After writing a blog just a few weeks ago about contemplating getting a new camera I settled on one that was not even on my list. Or even on my radar. That’s because it’s not actually a camera like the others I was looking at. It’s a smartphone. Except it’s not when I don’t have any phone service with it. I ended up buying an unlocked Amazon Fire phone.

First off I only have a dumb phone. Since I work from my home studio that has an old fashioned land line I don’t have a huge need for a cell phone. So I have a pay-as-you-go dumb phone that costs me a hundred and twenty five dollars a year. That’s fine for how much I use it. I don’t want the sixty dollar a month bill that comes with a smart phone. I wasn’t even considering getting one except then Amazon put their’s on sale.

Normally an Amazon 32GB unlocked Fire phone goes for $450. Unlocked means that it comes with no phone service and you have to arrange for your own if you want the phone part to work. Otherwise it has wifi capabilities and is basically an iPod touch. Since I didn’t want the phone part I might as well have spent the $450 on an iPod touch. But then Amazon put the phone on sale for $200 and that caught my eye. Especially since I’m an Amazon Prime member which costs $100 a year and the phone comes with a free year of Amazon Prime. Since I was going to renew my Prime membership anyway early next year that meant the price of the phone would be $100 for me. Not a bad deal I thought. Then Amazon raised the price back up to $450 before I pulled the trigger and I abandoned the whole idea. Of course a few days later they lowered the price down to $230 and I decided to get it. So I missed out on the $30 less price tag. Oh well…

I wantedt the Fire phone to use as a pocket camera that works well with wifi and the cloud and to use as a music player. So far I like the camera aspects of it but not the music player. I have an iPad 2 that I use all the time to edit and share photos on. I have quite a few photo editing apps and like to post stuff to Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook from it. The only problem is that the iPad 2 has a terrible camera. It’s only two megapixels or so. The camera actually has less resolution than the screen. That’s insane. So I’m always transferring photos from my camera to my computer to the iPad. That’s a bit of a pain and doesn’t encourage the spontaneity that’s usually comes with Instagram and sharing sites in general.

I’m not sure what the exact megapixel count is on the Fire phone but I think it was around eleven. In general it’s an okay but not great camera. It’s nowhere near as good as my other pocket camera the Canon S95 but it’s leagues ahead of my iPad 2’s camera. It’s easier to carry than the Canon and fires up and is ready to take pictures faster than the Canon. But I’ve really liked it because it works well with the cloud.

I like to post photos of my art work in progress to the various social sites. I like to edit those photos and access those sites on my iPad 2. I don’t want to bother doing that on the little screen of a smart phone. But I’ll take the pictures on the smart phone. The LCD screen on a smart phone is bigger than the LCD on my Canon. Or any of my digital cameras. I grab a drawing, aim the phone’s camera at it, snap a picture, and then as long as I’m on wifi the camera automatically upload the photos to the Amazon cloud. I can then turn in my iPad 2, fire up the Amazon cloud app, and view and download the photos to my iPad 2. It’s pretty darn seamless. I’ve posted a lot more spontaneous photos of my works in progress this week than before the Fire phone. That makes me happy.

Other than the photos I’ve found the way things work on the Fire phone pretty clumsy. Though I’m an Apple guy I’ve never been a huge fan of iTunes since the app is basically a kludge that’s jury rigged to do a lot of stuff it wasn’t originally intended to do. But trying to do all that stuff without a dedicated app is a nightmare. Trying to get music on to my phone is complicated and I haven’t even got it to work properly yet.

I’m a make-your-own-playlist guy. I have about forty playlists that are all about an hour and twenty minutes each that I listen to when I’m out. I’ve programed my own music so I don’t need a radio station to do it for me. I even took all the mp3s on my playlists, copied them, and changed the metadata so that the playlist name is now the album name. If I’m ever on a new computer I can drop my copies on it and my playlists are intact even without them being actual playlists. Not with Amazon.

To get my music onto the Fire phone I first have to upload it to the cloud. There is no music manager software on the Mac for Amazon so all I can do is chose my files and upload. So thats what I did. I chose my first playlist that I have set up as an album. But then as they are uploading Amazon’s software tries to recognize the songs and matches them with their version that doesn’t have my version’s metadata. So they’re not in my order anymore. Instead they’re random songs from Amazon’s library. Even the ones that it kept my metadata on it somehow messed up. My songs that all come from the same album now come from six different albums that have the exact same name. It’s crazy. But then it gets crazier.

I finally discovered that the Amazon Cloud music interface was better on my iPad 2 than on the Fire phone. I figured I’d try to reproduce my playlist by creating a new playlist in the Amazon Cloud and dropping the songs on it. Except now all my songs weren’t there. I had a playlist with twenty one songs on it but only nineteen songs were in the cloud. Using the search function brought up no results for the songs. I went back to my Mac to re-upload the songs but it said they were already uploaded. But where where they? Who knows? I still haven’t figured that part out yet.

I’m glad I got the Fire phone overall. It wasn’t too expensive and works really well as a small cloud connected camera. Maybe with a little more work I can get it to work as a music player too. Until then my first generation iPod touch isn’t retired.