Amazon’s first smart phone, the Fire, is a device with a mission: to help you spend money. Its Firefly app can recognize text, video, music, even everyday objects—100 million of them, according to the company— then help you buy them from Amazon. The Fire wasn’t available for purchase at press time, but we’ll be testing it in our lab soon. It was due out at the end of July from Amazon and AT&T, the exclusive service provider, for $200 (32GB) or $300 (64GB) with a two-year contract. Here’s our take based on what we know so far: The Fire Phone looks a bit like a large iPhone 5 with rounded, rubberized edges. It’s a bit heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S5, at 5.6 ounces, and a bit thicker.
The 4.7-inch display creates a 3D-like effect Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective by using four front-facing cameras, one at each corner. They track your face, and when you tilt your head or the phone, flat images appear to have depth. The 3D effect could be useful in mapping and gaming, among other things. If you’re thumb-tied, you can tilt the Fire rather than touch the screen to scroll up and down Web and e-book pages, and to see different product views in Amazon’s shopping app. Amazon says that a flick of the wrist calls up several menu options, including the shopping cart (no surprise there). The phone, like the Kindle Fire tablet, uses Amazon’s Silk browser.
It also has apps often used on newer Kindle tablets, including Mayday (live video-chat tech support) and X-Ray (which offers details on videos you’re watching, such as info on actors and background music). The ASAP feature suggests videos based on your viewing habits and caches them to start instantly. In addition to Amazon’s retail and content services, the Fire Phone supports Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, and ESPN. Amazon’s app market isn’t as large as Apple’s or Google’s. The Fire comes with unlimited photo and video storage on Amazon’s Cloud Drive. At press time, there was a limited-time offer of a free, one-year subscription to Prime, its two-day delivery/streaming video service, which usually costs $99 per year.