Amazon Fire Phone launches (but only on O2)

Amazon Fire PhoneAmazon’s Firephone comes to the UK tomorrow, but bizarrely they’re limiting it to buyers who want to sign up for an O2 tariff, which rules out everyone that might have been willing to shell out for the device but already have a contract with a different mobile phone networks.

Bearing in mind most report on US sales of the Firephone put sales as less than stellar, having a single carrier launch doesn’t make sense – you’d have thought Amazon would want to sell as many as possible. O2 must have promised some beefy marketing to try and make the launch a success.

We wrote about the phone when it launched in the US and not a lot has changed. There have been a few tweaks like double tapping the home button to switch between recent apps and being able to group apps together in folders, but the big shortcoming of the Fire Phone is still that it’s a cut down version of Android.

I bought an “Amazon” Tablet and from day one it was dire. Whilst there are thousands of apps to choose from none of my favourite Android apps were present. I ended up bombing the Amazon software to install Google Play and from then on ignored the Amazon App store. If you buy a Fire Phone you’ll not have the luxury of adding Google Play so that you can download the apps you use daily on other Android devices.

Costs are free on O2 tariffs from £33/month, or £399 on pay as you go. Bearing in mind you can get a Samsung Galaxy S4 or Apple iPhone 5c on the same £33/month tariff from O2 and the Fire Phone is a hard sell. The only thing going in it’s favour is that you get a year’s free Amazon Prime worth £79 if you sign up before the end of the year (or 12 months added to your Prime membership if you’re already a subscriber).

Whilst the Fire Phone isn’t competing with the very latest smartphones such as the Galaxy S5, Note 4 or the iPhone 6, it’s still competing with the mid-range priced handsets or last year’s models of the top flight mobiles. If you’re thinking of replacing your mobile what you have to ask yourself is if deep integration with Amazon is enough to buy a Fire Phone tied to O2, or if you’d rather a full blown Android or iOS handset.