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Is the New Fire Phone an Android Phone or Not?

In this week's Ask Walt column, Walt Mossberg answers readers' questions on the new Amazon Fire phone and the new 13-inch MacBook Air.

You have some tech questions, I have some answers. Every Friday, I try to resolve these mysteries, succinctly and in plain language. Please send questions to Note that I won’t be able to diagnose your personal tech glitches and problems. I also reserve the right to edit questions for length or clarity, and to combine similar inquiries.

Q.In reading all the coverage of the new Amazon Fire phone, I’m confused. Some articles call it an Android phone, others don’t. Which is it?

A.The answer is: Both and neither. All of Amazon’s Fire devices use the open source version of Google’s Android operating system, which doesn’t include Google’s standard suite of apps or its Google Play app store. For Amazon, Android is essentially plumbing, not the face of the device. To provide the look, feel and navigation, Amazon has its own operating system, called the Fire OS. It also has its own app store, browser, email program and now, on the new phone, non-Google maps. The best way to think about it is that the Fire phone and tablets aren’t standard Android devices, and typically use third-party apps specially modified for them and curated by Amazon.

Q.I want to order a new 13-inch MacBook Air and wanted your feedback. Your thoughts on getting the 1.4GHz versus 1.7GHz processor, and on 128 gigabytes of storage versus 256GB? I use the Internet mostly for trading and browsing.

A.I wouldn’t pay a penny more for the faster processor speed, but would spring for the extra storage, even if you think you won’t need it. After awhile, most people wish they had gotten more.

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