Hands On With The Amazon Fire Phone

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Announced last month, the Amazon Fire Phone is the company’s first attempt at mobile hardware. Like its cousins in the Kindle Fire line of tablets, it runs a fork of Android and gives you quick access to everything in Amazon’s large (and growing) content library.

The device itself has a premium feel that’s competitive with flagship phones from Apple, HTC, and Samsung. Like the iPhone 4 and 4S, it has glass on the front and rear, while the curved plastic around the edge of the device has a smooth, solid feel, much like Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite e-reader.

Those familiar with the Kindle Fire’s interface will feel right at home with the Fire Phone’s “Carousel” home screen, which lets you scroll through your most recently used apps and content. A widget underneath the carousel shows notifications or links to related content in Amazon’s store, while a quick swipe from the bottom of the screen brings up a more traditional grid of your apps.

  1. Amazon Fire Phone

  2. Amazon Fire Phone

  3. Amazon Fire Phone

The Dynamic Perspective feature on the Fire Phone uses four infrared cameras located on the front of the device to let you look “into” the device by drawing screen elements so that they give the illusion that they’re in 3D. It’s most heavily used on the lock screen, where you can select different scenes that look like animated dioramas. Dynamic Perspective also powers the “peek” feature, which hides most info from cluttering your screen until you tilt your device to a certain angle. From what we’ve seen so far, not many third-party apps take advantage of Dynamic Perspective just yet.

The other stand out feature on the Amazon Fire Phone is Firefly, which you get to by holding down the dedicated camera button next to the volume rocker. Our quick testing shows that it can in fact pick out almost any product you point it at as long as it’s available on Amazon. We tried books, movies, CDs, toothpaste, office phones and hand sanitizer, and all were recognized instantly. Of course, those all have labels on the front — so don’t expect to point it at someone walking down the street and see their outfit show up on your phone. Of course, that might be possible in a few months, as Amazon is making the Firefly feature available to outside developers via its software development kit.