back to article What's MISSING on Amazon Fire Phone... and why it WON'T set the world alight

Having a headline piece of consumer tech crash and burn in the US market is every company's nightmare – and that's exactly what happened to Amazon’s Fire Phone, whose price has just PLUNGED from $449 to $199 Stateside. Amazon Fire Phone top and bottom bezels. Pic: Alun Taylor Hefty bezels: Amazon's Fire Phone is pretty …

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  1. Anonymous John

    an ersatz-3D image

    When are we going to get the real (Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi) thing?

    1. Bleu

      Re: an ersatz-3D image

      Good question, so a vote from me.

      However, Hitachi has such a system, demonstrated it at CEATEC around the middle of the last decade.

      It requires multiple cameras around the space to capture the video, and the playback system is electro-mechanical, delivers much the same effect as the hologram viewers in THX1138, or Princess Leia in Star Wars.

      Unlike holograms, you can walk around the playback system, and it doesn't have the same problems with colour distortion. One of the demos was a sumo match.

      I thought at the time (and still do) that it was very ingenious, expected to see the system pop up in public spaces, but the costs of commercialisation seem to have been judged to be too high.

      Respect for NDAs precludes more, but we are now restricted to 'jump out of the screen' 3-D, I like my 3DS, but have not seen any of the recent American blockbusters in 3-D.

      I like the old ones, using it as a shock effect, for that, my prize goes to Paul Morissey for 'Blood for Dracula'. Flesh for Frankenstein, Jaws 3 in 3-D, all fun.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks cack.

    Who on earth wants to walk around with an Amazon logo showing?

    You wouldn't want a Tesco sports car, so why would you want an Amazon phone?

    1. Bleu

      Who does?

      People with the same mentality as those who want to wear clothes or shoes with the brand as the highlight, or want to make a show of only carrying Apple products, for a couple of examples.

      Give it a few years, and comment sites will have many commenters whose only desire is to display their devotion to Bezos, as they now do with Saint Steve.

      Some of the comments here show that the process is under way.

      I avoid Amazon like the plague.

  3. Mikel

    Play store

    Most of the value of any Android phone is in the Play Store. No Play, no pay.

    1. IR

      Re: Play store

      For most apps, you can use another Android device to access the Play store and install the app you want. Then use something to back-up the app (I use ES File Explorer) so it stores the apk file. Transfer, then just use a file explorer on the Amazon device to install the apk. It doesn't work for everything, and you don't get updates, but it is a lot safer than using other app stores and a lot easier than rooting.

      1. M Mouse

        Re: Play store

        Good point. Now, let's see when Amazon UK sell the bricks for 50 quid... I bet Amazon ordered a big pile and won't want them sitting in warehouses forever, while they see sales of lots of other phone grow via their own store.

    2. Bleu

      Re: Play store

      Crap.

      They have a few good preinstalled ones, I suppose it depends on the provider and place, I have installed precisely one, the file system and process controller.

      All of the others I have installed were pre-installed in the first place.

      Still a pretty good machine, does most of what one wants out of the box.

      Point being that the 'app' and 'store' systems mean just about *nothing* to me and many others.

      One program on Google looks interesting to me, as does one book that is exclusively on Amazon.

      I still much preferred my old brick. As a telephone (and in several other ways, the provider threw up some clunky but hard puzzle games, other game demos, videos, enjoyable wallpapers gratis every month, special alarm tones, ran a closed blog service, etc.), it was more fun.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What were they thinking?

    I think Amazon must have a distorted view of its own importance to try this, particularly at such a nonsensical price. The kindle and subsequent tablets made sense for books, movies, music etc, but this just doesn't, perhaps because an inexpensive tablet is good for consuming content, but is an 'extra', not the central thing people use to organise their lives in the way a phone is, so tying yourself to the Amazon ecosystem is less limiting. But the Fire phone lacks many of the apps that users seem to deem essential and they're unlikely to appear in the near future, and since access to Amazons services can be had through apps on other platforms, the shine comes off that Amazon lock in pretty quickly.

    Amazon did well with the first few models of the Kindle, but they've been playing catchup ever since, not least I think because their mindset is far more that of a retailer than technology company. A very modestly priced phone might have found a niche, but to release this at a price bracket that it can't possibly compete in shows how out of touch they really are.

  5. Frankee Llonnygog

    I suppose Amazon can at least be trusted ...

    ... to keep its ecosystem up and running. Unlike Vodafone which promises a free 2-year sub to Spotify Premium and whose forum is full of tales of woe from people like me who've been prematurely booted back to the free mode - a problem they seem unable to solve.

    Anyway, wouldn't it have made more sense to build a phone that was a decent eBook reader? Solving that might have resulted in something not so ... boring.

  6. Gannettt

    Ads

    I sincerely hope you lot in the UK don't get a British version of the horrible TV advertising we got here for this phone: gorky kids talking like adults, making the actual, non-fire phone using adults, look like idiots. And not only did the phone itself tank, but amazon's attempt to get the phrase "I'll just Firefly that" to gain traction.

    1. toxicdragon

      Re: Ads

      the ads I have seen feature a woman waving her phone about and having it scan things like websites and tv shows. It may be useful but personally I don't like waving my phone around in a crowded bar to find out what track is currently playing, could just be me.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Ads

      That was indeed an appalling advertising campaign - even for a mobile phone, a category that seems to attract the very worst ad agencies.

      I don't like the iPhone (or anything Apple's done since pre-Mac), and I found the original iPhone commercials annoyingly smug. But they weren't nearly as grating and obnoxious as most ads for mobile phones these days. And the Fire ones were particularly awful.

  7. Richard Lloyd

    Needs CM11 and Google apps

    If 1) it cost 140 quid in the UK unlocked/off contract and 2) could be rooted and CyanogenMod/Google apps installed, then it might actually be an alternative to the current budget champion (Moto G 2nd gen). Since neither looks likely to happen, this is one big white elephant. Maybe they'll throw a load into their Black Friday deals to get them off their hands?

  8. Frankee Llonnygog

    Now $199 in the US

    That's the unlocked, no-contract price. The only reason the current inflated prices have been announced in the UK is so they can soon announce the inevitable price cuts. I give it a week. They must be hoping a few mugs take it at double the going rate but I doubt they'll sell more than a couple of hundred at that price

  9. Katz

    I think much of the problem with this phone (for me at least) is that it reeks of simply being a window to purchasing Amazon stuff. So it comes across as a mobile Amazon POS phone, a mobile chip & pin credit card machine, if you will. I know it is more than that and that's not a wholly fair sum up as it does have some nice features. But really I couldn't get past the fact that it's a larger retailer that simply wants to lock you into buying their stuff.

    Sure, you could say Google does similar, they're an advertising giant, they want something back from Android too and Apple, well they're a hardware maker not so much trying to flog you software, but do want to lock you into their ecosystem.

    The difference is the latter two get the balance about right, they make attractive phones as well, something which I couldn't say for the Amazon Fire Phone. Maybe some will like it, but it's not for me. Amazon's also very late to the party too, which is probably accounts for at least half of the story of why it failed.

  10. Matt_payne666

    Facebook Phone...

    Amazon, as noted are great at almost giving away hardware to lock people in and this is cheap enough (from the hardware perspective) to have done the same, even without the funky cameras my dad could have ended up with one of these - and be another convert...

    but like the facebook phone, there is nothing that REALLY pulls you to this device and the headline software features are all available for free on every other platform so it was never goitng to sell purely on the name...

  11. Green Nigel 42
    Flame

    Zero hours

    Two problems with this phone

    1. Costs way 2 much (£132 in the USA vs rip off UK £399!)

    2. Its over here.

    A zero value phone & deservers zero take up.

    Amazon, do you really dispise us that much?

    No thanks Amazon!

  12. Green Nigel 42
    Mushroom

    Back in the board room

    Amazon, your fired!

  13. Frederick Tennant

    Fire All Yes Men.

    Who signed off this phone? this is a walking disaster from the 'get go". Good looks? No, Good specifications? No Good Price point? No. The yes men need to be fired this was never going to work, worse its just embarrassing. Remember HP's first tablet? or worse their phone? They could not give them away. To get the masses to buy this phone it need to be sexy first, All iPhones have boring specifications but to cover their specifications they disguise it so it looks the part, as for pricing, Apple is Apple, if the rest of the world wants to product something to take that fruit company product something cheap and sexy like £150 metal with expansion. then you will have something to shout about. That Nokia Tablet looks great, lets hope they can get a good price point.

  14. nijam

    All in all, you make it sound like a Lumia.

  15. Kepler
    FAIL

    What the Hell is Firefly???

    In most respects this is a perfectly fine and helpful review. However, its discussion of Firefly does not even begin to convey adequately what it is and does and how it works.

    "Launch the app and point the camera at something - a picture, a URL, a phone number, a bar code, and Amazon will tell you what it is."

    The camera? What camera? Does "the camera" mean the phone's camera — the actual physical camera built into the phone — as any normal, sensible user of English would take it to mean, or a little picture of a camera shown on screen? Naturally I took the term at face value, but the things that are said about the camera and what one does with it (see below) suggest that maybe something entirely different and non-obvious — but in any event unstated — was intended.

    "It works with music and video too. If it’s a purchasable item you get pointed to said item on Amazon.

    For music and images I found Firefly to be reliable but the video ID feature is a bit hit and miss. Listening to the soundtrack (it doesn’t actually look at video) . . . ."

    Huh? How the flunk do I point my phone's camera at music? (Or even an on-screen camera?) What does that even mean? Point it at the speaker from which the sound is emanating? And even if I do, how the Hell can a camera hear (or even see) music or a soundtrack?

    And for that matter, how do I even point it at a video or an image? Being displayed where? Obviously I can't point my phone's camera at an image or video being displayed on the phone's screen; that's physically impossible! So am I supposed to point it at a video or image being displayed on a TV or a computer screen in the same room? Or — again — are we not actually talking about the phone's camera at all?

    I'm sure there is a very good answer to my questions that would clear up my confusion and show how my questions are all entirely misconceived. It's a shame that answer wasn't provided in the review. The problem is that things obvious to the writer (Alun Taylor) — things that should have been spelled out for readers who have never used or seen an Amazon Fire Phone themselves — were left unstated. What Firefly is and does, and how it works, were left entirely unclear and mysterious.

    1. Kepler
      Facepalm

      Re: What the Hell is Firefly???

      A comment posted above by ToxicDragon

      http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/2/2014/11/26/amazon_fire_phone_review/#c_2371061

      — implies that the camera in question really is the phone's camera, and not some on-screen pointing/selecting icon made to look like a camera:

      "the ads I have seen feature a woman waving her phone about and having it scan things like websites and tv shows. . . . [P]ersonally I don't like waving my phone around in a crowded bar to find out what track is currently playing, . . . ."

      So the pointing isn't done on screen, at Web sites, photos and videos displayed on the screen. Instead the phone itself — or rather its camera and/or microphone — is pointed at other screens, or at physical objects in one's environment.

      In the case of Web sites and URLs, you aren't using your phone to browse the Web. Instead you are browsing the Web on some other computing device (even another phone?), but keeping your phone handy so you can point its camera at the other device's screen. TV shows and videos can be on a TV or a computer screen; pictures can be paintings or drawings or photographic prints in one's physical presence, or on a computer screen; phone numbers can be printed or even written by hand on a piece of paper, or displayed on a TV or computer screen; a bar code can be printed on paper or a package, or displayed on a screen; and so on.

      It would have been nice if this had been spelled out originally. Or if a video or at least a photo or two of Firefly in use had been included with the article. And some of the details of how all this is supposed to work are still a little murky.

      (E.g., how Firefly works with sound. The article explicitly mentions only the camera, but obviously a microphone must be involved too.)

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: What the Hell is Firefly???

        Right. As I understand it from the ads:

        Firefly is a combination of existing technology, like QR code readers and the Shazaam sound-recognition service. The Firefly app uses the phone's (rear-facing) camera and microphone (and may also process content that's playing on the phone, for all I know) to gather information, which it sends to an Amazon service that performs text recognition (for URLs), image matching (for identifying objects), sound recognition, etc. When the service thinks it's probably identified something, it sends the info back to the app; and if it's something Amazon can sell you in some form, it sends a link to the item in the Amazon store as well.

        This is all pretty straightforward tech - all things that are in common use - bundled up with a point-and-click interface and tied to the store to make subsequent purchases as simple as possible. It's not something I'm interested in using, but I admire the elegance.

        1. Kepler
          Pint

          Re: What the Hell is Firefly???

          Thank you, Michael, for explaining what the article itself did not. (At least with sufficient clarity for me.)

  16. gymychoo

    If it was 2011, then maybe

    but its nearly 2015 and you can buy a brand spanking new LG G3 unlocked from eBay for £335 and that's for the 32/3gb model. You'd have to be an ultra tard to buy this dog for £400. It needs to be about the £100 - £150 mark. Or just buy a Fire HDX and tether it to an old Smartphone for £100. It's like Blackadder's broken pencil, pointless.

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