After years of speculation, Amazon is formally getting into the smartphone hardware game. The e-commerce giant unveiled its first handset, dubbed the Fire Phone, at a Seattle event this afternoon.
As various recent leaks suggested, the Fire Phone comes with largely mid-range specs. More specifically, it features a 4.7-inch, Gorilla Glass 3, 720p IPS display, a quad-core, 2.2GHz, Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, Adreno 330 graphics, 2 GB of RAM, a 2400 mAh battery rated at 11 hours of video playback, and a 13-megapixel main camera. It’ll come with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage space, though Amazon is promising unlimited cloud storage through its Cloud Drive service for any photos you take.
We’ll have to use it to get a full feel of its design, but at first blush, the Fire Phone looks to be somewhat ordinary. It’s smaller than the army of recent 5-inch flagships, which should make it play nicer with one-handed use, but it’s a black rounded rectangle all the same. That said, there are some seemingly useful additions onboard, like a dedicated camera button and a pair of stereo speakers.
Also as expected, the Fire Phone includes four front-facing cameras that track your position and create a shifting, 3D-like depth effect. Amazon dubs it “dynamic perspective,” and it essentially lets you see objects on screen from different angles by moving the phone around. This works everywhere from the lock screen to the menus to within various games and apps. You can Tilt the phone while playing a game to look around a particular level, for instance, or you could lean it one way to move through something like a slideshow.
Amazon says these cameras have 120-degree fields of view and infrared sensors, so the Fire Phone will be able to recognize and track the position of your face in both light and dark surroundings. They also allow for hands-free scrolling, similar to how you move through webpages on the Galaxy S4 by simply tilting the device. In general, Samsung and others have hawked this type of tech before to mixed results, so it’ll be interesting to see if Amazon has made a breakthrough here.
What wasn’t as expected, and what may turn out to be the Fire Phone’s most recognizable feature, is Firefly. This uses the device’s camera to scan and recognize over 100 million items in the world around you, such as books, DVDs, games, pieces of art, and even intangible things like QR codes and URLs. It can also use the Fire Phone’s microphones to recognize songs around you, much like Shazam.
Upon doing this, it’ll give you additional information about the scanned object — like a Wikipedia entry for a compatible piece of art, or the X-Ray app’s second screen info for a TV episode — and, of course, give you the option to purchase that object on Amazon’s ever-widening online shop. This explains how Amazon will try to use a phone to further its core business, and the company is pushing it so hard that it’s even built a dedicated Firefly button onto the left side of the device. It’s also releasing an SDK for the program that will allow third-party developers to try their hands with it.
Generally speaking, the Fire Phone looks like a capital-A Amazon device in that the company’s own features are designed to be front and center. The MayDay customer support service that was first introduced with the last generation of Kindle Fire tablets returns here; the Kindle app is there for reading; Second Screen lets you mirror TV shows and movies to various streaming devices through Miracast; and both Prime Instant Video and Prime Music provide their entertainment as well. It’s not a surprise, but anyone who’s already deeply invested in the Amazon ecosystem should be well catered to here. And if you’re not into Amazon’s stuff, it’s going to look like a lot of bloatware.
The software here is still Amazon’s own forked version of Android, Fire OS, by the way. It features the same clean app icons and black backgrounds Kindle Fire users should recognize by now, though its trademark ‘carousel’ of apps has been tweaked to display additional relevant information underneath each icon.
Rumors popped up yesterday saying that the Fire Phone would be exclusive to AT&T, and it turns out that they were right on the money. The device will ship on July 25, and it will indeed come only to Ma Bell’s network. It’ll cost the standard $200 with a two-year agreement for the 32 GB model, while $300 with the same contract will get you double the storage space. Without a contract, it’ll go for $650 and $750, respectively.
That might not jive with those who were expecting Amazon to undercut its competitors on price, but the company is trying to sweeten the deal by offering a free year of Amazon Prime (which is normally worth $100) to anyone who purchases the Fire Phone. Anyone who buys the device will presumably be so consumed in Amazon’s services that the company will cover that cost anyway, but it’s a solid value regardless.
Ultimately, the Fire Phone is different. It isn’t getting into a spec war with the other Android flagships, and it isn’t concerned with offering the absolute best value with every purchase. Instead, it’s leaning on a host of unique and (purportedly) consumer-friendly features, some 3D perspective tricks, and the hope that its vast ecosystem will sway both new and familiar users into adapting it into their lives — all within a build that should be plenty comfortable for one-handed use. Amazon’s going rogue on this one, and we’ll see if its strategy pays off in the coming weeks. More details can be found at the source link below.