Mobileread
Kindle Fire Phone - Hands On Review
#1  poohbear_nc 07-29-2014, 11:05 AM
[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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#2  poohbear_nc 07-29-2014, 12:39 PM
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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#3  sirmaru 07-29-2014, 04:45 PM
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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#4  tubemonkey 07-29-2014, 11:36 PM
Quote sirmaru
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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#5  tubemonkey 07-29-2014, 11:42 PM
Quote poohbear_nc
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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#6  poohbear_nc 07-30-2014, 09:10 AM
Quote tubemonkey
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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#7  poohbear_nc 07-30-2014, 11:16 AM
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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#8  tubemonkey 07-30-2014, 12:57 PM
Quote poohbear_nc
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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#9  tubemonkey 07-30-2014, 01:03 PM
Quote poohbear_nc
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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#10  eschwartz 07-30-2014, 01:53 PM
Quote tubemonkey
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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