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5 things we’ve learned from people who have fondled the Fire Phone

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Amazon finally released its first-ever smartphone earlier this week. It’s still early to form hard and fast impressions about the Fire Phone, but a few first impressions and hands-on articles have popped up on the Internet already. So far, most agree that although Amazon’s Fire Phone is far from perfect, it’s a good start.

We’ve put together a list of the five strongest impressions previewers have formed about the Fire Phone. Expect a DT review as soon as the phone is out in late July.

Dynamic Perspective might get annoying

Prior to the launch of the Fire Phone, several rumors pointed to the presence of a 3D effect on the device. Those of us who remembered the catastrophic failures of the Nintendo 3DS and 3D smartphones were worried that the effect would dominate and ruin Amazon’s first smartphone.

As it turns out, the 3D effect, known as Dynamic Perspective, isn’t irritating or hokey. In fact, most early reviewers agree that it is useful in certain apps. Ars Technica says that the four infrared cameras on the front of the Fire Phone do track your head movements accurately and the scene moves to suit your changing perspective. The writer did note that the Fire Phone occasionally got confused when there were two heads hovering over the screen at the same time. So if you’re trying to show off the cool new 3D lock screen you’ve got on the Fire Phone, you’d best hand the phone over to your friends instead of letting them look over your shoulder. 

Several different reviewers stated that although Dynamic Perspective is cool at first, the novelty wears off fast. Most found that the head-tracking feature works best in the Maps app and that the tilt, peek, and swivel gestures were quite useful. The tilt to reveal menu feature was one of the most popular effects. Ars Technica seemed to be the exception to the rule. The publication said that the constant tilting and swiveling started to hurt the user’s wrist after a short time. Reviewers did say that the practical application of Dynamic Perspective was limited to a very small number of apps.

Engadget mentioned that those of you who hated iOS 7’s parallax feature will really hate Dynamic Perspective. Thankfully, though, Amazon says you can turn it off.

Maps feature, great Yelp, and public transit info integration

To many people, the idea of living without Google Maps is simply intolerable. Apple’s absolute failure with making its own Maps app demonstrated just how hard it is to create a navigation app with the same functionality as Google’s. However, it seems that Amazon’s Maps app is pretty decent, especially with the help of Dynamic Perspective.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The new feature lets you angle the phone to see streets and buildings from all angles, which can be useful when trying to gauge what might be around the corner. The 3D effect is extra fun for sight seers who want to look at famous landmarks, such as the empire State Building.

Ars said that the integration of public transit directions and Yelp reviews really helps make Amazon’s Maps app useful. When you tilt the phone slightly upward, you’ll see the name of the place, star ratings, and access to reviews from Yelp.

Firefly finds everything you want, fast

The most beloved feature so far is Firefly. Most reviewers said that Firefly’s image scanning software recognizes products, email addresses, and other information super quickly. Some said it recognized books, movies, and TV shows in less than 2 seconds.

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As soon as Firefly recognized an object, it delivered information about the product and shopping options for relevant items on Amazon’s marketplace. When it came to movies, Mashable said that Firefly not only knew that “The Matrix” was playing, it knew what scene the reviewers were on and offered up info from on the subject.

Firefly also responded well to music, offering up options to buy it on Amazon, stream it on iHeart Radio, or get ticket to concerts on StubHub.

Fire OS sure isn’t Android

The main problem Fire Phone users face is the absence of Google’s app suite and Google Play support. Although Amazon’s Appstore has significantly increased the number of apps offered in the past year to 240,000 apps, it’s still a far cry from the million apps in the Google Play Store and iOS App Store.

If you only need basic apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify, Amazon’s got you covered. However, if you love downloading the latest and the greatest apps, you’ll most likely find yourself disappointed by the Fire Phone.

Otherwise, Fire OS is easy to use, has several interesting features, and offers up all of the content from Amazon’s  enormous library of movies, TV shows, and ebooks.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a good first try

The overriding theme gleaned from the earliest impressions of the Fire Phone is that it’s a good first attempt for Amazon. It may not have the highest resolution display or the very best design, but it does offer a few interesting features. Those who are fans of Amazon’s ecosystem, Prime subscribers, and Kindle users will find the transition to the Fire Phone easy and exciting. However, most agree that the Fire Phone faces huge challenges from big-name smartphone brands like Apple and Samsung.

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Malarie Gokey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Mobile Editor, Malarie runs the Mobile and Wearables sections, which cover smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and…
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