The rumors had been going around for nearly two years and today Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took the stage to unveil the company’s first ever smartphone. It has been in the hardware game for nearly a decade. With e-readers, tablets and a set-top box under its belt Amazon looks well poised to break into the highly competitive smartphone market. Introducing the Amazon Fire Phone.
The Amazon Fire Phone has a 4.7-inch HD display which is optimized for one-hand use. With 590 nits of brightness the display has been optimized for outdoor viewing. There’s Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides apart from buttons fashioned from aluminum. It even has a dedicated button for the camera. Weighing just 5.64 ounces the device comes in at 0.35 inches thick. Under the hood there’s a 2.2GHz quadcore processor with Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. 32GB of onboard storage is available. There’s a 13 megapixel rear camera with built-in optical image stabilization. Two stereo speakers with Dolby Digital plus surround are arranged in landscape mode.
Software is where things get interesting. The Fire Phone is powered by Amazon’s highly forked Android iteration called Fire OS. Version 3.5 of Fire OS brings a few tweaks such as “active widgets” which show recent activity in apps as you swipe through. X-Ray and ASAP are supported by the Fire Phone. The former lets you “fling” videos to an Amazon TV whereas the latter predicts what users might want to stream and pre-caches it so that the content plays without any interruptions. HBO Go, ESPN, Hulu Plus and Netflix are all onboard. Amazon’s new music streaming service, Immersion Reading and Whispersync for Voice can also be found on the smartphone.
A feature has been brought over from the company’s tablets. MayDay is supported by the Fire Phone. Its great for those who have trouble figuring out features or settings on their device. Available for free and running over Wi-Fi or cellular, the service connects you to a representative who will help you out over a live video chat session.
Firefly is probably one of the most important features on the Fire Phone, so much so that it gets it own dedicated hardware button. The feature is capable of recognizing real world objects as well as digital content like TV shows and movies. The company claims Firefly can recognize over 100 million objects. It may include anything from a book to a painting, a DVD or a URL or even a game. It scans the product through the rear camera and keeps track of everything you’ve ever scanned, and quite obviously it provides links to purchase those products from Amazon. Firefly can also listen to TV shows and movies and recognize them down to the individual episode for a TV show.
As you might have read in rumors about Amazon’s smartphone it has multiple cameras up front for what was initially believed to be 3D gesture support. The feature is called Dynamic Perspective and it uses four cameras. It updates 60 times per second to make this interface work. One application shown through the demo was tilting the phone to scroll through a page on a Kindle book or a web page. Another was the effect in the maps interface which uses different layers to hide and show information on the map. In order for this feature to work Amazon developed special cameras with a 120-degree field of view. Four of them are placed up front since people’s hands are likely to cover at least two during usage. Infrared light for each camera ensures that Dynamic Perspective even works when the phone is being used in no light.
As expected the Amazon Fire Phone is an AT&T exclusive. With pre-orders starting today, customers can purchase it for $199 with a two year contract. Its also available on AT&T Next for $27 per month with zero down and no activation charges. The 64GB model costs $299. Fire Phone ships July 25th.
To sweeten the deal Amazon is throwing in one free year of Amazon Prime, existing Prime subscribers get an 12 months on top of their subscription. Amazon will also provide users with free unlimited photo storage in the cloud though its unclear if those photos will be stored in their original resolution.
The Fire Phone will be shipped with a pair of earbuds that Amazon claims to be tangle-proof. That’s a tall claim that we will have to investigate for ourselves.