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5 ways Amazon's Fire Phone could sizzle or fizzle

Susie Ochs | July 29, 2014
Amazon's long-awaited smartphone is finally here, and as we put it through its paces, we're focusing on these make-or-break features.

Will the Maps app be better than Apple's?
After all the crap Apple got when iOS 6's brand-new Maps app was kind of broken at launch, Amazon has to get this right.

The maps themselves, with data from Nokia, look just fine, and so far I've gotten good driving directions around Milwaukee and its many fine suburbs. The voice is clear and tells me exactly what streets to turn on, and it readjusts the route quickly every time I veer off the path.

Of course, driving directions aren't the only things we use maps on our cell phones for, so over the next couple days, I'll also take some time to drill into public transportation and walking options. They're both present, but they need to work, ideally as well as Google Maps. You can't ask the voice-activated digital assistant to get you directions somewhere, which is a strike against Amazon's app already.

Is Dynamic Perspective awesome or just a gimmick?
I like reading while lying down (OK, I just like lying down), so I often have to lock the orientation to keep my iPhone in portrait mode. The Fire Phone tracks your head's location on X, Y, and Z axes with infrared cameras in all four corners of the screen, and once the novelty wears off, I can't wait to see if Dynamic Perspective can solve these little problems, or if it's just a pretty gimmick.

So far I'm still getting used to the fact that Dynamic Perspective is only used by some apps, and I probably look weird tilting my phone or craning my head around to see if anything happens onscreen. All for the science, my friends.

How does the camera stack up to the iPhone?
Amazon didn't skimp out on the Fire Phone's camera. The app is a little bare bones, but the pictures seem great. And you can snap away knowing all the photos are backed up to your Amazon account. I haven't tested it everywhere I want to test it yet, but for low-light photos at the Milwaukee Public Museum, it performed admirably, and gave me helpful pointers on when I might want to use HDR.

I tried pressing the shutter buttons on the Fire Phone and my iPhone 5c at the same time, and the iPhone shot a little faster. But pressing the button on the side of the Fire Phone to launch the camera is downright decadent. Having to press the iPhone's home button and then swipe up on the camera icon feels so slow in comparison.

Taking pictures is one of the things I absolutely use my cell phone for the most, so I can't wait to finish putting the Fire Phone's camera to the test.


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