The emerging consensus from the early “hands on” or “first look” reviews is that the Amazon Fire Phone has some novel and interesting features but that it doesn’t measure up, overall, to the iPhone or “true Android” devices. I’ve argued that Amazon missed the boat with its high-end pricing.
Interestingly, there has been almost no talk about search on the Fire. Gmail, Google Maps, Google Search and other Google apps are not present in the Amazon Store. Users can still get to Google services on a browser of course.
But Amazon has erected barriers to using Google on its devices. Among them, Bing is the default search engine for Kindle Fire and probably the Fire Phone, too — though there was no discussion of that yesterday during the handset’s introduction.
The maps experience was shown off a bit in some of the reviews. It uses the phone’s “dynamic perspective,” providing a 3D effect as the phone is tilted or rotated. Upon tilting, Yelp reviews appear on the map. Otherwise, Amazon reportedly is using Nokia to provide the underlying mapping data.
Mashable says that Amazon built the maps app in house. If so it must be at least partly constructed on top of the company’s 2012 acquisition of 3D mapping provider UpNext. However, the mapping UI looks a lot like Nokia’s HERE mapping interface.
Nokia/HERE maps also substantially power Windows Phones and Yahoo Maps. Indeed, the mapping experience appears mostly undifferentiated. I’ll have to use the phone first before I can say much more.
While Amazon hasn’t totally neglected maps, the company doesn’t appear to consider maps to be a key feature of the Fire’s user experience. There may be some logic there.
Maps and local search are generally about bringing internet content and services to bear on real-world activities and decision-making. With this phone, Amazon is trying to do the opposite — turn the entire real-world into a selling environment (e.g., Firefly) for Amazon e-commerce and online services.
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