In reviews, one of the biggest knocks against the new Amazon Fire Phone is that it’s full of gimmicks. It has a handful of new features like 3D lockscreens (called “Dynamic Perspective“) and tilt-to-reveal capabilities that look neat, but for the Fire Phone to really ignite ordinary people’s interest, it will need a robust app store and exciting apps that take advantage of its unique features.
For the Fire Phone to really ignite ordinary people’s interest, the phone will need a robust app store and great developers.
Amazon claims that in the five-week period since the Fire Phone’s unveiling, the rate of app and game submissions to its Appstore has more than doubled. Digital Trends spoke with five app and game makers developing for the Fire Phone about how they used the phone’s new features. Here’s what they had to say.
Magmic uses Dynamic Perspective for Rubik’s Cube
Ottawa-based developer Magmic, for example, decided that because Amazon’s new phone includes several eye-tracking cameras that make 3D images and environments possible, the platform was a natural fit for Magmic’s Rubik’s Cube game, one of several available at launch.
The phone’s Dynamic Perspective feature means you can tilt the phone in different directions to change the view, much like an actual Rubik’s Cube.
“What we did is we played with a physical Rubik’s Cube for a while, and as we went along we paid attention to how we tried to solve it,” said Jesse Hildebrand, Magmic’s puzzles team product manager. “Then we looked back and said, ‘OK, what did we do during that time?’ We made lists of how we handled the actual cube, and then tried to figure out how we can replicate that with the Fire Phone’s new features.
“We played with a physical Rubik’s Cube for a while, and as we went along we paid attention to how we tried to solve it.”
Like Dynamic Perspective, the Fire Phone was packed with features Magmic hadn’t encountered before, but they also didn’t have a lot of time to put something together. Hildebrand said Magmic found out about the phone weeks before the unveiling. And building an app in time for its launch, he felt like a playwright being shown a TV for the first time and being told to come up with something good for it in a month.
Kik likes Amazon’s home screen widgets
Other developers — like Kik, which has brought its messaging app to the Fire Phone — reported similar experiences. Kik told Digital Trends its Fire Phone app has the same functionality that its more than 150 million Android and iOS users already enjoy, but by using the new APIs for the Fire Phone, Kik was able to do things like build a way to notify users of new messages waiting without needing to open the app.
Kik’s developers also consider the home screen hero widgets “a big usability improvement” over iOS and Android.
“We were impressed with some of the big leaps they took both in the hardware and software of the phone,” the Kik representative said. “The direction Amazon is taking has us excited about the future innovations we might see in smartphones.”
Fandango, Hibernum, and angry tofu
Fandango likewise relied on the 3D user interface, gesture controls and Dynamic Perspective to bring different features to its Fire Phone app.
Dynamic Perspective helps the user quickly see when a movie was first released, and other useful info.
Saber’s Edge, a strategic match-3 puzzle game from Hibernum, is another game app launched on the Fire Phone. Louis-Rene Auclair, Hibernum’s chief brand officer, said Amazon worked closely with the company throughout the process and that Firefly, the Amazon feature that uses the camera to identify real-world objects, could bring some “interesting potential” to gaming on the platform down the line.
“The idea of angry tofu delights me,” he said before demonstrating the game. In it, players maneuver a character through levels while collecting blue orbs and avoiding obstacles along the way, with the goal of saving Fortune Kitty.
Tilting the phone gives players new views and perspectives of the level. Terry Haynes, a producer with HotGen, said working with Amazon Game Studios “graciously guided” them through the “often choppy waters of video game development,” giving them the chance to “shine as a studio.”
The games and apps are coming, but are customers?
Amazon’s Appstore for Android phones has been around for years, but it will take several more for apps to widely use the new features it introduced with the Fire Phone. Developers like HotGen, Hibernum, Fandango, Kik, and Magmic think the phone is plenty interesting, but it’s going to take a lot of really great, really unique games before regular folks reach the same conclusion.