What you need to know about Amazon's Fire Phone

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Is the Fire Phone any good for reading books or should I stick with my Kindle for that?

People love reading on the Kindle because its e-ink screen is easier on the eyes for long reading sessions than a backlit LCD screen like you’d find on a phone or tablet. But Amazon is obviously wants the Fire Phone to showcase its content, and that definitely includes e-books. The screen has a maximum brightness of 590 nits because Amazon knows reading in bright sunlight is a pain point with most smartphones. We didn’t get a chance to test it outside yet, but the Fire Phone’s Kindle app looks like it should deliver a good experience.

Will the Mayday button from the Kindle Fire HDX make its way to the Fire Phone?

Yes, and it’s not too difficult to figure out why. The service has proven to be tremendously popular among Kindle Fire HDX users, according to figures Amazon released last weekend: 75 percent of all Kindle Fire HDX help requests get sent through the Mayday button, and Amazon responds to requests in 9.75 seconds on average. So why not take that feature and put it on your brand new smartphone?

amazon fire phone mayday Image: Susie Ochs

The Mayday feature makes its way from the Kindle Fire HDX tablet to the Fire Phone.

As with its tablet, Amazon will make Mayday a free feature for the Fire Phone, with 24/7 support. In a twist that seems appropriate for a smartphone, you’ll also be able to report problems with your wireless service through Mayday—Amazon will redirect you to AT&T Tech support for those kinds of questions.

How does the Fire Phone fare at taking pictures?

With six cameras, the Fire Phone better be able to take a decent one. The single rear-facing camera shoots 13-megapixel stills and 1080p video at 30fps, and the front-facing camera can also shoot 1080p/30fps video and 2-megapixel still. (The four cameras in the corners are just for the Dynamic Perspective effect, and software turns them on and off when needed to save battery power.)

The rear camera has a f/2.0 aperture lens and is tuned for better low-light performance: It leaves the shutter open longer to let in more light, then uses optical image stabilization to correct any resulting camera shake. You also get panorama features, burst mode, and an automatic HDR feature that combines multiple exposures to bring out detail in highlights and shadows. We weren’t able to test the camera outside the demo area, so that’s one feature we look forward to exploring more deeply in our review.

How does the Fire Phone compare to other top phones like the iPhone 5s, the Samsung Galaxy S5, and the HTC One?

We’ll have to wait for the review to really find out. The HTC One (M8) and Galaxy S5 have very different specs, for example, with the HTC One (M8) has a rear-facing 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera, while the Galaxy S5’s camera is 16 megapixels. But when we compared their performance, it was pretty close, and we gave the edge to the One for its superior front-facing camera and better-designed software.

So we could tell you the Fire Phone’s 13-megapixel camera falls somewhere between the 8-megapixel iPhone 5s and the 16-megapixel Galaxy S5, and tuned for low-light performance like the HTC One—but the proof will be in the photos once we can compare their output side-by-side.

I heard you get a year of Amazon Prime if you buy a Fire Phone. What if I'm already a Prime member.

fire phone prime Amazon

Good news, Fire Phone owners: You’ve got Prime.

You heard correctly: You will indeed get a year’s subscription to the Amazon service that provides free shipping, along with access to movies, e-books, and now music. If you’ve already paid your $99-a-year subscription fee and you buy the Fire Phone, Amazon will tack on another year of free service.

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