But if there's some cool, useful functionality to be had from super-aggressive, super-accurate face tracking, the Fire Phone doesn't have it. Dynamic Perspective is packed into pretty much every corner of the Fire Phone, but in ways that range "amusing the first dozen times" to straight up annoying.

Dynamic Perspective touches nearly everything in Fire OS 3.5. Icons in the carousel are Dynamic Perspective-enabled 3D objects that shimmy and shake under your gaze. Unless they're third party apps, in which case the two-dimensional icon awkwardly flaps around. Ditto the icons in the dock. And the icons in the master icon drawer. And the text in the the Fire Phone's main navigational menu. And the numbers in the dialer.

The technique is used to greater effect in some of the games that support it. It's at its best in games like Planet Puzzles, in which you rotate 3D Rubiks Cube-esque puzzle cuboids to see and interact with their different sides. It's at its worst in Monkey Buddy where, if you tilt the screen far enough, you can reveal a hidden "about" page. Ooooooo.

Revealing hidden information at specific angles is Dynamic Perspective's other main trick, and it isn't just limited to easter eggs hidden in the upper left- or right-hand corners of lock screens or games; it's built right into Fire OS in the form of something called Peek. The idea here is that if you rotate the phone just slightly askew, or move your head to the side to create the same sort of screen-to-eyes relationship, additional information will appear. That's right; you can reveal data by moving your phone to a position that's (slightly) less readable than head-on.

The most aggressive (and annoying) instance of this is that the status bar—where you see the time, your signal strength, and battery power—is invisible when you look directly at your phone. There's an option to disable this in settings, but considering that the status bar area is just wasted space otherwise, why even do this at all? And it's not just the status bar. I didn't see a single instance of Peek where it revealed some sort of information that couldn't have just been there all along, or didn't need to be there at all.

Amazon reached out to us to mention that in the Yelp app, the small review cards that show up next to pins on the map obscure the map when visible, which is true!

No peek / Peek


The Fire Phone's other big selling point is Firefly, the identify-anything-and-then-buy-it-on-Amazon-please app with its own dedicated hardware button. Here's a video of it identifying—and failing to identify—a random assortment of objects that were in close proximity to my desk.

It should come as no surprise that Firefly can't identify everything you throw at it; objects sans packaging are generally a no-go, so you won't be able to index your buddy's entire apartment when he's not looking. But that's not what Firefly is for. When I waltzed through a local bodega and stood awkwardly, holding my phone expectantly in front of a variety of foodstuffs, Firefly hit the nail on the head 13 out of 15 times. The two misses included a bag of chips with a big ol' "$2 OFF" sticker on the front (Firefly misread the flavor but got the brand right), and a box of tea from some obscure brand that for all I know is hand-boxed in the back for this specific shop.

Between that hit rate and the track record Firefly had identifying still-boxed gadgets and toys laying around the office, the feature makes a strong case for the Fire Phone as a "I want to buy that thing right now, but from Amazon" machine. It seems to aim for the small niche of impulse-buying price-matchers. Or people keen on putting local shops out of business out of spite.

Firefly doesn't just identify physical objects, though. It also does music, movies, and TV by using Shazam-like super powers. It nailed everything from my favorite Streetlight Manifesto songs to random episodes of Scandal I loaded up on Hulu. The catch is, it (naturally) directs you to Amazon once it identifies. Not exclusively; identified movies also include links to IMDB, and there's a shortcut to look for tickets to identified bands on Stubhub, or start stations on IHeartRadio.

But at the top of the list of options I still found myself presented with an offer to purchase the songs I was listening to for free on Spotify, and the shows I was watching for free on Hulu. Not that there's anything wrong with purchasing goods instead of streaming them, but in its attempts to funnel you further into the Amazon ecosystem, Amazon (obviously) isn't going to have your monetary interests in mind.


While the cameras on the front of the Fire Phone don't often get put to good use, the 13MP shooter on the back isn't bad. It's nothing to write home about either though. It falls pretty squarely in the middle of the Android pack, which is more than good enough if you just want to do some tweets and Instagrams.

While the Fire Phone's image quality is nothing to sneeze at, its camera is pretty remarkably feature sparse. You won't get any of the slow-mo video shooting or photo-spheres, or RAW images you're able to get elsewhere in wide world of more specialized camera phones. The Fire Phone's got panoramas aaaaand that's about it. If you're a quantity over quality person though, you will get totally unlimited cloud storage for all your Fire Phone photos thanks to Amazon, which is a nice touch.


Firefly is good at what it does. Not perfect, but good. Whether or not you should be or need to be impulse buying everything you see from Amazon, Firefly helps you do it, so long as physical things you are trying to buy generally include some sort of packaging. And even besides the practical use, pointing a Fire Phone at things to see if it can identify them is a fun game. When it can identify something particularly obscure, it's a victory for everyone involved. A hell yes, technology! moment. That's a nice feeling.

The Fire Phone's pack-ins are great. Its earbuds take pretty much the same form as the iPhone's EarPods, but their tangle-free magnetization trick really works. They don't sound great, but they are wildly functional for cheap headphones. You will want to use them until they break, and that will probably take a while. This is what pack-in headphones should aspire to be. That, and the included USB charging cable is a glorious five feet long.

For running four cameras at you pretty much all the time, the Fire Phone's battery life is surprisingly solid. The Fire Phone can handle a day of pretty intense app-using, email-checking, and web-surfing and make it into the wee hours of the morning with as much as 20 percent power to spare, no doubt thanks in part to a relative of the same battery-saving tech that let the Kindle Fire HDX make it 17 hours in reading mode. More intense activities like using Firefly or Dynamic Perspective-heavy games will chew through the batter faster though. I lost 10 percent in 30 minutes playing To-Fu Fury on the way to work this morning.

Dynamic Perspective is cool. It's not useful, and it gets old fast, but it's still cool. Every time I started to get sick of it and handed it to another person who hadn't seen it before, they'd ooo and ahh and it'd remind me "Oh hey yeah this is kind of cool!"

No Like

Fire OS is fine, but as an operating system for your primary mobile device, it is notably inferior to Android, iOS, or even Windows Phone 8.1. The lack of Google apps is a big handicap, and the lack of robust alternatives (Windows Phone at least has all those Microsoft services packed in) is an annoyance that will grate on you.

For all its neatness, Dynamic Perspective doesn't transcend beyond gimmick (so far). It works fine but it just doesn't improve on the phone experience in a way that justifies its existence or the four additional cameras that it requires. Some developer might find a killer use for it some day. But they sure haven't yet.

The Fire Phone gets really hot when you're playing games with a lot of Dynamic Perspective or using Firefly for more than 15 or 30 seconds. Not like, untouchably hot, but definitely warm enough to be obnoxious and borderline worrisome.

Should You Buy It?

Nope. Definitely not. None of the Fire Phone's flaws are totally insufferable, but there's just no reason to suffer them at all. Fire OS is workable but mediocre as a smartphone operating system, and the hardware doesn't bring anything to the table that counteracts that.

At a $200 on-contract, $650 unlocked price point you'll be better served with just about any other flagship phone, whether it runs iOS, stock Android, skinned Android, or Windows Phone 8.1. Even with a free year of Amazon Prime bundled in, there are still better options. Go pick up a Moto X or something. You can find it for cheap and it's a better phone.

In an alternate universe, it's possible to see how a dirt cheap Fire Phone touting Firefly as its killer feature could have filled some sort of niche need for technology averse Amazon junkies. But as it stands—a premium quality phone with decent but not great software that attempts to hang its hat mainly on a gimmick—the Fire Phone isn't something you want in your pocket. Maybe someday, some endeavoring developer will find a truly transcendent use for those four front-facing cameras. But until then, you're better off with just about anything else.

This review has been updated to reflect that Firefly presents links to several other non-Amazon apps in addition to the buy-it-on-Amazon links.