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Yesterday, Amazon caused quite the stir with the Amazon Fire Phone. At best, it’s a compelling smartphone that offers some great features and backed by unique Amazon services. At worst, it’s a smartphone that’s exclusive to a mediocre network (depending on where you live) and backed by an ecosystem that isn’t broad as what Android or iOS bring to the table. For certain consumers (those that are technologically apathetic or ignorant), the Amazon Fire Phone seems like a great choice; on paper, the hardware compares favorably to other top-of-the-line smartphones and millions of people are already comfortable with buying from Amazon. For others (tech nerds), it’s tough to make a case for the Amazon Fire Phone over the top Android and iOS devices. This is especially true for consumers that live in areas where AT&T service is poor.
Now that we’ve all had a day to think about the Amazon Fire Phone, here are some random thoughts (binary style!) on the product. Naturally, I’d love to hear yours as well. After you’ve read my binary list, please share your thoughts on the Amazon Fire Phone in the comments section. Are you hot for the product? Mildly intrigued? Or left with a sense of ennui? Whatever the case, I want to know! Now onto the Amazon Fire Phone binary list.
Good: The Amazon Fire Phone’s specs are good to great — 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU, Adreno 330 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, 4.7-inch HD LCD display with a 1280 x 720 resolution at 315 ppi, and 2,400mAh battery. It competes nicely in the high-end market, though there’s certainly room for quibbling.
Good: The device brings some excellent marriages of hardware and services. On paper, the camera looks good. More importantly, photo storage is backed by Amazon Cloud Services for unlimited storage. Firefly is a devilishly clever service that turns the Amazon Fire Phone into a 24/7 impulse shopping portal that’s fun and easy to use.
Bad: While there are some places where AT&T has great service, there are some where the service is dreadful. The service pricing isn’t the cheapest either. There are some people (mostly tech nerds) that won’t use AT&T products based on the company’s anti-consumer policies. It’s a shame that the Amazon Fire Phone is launching as an AT&T exclusive. Hopefully that window is small and the phone will come to other carriers before the end of the year.
Good: The phone comes with one year of Amazon Prime. This stellar service offers free videos, free music streaming, and upgraded shipping on most Amazon purchases. I’ve been an Amazon Prime member since the program’s inception and absolutely love it.
Bad: The phone’s pricing is inline with other high-end smartphones, but I expected something much more radical from Amazon. Considering that the Amazon Fire Phone is a gateway to all sorts of Amazon purchases — both digital and physical — I expected a much higher subsidy. Amazon’s e-readers and tablets are aggressively priced; the inexpensive hardware is made up for through digital and physical purchases. Considering that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a fairly aggressive executive, I was disappointed by the conservative business model he pursued with the Amazon Fire Phone. I was hoping for something like a $99 phone with a two-year Amazon Prime subscription. Instead, he’s following the same model that everyone else uses.
Bad: For some people, Amazon’s app offerings will be just fine. Amazon offers a solid selection of Android apps through its own store. For certain consumers, that app environment won’t be good enough. The curated selection isn’t as diverse as what Google offers though Google Play or what Apple offers through the iOS App Store. In the context of the Amazon Fire Phone costing the same as any other high-end phone, I can see tech nerds having a problem with buying a phone that has a smaller walled garden than competing Android and iOS smartphones.
Good (Potentially): Amazon made a big deal about the phone’s “Dynamic Perspective” feature and the demo was awfully impressive. That said, I’m not yet convinced it will work as good as it was shown. I’ve seen several attempts at this type of usability and all of them were better on paper than they were in practice. Still, that demo almost convinced me. I want to believe it works that well and hope it does, just so it pushes competing operating systems.
Bottom Line: I was really intrigued by the Amazon Fire Phone press conference…until the product was announced as an AT&T exclusive. That killed most of the enthusiasm I had for the Fire. While I’m still curious about the Amazon Fire Phone, I’m really disappointed by the “me too” pricing and exclusive carrier. While I never expected it to replace my Apple iPhone or Google Nexus, I thought it could be a compelling alternative. For some people, the Amazon Fire Phone will be a great choice. For me, the carrier and app store limitations negate the phone’s interesting features.