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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.

Are the bonuses worth the trade-offs?
My colleague Jared Newman mentioned in his first impressions that it took him a while to realize that since the Fire Phone doesn't have Android's back button, you have to swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen to go back. I smiled when I read that, because that was the first thing I asked Mayday, and I had an answer in seconds. Mayday is great for getting to know Fire OS's quirks, and will absolutely save me some Googling.

And Mayday is just one of the bonuses Amazon packed into the Fire Phone. I used Firefly to identify a scene in the movie Cars, and I got not only a list of the actors in the scene and the name of the song playing in the background, but also trivia about how Pixar wanted to license Chuck Berry's version of "Route 66" for the film, but the track was so obscure that Berry's own record label didn't know it existed. This is far more delightful than having one-tap access to adding a DVD of Cars to my Amazon cart, and it's something that's going to keep me Firefly-ing everything I can. (And eventually I'm sure I'll add at least some of it to my Amazon cart.)

The free year of Prime, the free music and TV shows you can stream right out of the box, the Kindle lending library, even the high-quality camera--those are all nice, but I'm not sure they'll be enough to make up for the Appstore's weaker selection, or to attract enough customers that developers will make Fire OS a priority. Kickstarting a phone ecosystem from nothing is both amazing and probably too tall an order, but Amazon's already taken some big steps.


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