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First Look: Amazon Fire Phone charts new territory

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First Look: Amazon Fire Phone charts new territory

3:50 /

3D-like visuals and a clever scanning app heat up the Fire Phone, though Android lovers may be lukewarm.

With four tracking cameras. A quick Fire skating app and plenty of Amazon freebies. The Fire Phone is definitely unique among its peers. Amazon's innovations and attention to details put it on the right track. But performance snag paired with a high price tag make it a hard sell in an already crowded space. I'm Jessica Dolcourt. For CNET showing you the good and bad of Amazon's first phone. [MUSIC] The Fire Phone, like Amazon's tablets, is based on Android code but it has an interface that's entirely its own. I really like the carousel of oversized widgets and the related content or recommendations below. And if you can pin an item to keep them there, or clear them out, a swipe or turn of your wrist gives you contacts and navigation menus on either side of the screen, I'm personally a fan of the fire phone's rich visuals, especially in the lock screen, amazon has sprinkled some other 3D like experiences throughout the phone as well. Including on the map and in some of the games and apps. On the topic of apps, the Fire Phone doesn't work with any Google Play services, so you can't unload anything from the Google Play store, which doesn't exist, and that means that there's no YouTube or hangout. The proprietary app store is stocked with a lot of popular titles, but Amazon has a little bit of work to do if it wants to fill in the hole. If you need any help along the way whatsoever, mayday connects you to a customer service rep for free, showing your phone screen for video chat. It's pretty neat actually. On the visual front, the fire phone's design reaches for understated elegance. In other words, it looks like every other all black phone. For me, a 4.7 inch screen hits a sweet spot for wielding it with one hand and sticking it in a pocket. Glass on the back pumps up the premium value but also makes it more breakable. Luckily a soft rubberized band around the sides helps with grip. The 720p HD resolution is on the lower end, especially as we're seeing our first quad HD screens. So because of the fire phone sub five inch screen it's 312 PPI is still visually subversive. The 13 megapixel camera on the back takes pretty nice photos. It may not be the pinnacle of crisp, detailed, smart phone imagery, but they are absolutely sharable through social media. 1080p HD video capture is also good and a 2 megapixel camera on the front does the job. Camera settings and controls are sparser than I'd like but you will find HDR, panorama. And a mode called lenticular that helps you create your own 3D photo or [UNKNOWN]. Conveniently on the button on the phone side is a physical camera shutter. If you press down on the same shutter button up pops firefly which scans the world around you. It matches bar codes and products to Amazon's online catalogue but can also identify phone numbers and email addresses. Plus songs, TV shows, and movies. Firefly is one way to get you studying on Amazon. But other services are wrapped in as well. Like Amazon Instant Video, and Amazon Music. If you don't renew Prime after your first free year, you'll lose all those perks, but you will get to keep the free online photo storage either way. Despite the quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, performance was a little laggy, particularly on load times for the 3D effects. Battery life also drains faster than I wanted, and little quirks with missing notifications got in the way. Amazon will surely smooth over all those snags. But in the meantime, you have to figure out exactly how much Amazon services are worth it to you. The Fire Phone costs $200 on contract through AT&T, which is the same price as other top tier Android phones. Ultimately, Amazon's first smart phone is interesting and even pretty good. But if you're not a frequent Amazon user, it's best to move on. I Jessica Dolcourt for Cnet. Be sure to check out my entire Amazon Fire Phone review at Cnet.com. [MUSIC]

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