Amazon announced its flagship smartphone today, the Fire Phone. With high-end specs, the Fire looks to be jumping right in alongside the big-name smartphones running Android and iOS. Without trying it out for ourselves it's tough to say if it will be able to compete on that scale, but one thing that may make or break the Fire is the strength of its app store.
If you own a smartphone, you know part of the reason they are so useful is not necessarily because of what comes with the phone, but instead the apps you can download for it. With the Fire phone, you won't be able to access apps from the Google Play Store, but the Amazon Appstore includes most of the must-have apps and will probably be getting more every day.
We did a little research to find out which popular apps will available on Day 1 and how you'll get them on your new Fire phone.
Same app store as the Kindle Fire
The Fire Phone comes equipped with the Amazon Appstore, which also runs on the Kindle Fire tablets. It's your one and only place to get apps for the Fire Phone, since there is no Google Play store on the device.
Luckily, the Amazon Appstore has many of the apps you'd want, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp, Evernote, Pandora, Netflix, Candy Crush, and Pocket. At last count, the store had a total of around 240,000 "curated" titles, and while that's far less than the 1-million-strong catalogs of Google Play and the Apple App Store, Amazon promises you're getting the best of the best. It's worth noting that Fire Phone's operating system is built off of Android, and the apps you download can also run on Android tablets and phones. That means when a new app comes out for Android on Google Play, there's a good chance it'll be available in the Amazon Appstore too.
Outside of the Fire Phone's built-in app store, you'll also be able to browse apps on Amazon's website. In fact, Amazon has already started a collection of apps it thinks will be perfect for the Fire Phone, including popular titles and games. To get you started in the store, Amazon is also giving away 1,000 Amazon Coins (a $10 value) with the purchase of the phone, which you can redeem for apps, games, and in-app purchases.
Amazon's big blind spot: Google
While there's no doubt you'll be able to find nearly all of the apps you want in the Amazon Appstore, there is one big gaping hole -- Google. There are no official Google apps available for the Fire Phone (or theFire tablets for that matter), so you'll need to find a third-party alternative for Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube. In their place, Amazon built its own email, maps, and calendar apps, which come preinstalled on the phone. You can sign in with your Google account to use them to manage your contacts, email, and calendar, but you won't get the same experience that you would using an official Google app.
If the lack of Google apps is a deal breaker for you, don't despair quite yet. You can sideload Gmail, Chrome, and Maps apps on the Kindle Fire, and you'll likely be able to do the same on the Fire Phone. We won't know for sure until we can play around with the phone in the coming weeks.
The jury is out -- for now
We already know the Amazon Appstore will have almost all the most-wanted apps ready for download on launch day. But what we don't know is whether there have been improvements made to Amazon's core apps for Web browsing, e-mail, and maps -- all areas that Google has down pat.
You'll probably be able to sideload some of these Google apps (or third-party versions) later on. But unless Amazon has smoothed over the rough edges of its core apps from the Kindle Fire, you're going to see a lot of people on launch day rushing to the Amazon App Store to find replacements. The only problem is, without Google's tried-and-true browser, maps, and email apps available, there are few other choices that are better than Amazon's offerings.