Seen the new Amazon Fire?

They have e-readers, tablets, and media players — and now they’ve got a smart phone.

Amazon is releasing their new Fire Phone on July 25th, but is already taking pre-orders on their site.  The phone comes in two storage sizes — a 32GB version for $199 and a 64GB version for $299 — and requires a new AT&T contract.  To sweeten the deal, they’re also offering an entire year free of their Amazon Prime service, which is currently valued at $99.  If you care about that sort of thing, it makes their smartphone offering a cheap alternative to the flagship iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5.

I went ahead and ordered one for myself.  For the past couple of months, I’ve been agonizing over purchasing the new Galaxy S5.  As an avid fan of Amazon — and as someone who uses the crap out of their Prime service — I’ve decided to give their phone a try instead.

The hardware in the phone is pretty high-end, providing a good rationale for the phone’s price tag.  It uses a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU, which is pretty comparable to the Galaxy S5’s own CPU, and 2GB of RAM, and despite being decked out in camera lenses and sensors, it has an impressive 22-hour talk-time (285 hours on standby) battery life.  I don’t know about you, but I personally long for the days when I didn’t have to worry about charging my phone everywhere I went.

Amazon-Fire-Phone

The buzz about the new Fire isn’t all good, however.  If you look around online, many people are predicting that the phone will flop, if not outright hurt Amazon’s sales.  The OS isn’t anything particularly spectacular, flashy 3D effects and fast rendering aside, and their app market is going to be extremely small compared to Apple’s or Google’s.  While the Fire is based on Android, it’s introduced a unique interface that will not be familiar to old smartphone users and may pose a new challenge to developers and new adopters alike.

There, of course, is also the risk (or benefit?) of Amazon Fire changing the way retail works, for better or for worse.  The company has already gotten in trouble once for a price-fixing scheme on their books, facilitated by the fact that their original Kindle practically dug the graves of traditional book retailers.  The Fire Phone will let you scan any kind of item in your house or out on the street and get options on how to purchase that item through their store — as if it wasn’t bad enough to go around scanning bar codes in BestBuy.

Come July 25th, I look forward to providing a proper review of the phone and how it handles.