With all you already buy from Amazon on a monthly (read: daily) basis, CEO Jeff Bezos is hoping you soon add one more item to your cart before checkout: the company’s new Fire smartphone. Now available, this wunderkind of the industry has the bells and whistles to stand out from a packed crowd of innovators.
The Fire’s 5.5-inch size fits perfectly in one hand and weighs just under 6 oz. There’s 32GB or 64GB of storage, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 4.7-inch display, and a snappy 2.2GHz processor. But enough about the specs.
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The Fire is easy to use: Standing with hot coffee in one hand and your phone in the other, you can easily tilt the Fire to the side to turn the page; do the same if you want to read lyrics to a song. Or, you can always swipe. And it’s efficient: For a few days, we used Firefly, the app that helps you learn more about a product with a simple scan. We held the phone over a book and were quickly prompted to shop the item on the Amazon.com store (and our package arrived quickly, thanks to the Fire coming with Amazon Prime for a year). Hear a song you like? Firefly will take care of that, too, and find the album for you to add to your collection.
What’s better is the phone’s four front-facing cameras and LED sensors. They are used to read the angle of your face and will shift the screen perspective when you look at a photo, play a game, or even use the Fire OS interface – meaning even maps shift for easier navigation, depending on how you hold the phone.
For service, the Fire didn’t let us down either. The Mayday app lets you talk live with customer support. (The rep can connect to your phone for added assistance.) Luckily, newbies can easily call them for help, and that’s exactly what we did (thanks, Rob). With WiFi and Bluetooth turned off and the screen dimmed, we used the phone in short spurts all day without recharging. Sadly, the phone only works on the AT&T network, so if you get the strongest signal in your area using Verizon or Sprint, you’re out of luck (for now). A few really basic Google apps, including Google Voice, are not available at all on the phone.
With the iPhone 5S and its wider selection of apps, and the Samsung Galaxy S5’s vibrant AMOLED screen, the Fire has some serious competition. But the innovations show Amazon means business. And, for shoppers, it’s the best phone around for now.
[32GB: $200 (with two-year contract), $650 (no contract); 64GB: $300 (two-year contract), $750 (no contract); amazon.com]