Amazon Fire Phone Has a Few Bugs to Work Out
Mayday I pressed the Mayday button to ask if maybe I was missing something—if maybe there was a back button I wasn't figuring out. After all, the phone is filled with sensors and responses to hand gestures. You can give a half shake to the left to make a software "drawer" pop out and show details relevant to the moment (weather, calendar, etc.). A half shake to the right pops out a drawer on that side with popular destinations: Apps, Games, Web, Music, Videos, Photos, etc. Sometimes swiping up from the bottom accomplishes something—like pulling up the full list of app icons, both on the device and in the cloud. (There's a clearly labeled on-screen button that lets you toggle between the two.) The Mayday worker was very nice, and agreed that there didn't seem to be a way out from the places I got stuck, beyond hitting Home and starting over.User Interface The Fire's Home screen is a carousel, like it is on the Kindle Fire HD X tablet; the icons are in a row and you swipe from one to the next or, again, you can view all the app icons at once. On the phone, Amazon has improved the carousel by including recent information under each icon. You see the most recent emails under the email icon, for example, and the items you asked Firefly about under the Firefly icon. I'm inclined to say it's nice, but again there can be a lot of unintentional slip-sliding around, with drawers opening and closing, and Dynamic Perspective-enabled items doing little dances in place. Turning to Amazon's app store, which emails receipts for seemingly everything you do on the phone, also takes a little getting used to. Though I appreciated the email pointing out that sometime during the day I'd inadvertently purchased a four-pack of cereal (something I'd earlier turned Firefly on). Let's hope my family acquires a deep hunger for shredded wheat. In Summary My first impressions of the Fire are that the sound quality is noticeably better than I expected. Listening to Beats Audio with earbuds, I could hear the difference in the music quality compared with what I'm used to, and the same was true on calls. The phone is also a little heavy—the back panel is plastic but feels like glass—in a way that weirdly felt satisfyingly solid. The camera is, again, very crisp—impressively, noticeably crisp. And the beauty of the display comes across most impressively when viewing magazines and books and, of course, videos—content Amazon has plenty of experience with. (After using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, though, with its magazine spreads optimized for the device, it's a little hard to go back to traditional magazine layouts.) AT&T is exclusively selling the Fire, beginning July 25, for $199. Remember, that's with the year of Prime included, and for a 32GB version of the phone (not the more typical 16GB). Plus, the Fire comes with unlimited cloud storage for your photos. If you're an Amazon tablet user, the transition will be easier. For those who aren't, but who are Amazon's target audience, some surprises—mostly pleasant ones—await. Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.
The Mayday worker I reached when I couldn't get the video on my Fire phone to play on a Fire TV was similarly extremely nice and quick to answer the call. The 24/7 service is fantastic, and it'll get even better as the workers become more familiar with the products with time. (Like me, she couldn't figure out why the video wasn't showing up on the TV despite the devices' acknowledging each other.)