Before Amazon announced the Fire Phone, many suspected that it would carry budget pricing – a la the Kindle Fire line of tablets. Well, that wasn’t the case. But does Amazon’s handset offer anything over one of the best smartphone values around, the Nexus 5? Let’s compare the two phones’ features and specs.
Sizes are closer than you might expect. The Fire Phone is a hair taller than the Nexus 5, while measuring 4 percent narrower and 3 percent thicker. The big difference is that the Nexus 5’s screen takes up a much higher portion of its face.
The Fire Phone is no lightweight, tipping the scales at 23 percent heavier than the feathery Nexus 5.
Part of that weight discrepancy can be chalked up to the Fire Phone’s glass back. That’s something we haven’t seen much of since the days of the iPhone 4/4s, LG Optimus G and Nexus 4.
You can now buy the Nexus 5 in three color options, while the Fire Phone only comes in black.
Despite being the slightly taller phone, the Fire Phone only gives you 90 percent as much screen as the Nexus 5 does.
This is probably the most disappointing spec in the Fire Phone. 315 pixels per inch should look pretty sharp, but it isn’t going to compare with the ultra-crisp 1080p screens that we’ve seen on recent phones like the Galaxy S5, HTC One and, yes, the Nexus 5.
Amazon is avoiding the word “3D” like the plague, probably because the term has been associated with so many consumer electronics bombs. But the Fire Phone’s “Dynamic Perspective” technology creates a glasses-free 3D effect nonetheless, giving developers a new (and gimmicky?) tool to play with.
The Fire Phone’s other big feature is called Firefly. Press the dedicated Firefly button, scan something in your environment and watch as the Fire Phone processes it. It can work for things like QR codes, email addresses and web URLs, but Amazon is hoping you’ll also use it to scan products. Those scanned consumer items will be immediately added to your Amazon shopping cart (so kind of you, Amazon).
I’d say this category is the Nexus 5’s killer feature, and likely the Fire Phone’s Achilles’ heel. The Nexus runs the purest form of Android 4.4 KitKat, just as Google intended it. It’s a user-friendly and straightforward UI, without all the bloat and extraneous features that OEMs and carriers like to add onto most Android phones.
The Fire Phone, meanwhile, has you moving your smartphone business into Amazonville. Unlike the Nexus 5, you don’t get the excellent Google Play Store for your app needs. In fact, you don’t get a single Google app. Instead all your software will come from the Amazon Appstore, which has built up a decent collection in its three years of existence, but still isn’t in the same league as the Play Store.
On-device customer support
Amazon’s Mayday button is probably the biggest consumer tech support innovation since Apple’s Genius Bar. Tap a button on the Fire Phone’s screen and watch as an Amazon rep pops up in a little video chat box on your screen. He or she can only hear you (and draw on your screen, if you wish), but you’ll get both video and audio on your end.
The Fire Phone has higher storage tiers, but, as we’ll see in a minute, you’ll be paying for it.
The Nexus 5 is a very fast phone and the Fire Phone should be too, with the speedy Snapdragon 800 on board.
Both phones also carry 2 GB of RAM.
The Nexus 5 has a serviceable camera, but I also wouldn’t say it’s one of its best features. The Fire Phone’s rear shooter looks good on paper, but we’ll have to wait before jumping to conclusions about its quality.
Ditto for battery life, as we’ll have to put the Fire Phone’s slightly higher-capacity battery to the test before closing this book. Considering it’s powering a lower-resolution screen, though, we’d bet on it providing some solid uptimes.
Fire Phone preorders are set to deliver on July 25. The Nexus 5 is hardly a spring chicken, having been available since last October.
Starting price (off-contract)
If you live in the US, then you can snag the Fire Phone for US$200 on-contract. But that’s only $150 less than what the Nexus 5 will cost you off-contract. One perk is that Amazon is throwing in a free year of Amazon Prime for Fire Phone buyers, though it’s still hard to argue that it’s going to provide the better value here.
But, again, it’s way too early to jump to conclusions about the Fire Phone. Just looking at these specs and features, it might look a bit like an overpriced bag of gimmicks with an inferior app selection, but until we get some extended hands-on time and publish our full review, we’re going to keep an open mind about this bold new flagship.