The Amazon Fire Phone has finally arrived, and leading up to its debut we've already voiced our opinions about the device. Our initial thoughts included the fact that this might just be a portal to all things Amazon, and that its Firefly and Dynamic Perspective gimmicks are exactly that.
We've also concluded, before the device even hit our desks, that the phone couldn't possibly compete against the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 or LG G3.
Its price point was also mind-boggling to us: $199 for a two-year contract or over $600 unlocked just didn't make sense for a smartphone with mid-range specs. All that aside, Fire OS seems very limited compared to Android, and it's not as intuitive as we might've hoped.
But now that we have the Fire Phone in our hands, and we've had some time to play with it, how does it stack up to our expectations? In short, we really aren't surprised with reality versus our predictions, and we'll tell you why.
The Fire Phone is very much like the LG Nexus 4, with a rubberized edge with glass front and back. You'll find a power button at the top edge of the phone, volume and camera buttons on the left edge and a home button at the base of the face of the device.
While the Fire Phone has a 1280 x 720, 4.7-inch display, it's sharp enough that images and text look pretty good. Sure, it's no LG G3 QHD display, but at 315 PPI, the Fire Phone looks fine in most situations.
The glass back is prone to fingerprint smudges, but wipes away easily. Amazon's logo is emblazoned on the back just below the 13MP camera and flash. The front-facing camera is a 2.1MP shooter, and both cameras are capable of recording 1080p HD video.
You'll also notice four cameras on the corners of the face of the device, and the reason they exist is because of Dynamic Perspective, or the simulated 3D display.
Since this isn't our in-depth review, it's sufficient to say that the hardware is OK, but not the best there is on the market. For that, we'd have to give our nods to the HTC One M8 and iPhone 5S.
It feels nice in the hand, again, reminiscent of the Nexus 4, but we are quite concerned about that glass back and whether the internal specs will be future-proof.
The software on the Amazon Fire Phone is confusing. When you fire up the phone for the first time, there is a five minute tutorial on using the phone.
It might be bold to say this, but if your phone starts with a lengthy tutorial on how to use it, then it probably isn't very intuitive from the start.
If you've owned the Kindle Fire, or Kindle Fire HDX, some UI elements will be familiar to you. The home screen is essentially a carousel of your most recently used apps. To get rid of those apps from the carousel, press and hold the app icon and select to remove it.
There are also panels that are revealed when you swipe from the left-most or right-most edges of the phone. These panels reveal options to see apps, games, music and more, and the other side shows updates such as weather and email notifications.
Swiping down from the top shows your notifications and quick toggle buttons for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, for example, along with a quick button for Amazon's Mayday service - or its live technical support/help feature.
The top-down notification pane isn't animated like Android or iOS, but it works the same.
Flicking the phone around with certain gestures will also bring up these panels and notification centers, but it doesn't always work so smoothly. It can be frustrating.
Since the Fire Phone has only a physical home button, and no other hard or soft buttons, you'll find yourself wishing there was a back button. To go back in most apps, you have to swipe upward from the very bottom of the display, which isn't intuitive and makes no sense. This was frustrating at first, but I've reluctantly become accustomed to it.
As we dive deeper into this phone, we'll have more on the software, but these are our initial impressions.
Having faux-3D on the Fire Phone is a neat effect for the first three seconds that you take a look at it. After that, it's not really all that useful.
It's a parlor trick that can be cool for the first or second time, but after a while it becomes a nuisance and you can easily recognize that it's completely unnecessary.
Your first experience with it will be the lock screen, which reveals slightly new angles when you tilt the phone around while you're facing it. This thing could be useful in maps for peeking around buildings and other areas, but you can also do that with your fingers in every other maps app.
There is not a single instance I can think of when Dynamic Perspective wouldn't have worked just fine using a two-finger pinch, pull and swipe method.
Firefly is actually a feature that could be cool if it wasn't so blatantly obvious that it's just a tool to get you to buy crap on Amazon.
When you fire up the Firefly app, you can use your phone's camera to identify objects, and if that object exists in the Amazon store, you'll be given a link to go straight to it.
If the item you're scanning with your Fire Phone's camera isn't in the Amazon store, most of the results will be null and void.
And of course, Firefly can also recognize music and TV and movies. Since Amazon offers those things for sale, you bet Firefly is going to be capable of recognizing your tunes and shows and movies, and direct you right where you need to go to buy them.
Is it useful? It could be; Firefly is another neat trick that can help you identify certain things, with the added and sometimes unwanted bonus of being nudged into going into Amazon's product page.
The Fire Phone has what you need for a modern smartphone to be acceptable. It has a high definition screen, though nowhere near the resolution of Android flagship devices. It also has a decent 13MP camera, though it's not on par with the likes of the LG G3 or iPhone 5S.
You'll find that the Fire Phone also has pretty good hardware, but nothing as pretty or soulful as the HTC One M8 or iPhone 5S.
For everything the Fire Phone is decent at, there is an Android flagship or iPhone device that does it much better. And that should not be the case for a phone that's just as expensive as the rest of them, and a company's first go at smartphones.
It'll make calls, send messages, do e-mail, browse the web and allow you to use some apps and games. But then again, most phones do that these days. What matters is the overall experience, and whether there is that sense of quality or conscientiousness behind the product as a whole.
It doesn't feel like Amazon gave this phone much thought, other than to find a way to put a portal into its store right in our pockets - as if the Amazon iOS or Android apps weren't enough.