It’s release day for the amazon Fire phone. My wife’s first impressions above. :) It’s exciting to try some of the new hardware innovations, like the magnetic ear buds with flat cord that should stay together in your pocket and tangle less, and the face tracking camera array allowing the phone to respond to how you move it in your hand.
For software developers, an amazon developer evangelist also told me there is a developer API for apps to provide their own responses when the Firefly button is pressed to identify products, music, and video. Here are some screenshots of using the Firefly button to identify music and a book:
Besides just buying things, it also worked well for just taking pictures of phone numbers and URLs and tapping the result instead of having to type them in.
Some other good features are Corning Gorilla Glass 3 front and back and an IPS 720P display. 720P is the lowest HD TV resolution, with some phones already shipping 1080P or more. I think it is plenty of detail for a small phone display anyway, however. Some Apple and LG phones I’ve had have had glass backs that shattered. Hopefully this Gorilla Glass version will stand up better, but still have the pretty glossy back superior to plastic.
IPS is a type of LCD display with better viewing angles than many others, letting you still see the screen even when tilted - important considering amazon’s face tracking technology uses tilting extensively. For example, on the map screen, you will see just markers after a search, but can tilt the phone slightly to see labels and ratings as well when you want them.
Amazon introduces these features well with tutorial videos when first starting the phone and a MayDay service where customer support will video call with you, see your screen, and help you out. Starting it up, I was amazed it was already logged into my amazon account. This is a nice touch that made setup one step simpler.
It’s unlikely amazon actually changes anything on each phone shipped out since that would be too much work, but they must know the serial number of what is shipped out and when the device logs into WiFi for the first time their server can tell it who bought it.
In the cons category my wife and I both found the keyboard and touch screen difficult to use and the OS rather slow to respond to any input. We searched for some way to calibrate the touch screen, but couldn’t find any and ended up always having to touch the option or on screen keyboard button above the one we wanted. Even once we learned that trick the OS was slow to react to any touches and my wife would often tap two or three times or tilt the phone several ways before it reacted to the first thing she did.
It isn’t entirely clear why this should be. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Quad-core 2.2 GHz Krait 400 CPU is only one generation behind modern Android flag ship phones. Similarly the Android 4.2.2 based OS isn’t far behind either, although amazon has not licensed the standard Google apps such as Google Play. The HTC One M8 uses a Snapdragon 801 at 2.3-2.5GHz, for example, and runs Android 4.4. Maybe the laggy UI is due to running the camera array constantly to try to track the user’s face.
For developers, to connect the Android Debug Bridge, go to “Settings”->”Device”->”Get info” and click the top item until a “Developer Options” button appears at the bottom of the screen. Tap this and turn on Developer Options and USB Debugging options. Make sure you have the vendor code 0X1949 in your adb_usb.ini inside your .android directory in your home directory and restart adb if needed (“adb kill-server” then “adb devices”).
Here is what the device looks like to the “system_profiler SPUSBDataType” command on OS X:
Product ID: 0x0800
Vendor ID: 0x1949 (Lab126)
Serial Number: B0F10701427307PF
Speed: Up to 480 Mb/sec
Location ID: 0x1d110000 / 6
Current Available (mA): 500
Current Required (mA): 2
Have fun and thanks for checking out the phone with us!