5 flaws that could burn Amazon’s Fire Phone

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos touts Fire Phone's services at the Seattle launch event. But will Amazon's first phone really deliver? Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos touts Fire Phone’s services at the Seattle launch event. But will Amazon’s first phone really deliver? Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Amazon’s new Fire Phone boasts plenty of unique features; flashy stuff like 3-D effects, the intriguing scan-to-buy app Firefly, and 24/7 tech support via Mayday. But should the Fire Phone be your next smartphone?

Here are five possibly fatal flaws you need to be aware of before you place an order for Amazon’s first smartphone.

No Google Apps

Just like the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s new Fire Phone uses a custom version of Android that is not licensed to use Google apps. That means there’s no Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps, Google+, Chrome, or Google Now. There isn’t even an official YouTube app.

Sure, you can obtain the APK files and side-load these applications, but you won’t get automatic updates for them and many of them won’t work as they should because Amazon’s software doesn’t have the right framework. You won’t be able to sign into your Google account within YouTube, for example.

No Google Play

Yes, no Google apps means no Google Play. Amazon does offers its own Appstore, of course, but its app catalog is nowhere near as rich as Google’s.

While Google Play has around 1.2 million apps, the Amazon Appstore has just 240,000. Many of the big names are available — including Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify — but there are lots missing, too. It doesn’t have Dropbox, Instagram, Pocket Casts, or Firefox.

Hackers have been able to install Google Play on certain Kindle Fire devices with root access, but Amazon’s tight security means it isn’t guaranteed. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, for example, still doesn’t have a root method.

Fire Phone's specs fall short of other company's flagship devices. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Fire Phone’s specs fall short of other company’s flagship devices. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web


The Fire Phone will go toe-to-toe with other 2014 flagships, and it will cost you around the same price. But you can get better specifications elsewhere.

The Fire Phone has a 4.7-inch 720p display, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, and a 2,400mAh battery. It also has an impressive 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. But if you compare it to competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the HTC One M8, it falls short it a number of areas.

These other devices — along with most of 2014’s flagships — have sharper 1080p displays. The LG G3 and the Galaxy S5 LTE-A have Quad HD screens. They also have faster Snapdragon 801 and 805 processors, bigger batteries, and microSD card slots.

Sure, the Fire Phone has some incredible 3D effects — but other devices boast things like fingerprint scanners and waterproof form factors, which are likely to be more useful for some.

Only available in U.S. on AT&T

The Fire Phone will only be available on one carrier in one country initially, so its reach will be extremely limited. If you live outside of the U.S., this make your decision easy, because it takes Fire Phone out of the equation instantly. If you are based in the U.S., you’ll need to decide whether Fire Phone is worth staying with or switching to AT&T for.

No Bluetooth LE

Planning to pick up a wearable device this year or next? Then the Fire Phone may not be its ideal companion. It doesn’t offer Bluetooth LE (low-energy) support, so although it will connect to most wearables and other devices, it won’t be quite as efficient as other smartphones when it comes to power consumption.

Some wearable devices are designed to work exclusively with Bluetooth LE, too, and they won’t work with Fire Phone at all.

Having said that, Engadget reports that Fire Phone does have hardware to support Bluetooth LE — it just isn’t activated. It’s very possible Amazon could release a software update that changes that later on.