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Amazon Fire Phone deep-dive review: Two weeks with a weird device

JR Raphael | Aug. 7, 2014
Do you want Amazon in your pocket? After half a month with the company's first smartphone, this reviewer was left scratching his head.

The one area where Dynamic Perspective may hold some actual value is in games -- at least, those that have built-in support for the system. Even there, though, it strikes me as more of a novelty than anything transformative. I actually found I got dizzy from the Dynamic Perspective effects after a while and ultimately preferred playing the games in their regular modes, with Dynamic Perspective disabled.

The next feature Amazon has added into its Fire Phone is something called Firefly. It's an all-purpose product and content scanner that aims to make it easy for you to identify any object, song, movie or TV show — and then go buy it from Amazon.

You launch Firefly by pressing and holding the phone's physical camera button. From there, you simply point the phone at anything — a book, a DVD cover, even a can of beans — and if Amazon recognizes it, the phone will tell you what you're seeing and give you a link to the corresponding Amazon product page. It can also recognize info like phone numbers, email addresses and URLs, which it can then extract as text and make actionable on the phone.

If that all sounds somewhat familiar, it should: Existing apps, like Google Goggles on Android, perform similar functions. Firefly is a bit faster, though — it recognizes visuals on the fly as it sees them, without the need for any button-pressing — and it seems to be able to identify a broader range of household-style items. It's also able to identify multimedia content if you press the music or TV buttons at the top of the Firefly screen (something Goggles itself can't do but other existing apps can).

Where Firefly really differs from other apps of its nature, however, is in the fact that its primary purpose is quite clearly to direct you to Amazon — and Amazon alone — for the purchasing of anything you identify. It could certainly be useful in that regard, but it's also rather limiting and almost makes you feel like Amazon should be paying you to carry this phone around.

The last major Fire Phone feature worth noting is Mayday, which is the on-demand help system first introduced with Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets.

Mayday is a great idea: You simply tap a button on the phone, and — usually within about 15 seconds, according to Amazon — see a live person pop up in a video box on your screen. The agent talks to you through your phone to help with any problems you're having and can even remotely take control of your screen to guide you through troubleshooting steps.


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