Troy Wolverton: Amazon's Fire phone good for a first effort
Amazon may be new to the smartphone business, but its Fire phone doesn't feel like a first effort.
The device, which Amazon started shipping on Friday, offers many of the features you'll find on other smartphones. But the Fire goes beyond the basics. It has features that make it stand out from the crowd.
For one thing, Amazon offers Fire buyers a free year of its Prime service, which provides streaming videos and discounted shipping. That's a $100 value and makes the phone a more interesting proposition if you are a big Amazon customer.
At the top of the screen, you'll find a virtual carousel filled with large icons representing apps you've recently used, books you've recently read or movies you've recently watched. Underneath the carousel, you'll find items related to the highlighted app or piece of content. When the camera app is front and center, you'll see your recent pictures. When the maps app is highlighted, you'll find links to recent locations for which you've searched.
Fire offers a visual and audio search app called Firefly and something called Dynamic Perspective, which, by tracking the orientation of the device and users' line of vision, can adjust what the Fire displays on its screen.
Firefly uses the Fire's rear camera to identify products by their cover, packaging or barcodes. It can identify songs or TV shows by simply listening to them. And it can pick out telephone numbers, email and websites from business cards, posters and other printed materials.
The biggest shortcoming of the Fire is its lack of apps. Because the device runs a custom version of Android rather than the Google-approved version, it can't link to the Google Play store. Users have access to Amazon's Appstore instead, which offers only a fraction of the apps available in Google Play.
Troy Wolverton is a technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pennsylvania shale gas producers received hundreds of environmental citations in 4 years, PennEnvironment says
- SEC alleges BNY Mellon bribed foreign investors by handing internships to their relatives
- Obamacare enrollment up in Pennsylvania
- Emergency room visits decline as navigators steer patients to proper medical care
- U.S. Steel has 1st profitable year since 2008
- Energy companies vie for experienced workers with skills in high demand
- MSA Safety products in demand to protect workers in dangerous jobs
- Drillers bid millions for oil, gas beneath West Virginia public lands
- Shale sector won’t gut area workforce
- U.S. company outlooks worry investors, sending stocks lower
- U.S. Steel warns it may lay off almost 2,000 workers in Alabama, Texas