When Amazon announced the Fire Phone, my initial response was, "Are you kidding me?" I've been covering the wireless industry for about seven years now, so it's not a good sign when that's my first thought.
You may already be familiar with the Fire Phone by now, especially since years of rumors and hype preceded its announcement. But if this is your first time hearing about it, you aren't missing much.
It's basically a mid-range smartphone with two big gimmicks: a 3D feature called Dynamic Perspective, and a camera that can scan and recognize products, so you can spend all your money buying those things on Amazon. The latter is called Firefly.
My level of frustration with this scam of a phone is so intense that it's hard for me to put my thoughts down into words, but here's what I've got in terms of why you should not buy this phone.
1. All Amazon, all the time
You may think it's an exaggeration to say Amazon is going to be in your face on a daily basis, but if you're ever owned or used a Kindle Fire HD, or a Kindle Fire HDX, you'll know exactly what I mean.
First, it's almost pointless to use the Kindle Fire devices without an Amazon Prime account because that's where you'll get the most out of the device. Video streaming, premium app downloads and everything else is better when you have Prime.
With the Fire Phone, you're essentially buying a device that's going to act as your primary tool into the world of Amazon. You'll be watching multimedia, reading books and buying all kinds of things you probably don't need because this phone will make it that much easier.
Did you just see something you might want to buy, but you aren't sure what it is? Point your phone's camera at it and within seconds you'll be taken to the related Amazon product page, ready for you to hit "Buy now with 1-click."
Oh, but before you think this is some kind of revolutionary technology, Google Goggles was doing this years ago.
2. Mediocre hardware and software
A 720p display? Really? In a world where we have 2560 x 1440 smartphones on the high end, and 1080p displays on almost every other phone being released today, Amazon gives us a phone whose primary function is to get you to spend more money on Amazon junk with a 720p display.
Oh, but it has four front-facing cameras on it so you can tilt the screen around and peer into a 3D world! Yawn. That will either get really annoying, really fast, or you'll disable it for good after about a week.
I'd knock it for having a 2.2GHz Snapdragon CPU, but it probably doesn't need much more than that for its very limited selection of apps, running on a tweaked version of Android 4.2. Yes, it's ancient.
Let's talk quickly about the Dynamic Perspective. The idea is that with the ability to move the phone around to peer around corners, barriers, walls, edges or whatever is a little ridiculous. It's just as useful as augmented reality in smartphones.
Sure, being able to tilt the phone in a map to see around buildings is neat, but is it necessary to have all those cameras tracking your eyes/face instead of you using two fingers to move around? It's a gimmick.
Secondly, there's Firefly. Maybe you see a camera that you like and you can't quite make out the make or model. Just scan it with your Fire Phone's camera and Amazon will tell you what it is, along with a link to buy it - from Amazon.
It's neat if all you ever do is spend all your hard-earned cash on Amazon, but it's certainly not a new idea. Google Goggles has been doing this for years, perhaps not as elegantly, but its utility and usefulness is pretty limited.