Hands On Review

[I'm posting the review here since the Fire Phone is basically a Fire Tablet 'Mini-Me']

Disclaimer #1: As you can tell by my device list, I am a contented resident of the Amazon eco-verse. Virtually all of my digital content (ebooks, music, video) has been purchased from Amazon and resides in the Amazon Cloud. I am also a Prime member.

Disclaimer #2: If you've been a member here very long, you've probably encountered my rants about screen glare, unreadable tiny print, migraines, etc.

Disclaimer #3: I do not participate in 'social media' websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and cannot comment on how well this phone integrates with them.

Disclaimer #4: My current cell phone is a 10-year old Kyocerca with a 2" green screen that just makes phone calls. You might say that I've been a bit resistant to adopting new cell phone technology.

So:
The Fire Phone is basically a miniature Fire Tablet that is also a smartphone. As far as I can tell, it is a decent smartphone with all of the basic features (camera - front & rear, texting, integrates with multiple email accounts, map/directions, music, etc.) - so I am not covering them in detail unless there is something unique to Amazon, or if someone has a question.

Set-Up: surprisingly frustration free. I usually have an acrimonious tussle with new technology - but (with the help of the Amazon Support pages) and my familiarity with the Fire Tablets - all went smoothly. All the apps I already used on my Fire Tablet are now on the Phone. Hence, a very flat learning curve.

Carousel - Yes, the carousel is still there - but it's an enhanced carousel - which makes it both more annoying and extremely useful. You can toggle the home screen between the carousel & an app grid screen showing all apps loaded on the phone. Recently accessed items (apps, books, songs, etc.) appear in the carousel. You have to manually remove them one by one.

For content (books, songs, movies), there is a list of related 'suggested' purchase options listed below the icon - I find this quite annoying - but no way to shut it off.

For apps - this list contains useful shortcuts. New emails are listed under the email icon (and yes - you can toggle between separate email accounts on the home screen to see the sender & the first line of the email.) Tapping on one of the listed items instantly opens it. Similar information for phone calls, text messages, etc. The idea is you can instantly access new content from the home screen/carousel without having to open individual apps. This works quite well - and pressing the Home button drops you back onto the home screen.

Menus: The strip menu (Books, Apps, Docs, etc.) found along the top of the Fire Tablet home screen is now in a left panel menu - that can be dragged out or flipped out onto the home screen - the Phone responds to tilt motions to slide menus on/off screen - it was very easy to learn to use gestures to access menus. The right menu panel contains contextual material that is related to whatever is on the screen. The top menu screen (Quick Actions) holds the functions normally found in an Android device: Sync, Settings, Mayday, Wifi/Bluetooth connections, etc.

Some reviewers complained about one-handed gestures - accidentally sliding menus out or unable to get them off the screen - but this hasn't been troublesome for me. The Phone seems designed for one-handed or even no-handed use -- there is an extensive suite of Accessibility features for speech recognition/communication.

AutoScroll works well within the Silk Browser - you can invoke the "Readability" mode and then scroll down a web page, controlling the speed by degree of tilt.

[To be continued ....Dynamic Perspective (or pseudo 3D, as I call it) is .... well .... odd but kind of interesting. You can play video games using head/eye movements to control actions on screen. And Firefly - somewhat useful now with many promised upcoming features.]
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Old 07-29-2014, 12:39 PM   #2
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Display: Text is very crisp & readable - I very rarely have to pinch/spread to increase text size. I haven't installed any screen dim apps yet - I'm still experimenting with brightness controls.

There are no text labels for menu icons - you use the 'tilt' and 'peek' features to make the labels appear - part of the Dynamic Perspective effect. If you look directly at the Home screen, you just see the carousel icons. Tilt the phone and a top menu strip floats into view, displaying battery life %, connections, and time of day. The text 'floats' on top of the home screen - you can actually peek below it. Any time you encounter an icon - just tilt to find out what it is or does.

This gives an uncluttered screen appearance, but I often wish there was a 'tap to appear/tap to dismiss' function for these labels. You can also have the phone read the labels to you (Accessibility features).

Dynamic Perspective: One of Amazon's selling points - simulated 3D displays - courtesy of the 4 front facing cameras that track your face/eyes. I have little/no depth vision - and cannot use 3D glasses at movies, etc. so I was astounded to see 3D on this phone. You can tilt and peek behind icons, look underneath text, etc. The included lock screens are mini 3D masterpieces - whose appearance changes as you change your viewing angle. You can use this feature to play games without hands - your head movements direct a figure's actions on screen. The phone 'learns' where your eyes are looking, and coordinates the game pieces movements.
I handed my phone to a friend to show this feature - and there was a brief lag time while the phone adjusted to the new face - before they could direct the figures on screen.

Firefly: The other Amazon selling point. It works great for music & film - your phone listens to music, and watches & listens to a film you are watching - and then identifies it and gives you purchase options, IMDB information, etc. I tested it on my old TV watching TCM - kind of spooky.

It can also read bar codes & QR codes.

Very accurate at identifying name brand items - food, beverages, cleaning supplies, etc.

Not very good at objects without labels or packaging - even if they are sold on Amazon. For instance, I scanned my cat's stainless steel water bowl - bought from Amazon - but it was not identified. There is a feedback feature to upload your scan to Amazon to add to the data base. I can't imagine what people will send them!

This makes your phone the ultimate shopping tool - scan => click to buy from Amazon (since you are using their phone, you are a Prime member - so shipping is free -- talk about positive reinforcement).
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Old 07-29-2014, 04:45 PM   #3
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Lucky you. I purchased my Samsung Galaxy s5 in April and now must wait two years for the Fire phone due to my ATT contract. However, mine does have a 5.1 inch screen which is about the maximum to carry in my pants pocket. It also has Ultra Power Saving Mode for down time which gets me about 10 days between battery charges.

I'm hoping Amazon will add a Firefly app for android soon.
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Old 07-29-2014, 11:36 PM   #4
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I'm hoping Amazon will add a Firefly app for android soon.
In the mean time, you can try an earlier version of it right now. Firefly is based on Flow, an augmented reality shopping app developed by A9 (owned by Amazon) nearly three years ago.

It's available from all three appstores (Amazon, Android, Apple).
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Old 07-29-2014, 11:42 PM   #5
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Not very good at objects without labels or packaging - even if they are sold on Amazon. For instance, I scanned my cat's stainless steel water bowl - bought from Amazon - but it was not identified.
What happens when you scan your cat?

Seriously though, will it identify living things?
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:10 AM   #6
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What happens when you scan your cat?

Seriously though, will it identify living things?
I did scan my cat - to see if Firefly would at least suggest a toy cat figure - but alas! Unable to recognize! Apparently living things without labels are do not register ... yet ...
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Old 07-30-2014, 11:16 AM   #7
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So ... initial conclusions:

1. The Fire Phone is a fully functional smartphone (as far as I can judge).
2. It is a 'work in progress' - as far as the functionality of the Amazon perk features: Firefly, Dynamic Perspective, Accessibility features.
3. Its future would seem to depend upon software developers embracing the 3D capabilities of its display.

If you currently have a smartphone and are dependent upon the suite of Apple or Google apps - this is not the phone for you.

If you currently are a resident of the Amazon eco-verse and can't imagine life without Prime membership - take a look. Esp. if you use a Fire Tablet and its apps, and have extensive content storage in the Amazon cloud.
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Old 07-30-2014, 12:57 PM   #8
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I did scan my cat - to see if Firefly would at least suggest a toy cat figure - but alas! Unable to recognize! Apparently living things without labels are do not register ... yet ...
When they finally do get around to living things, it could come in handy. You'll see an animal, scan it, and get this response: "rattlesnake - danger! run away, fast!".
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:03 PM   #9
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So ... initial conclusions:

1. The Fire Phone is a fully functional smartphone (as far as I can judge).
2. It is a 'work in progress' - as far as the functionality of the Amazon perk features: Firefly, Dynamic Perspective, Accessibility features.
3. Its future would seem to depend upon software developers embracing the 3D capabilities of its display.

If you currently have a smartphone and are dependent upon the suite of Apple or Google apps - this is not the phone for you.

If you currently are a resident of the Amazon eco-verse and can't imagine life without Prime membership - take a look. Esp. if you use a Fire Tablet and its apps, and have extensive content storage in the Amazon cloud.
Dynamic Perspective would be great on a Fire HDX and a feature I'd like to see ported over. Firefly, not so much since it needs a net connection to fully function; though some of it would be useful at home.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:53 PM   #10
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When they finally do get around to living things, it could come in handy. You'll see an animal, scan it, and get this response: "rattlesnake - danger! run away, fast!".
You're right -- what did they ever do in the olden days without Firefly?

People must've died left right and center.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:54 PM   #11
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You're right -- what did they ever do in the olden days without Firefly?

People must've died left right and center.
Or was that something else?
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Old 08-02-2014, 03:52 AM   #12
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Lucky you. I purchased my Samsung Galaxy s5 in April and now must wait two years for the Fire phone due to my ATT contract. However, mine does have a 5.1 inch screen which is about the maximum to carry in my pants pocket. It also has Ultra Power Saving Mode for down time which gets me about 10 days between battery charges.

I'm hoping Amazon will add a Firefly app for android soon.
AT&T is the ONLY cell phone co that works the Fire! Main reason I wont buy it. But you could add it to your contract.
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Old 08-10-2014, 08:26 PM   #13
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OK - been playing with most of the features for a couple of weeks now. It's a decent smartphone.

Firefly is fun - but only works well recognizing music, films, products with brand names or bar codes, etc. - at present fairly hopeless at recognizing everyday objects without labels. Just for fun I scanned the 'LL Bean' tag on my slippers - not a clue. Lots of room for improvement here. I read that future development will add translation to its functionality - handy for menus, traveling (street signs, phone directories, etc).

Dynamic Perspective 3D effects work fine for the floating menus/labels, etc. I'm not a game player, so I can't really evaluate its importance there. The one handed gestures/flips to bring up/remove menu panels were quite easy to learn & use - not really intrusive at all. They do become irritating when actually using the phone to actually make a call - when you adjust it to your ear, the tilting causes menus to appear/disappear - and you have to re-adjust it to get back to the screen with the information about your call - but no real problem.

Decent camera with nice on-phone editing tools.

Enough apps to keep me organized/informed (To do lists, note pad, etc.) - but I'm not active on social media.

The screen is crisp & bright and very readable - even for someone with old, tired eyes - I've had little trouble using apps, reading emails, reading the map, etc. - it's a very nice screen display.

So - as I said above, no real compelling reason to dump your current phone, esp. if your life is wedded to Google or iPhone apps. Lots of potential areas of development for its flagship Dynamic Perspective & Firefly apps. ATT data plans suck, compared to say, T-Mobile - with unlimited text & talk, if you aren't a data hog, the monthly plans are over kill and over priced. Unlocked pricing highly unrealistic with the current set of features.

Who should consider buying this phone?
1. Lifelong members of the Amazon eco-verse that buy everything possible from Amazon and are Prime members. And who have their stuff in the Amazon cloud.

2. Older (non techy) folk who are daunted by the learning curve for either an iPhone or an Android smartphone, and want a gentle introduction into the world of smartphones - esp. since Mayday is included. You can really start using email, camera, etc. right away with few problems.

3. Folk with disabilities or difficulties with finger movements (arthritis, etc.) - the one handed gestures plus the array of Accessibility features available are impressive.

4. Parents who want to give their kids smartphones - parental controls, etc. loaded.

I'm keeping mine - and awaiting anxiously to see if Amazon/ATT will offer some better data deals either during the 2-year contract (to keep existing customers) or at the end - when you can legally unlock your phone.

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Old 08-11-2014, 05:30 PM   #14
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Hows the Battery Life?
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Old 08-11-2014, 07:22 PM   #15
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I am a light user - so over an 8 hour work day, I sporadically check emails, texts, voice mail, etc. - and maybe the weather or news, and let it go to sleep otherwise - which drains the battery 20% or more. I do have location based services on - which may increase battery usage if apps are 'phoning home' in the background. I have some doctor appointments coming up, so I'll get a better picture of battery use after being marooned in the waiting room and using the phone continuously for longer time periods.

I routinely charge it & my Fire HDX tablet overnight.
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