Amazon pushes KitKat-based update to Fire Phone, some added features bring it up to 2013-era specs

Amazon pushes KitKat-based update to Fire Phone, some added features bring it up to 2013-era specs
While Amazon works on the lessons learned from the Fire Phone in order to deliver a more impressive successor (expected next year), it is heartening to see that the online retail and web services giant is still actively pushing enhancements to its first generation product.

The Fire Phone was a big first step for Amazon, but it was also a big sales failure, forcing the company to write down over $80 million of unsold inventory.

Amazon knew the Fire Phone was a gamble, but given the company’s success with tablets and e-readers, it would be unwise to write them off with smartphones just yet. That said, the latest update to Fire OS, Amazon’s forked version of Android, shows how much work there is to be done if the company wants to be a serious contender in the smartphone space.

Fire OS is now at version 4.6.1. The latest enhanced features include Bluetooth LE support, the ability to change the wallpaper of the home screen, color emojis for the Amazon keyboard, and the ability to print from your phone. If these “new” features brought on feelings of deja-vu, do not be troubled, as we have been enjoying those features on other platforms for a while.

The new Fire OS is also makes the leap from being sourced off Android 4.2 Jelly Bean to being based off Android 4.4 KitKat. Welcome to 2013.

All kidding aside, we give credit to Amazon for continuing to trudge this difficult road. Competing in mobile is hard, and Amazon has already done more with the Fire Phone than HP managed to do with Palm and webOS.

There were some business oriented features added with Fire OS 4.6.1 too, most notably support for secure Wi-Fi networks and AES-256 bit hardware encryption. Amazon cites “dozens” of “other bug fixes and user interface improvements.”

Perhaps the best development from the crawling sales of the Fire Phone is its now “fire sale” price. A 32GB SIM-unlocked Fire Phone can be had brand new for just $189. That includes a year of Amazon Prime, which itself is worth $99.

Check out our review of the Amazon Fire Phone. Despite our misgivings in some areas, the Fire Phone delivers a bright and color-accurate display, has all of Amazon’s services baked in, and is a fast performer. Having a new interface to work with may attract some folks who are tired of other UIs too, but your mileage may vary. For the money, the Fire Phone is definitely worth having on your list and besides, 2013 was not a terrible year.

sources: Amazon via ZDNet
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