June 19, 2014, 6:10 AM —
As expected, Amazon has announced its first phone, the Fire Phone. (You had to figure it was either going to be the Kindle phone or the Fire phone, right?) The amount of rumor and speculation around this phone approached what we generally only see from Apple products. That in itself seems like something of a win for Amazon.
And it seems like most of the rumors were accurate: the phone sports a 4.7" HD display, a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm processor and a whole bunch of (well, four) infrared cameras used to track your face. While the display isn't technically 3D, it does use 'dynamic perspective.' You've perhaps seem a variant of this effect in mobile games like Labyrinth where graphics change as you tilt the phone, giving the impression of 3D. I'd expect the effect to be much more effective when Fire Phone is actually tracking your face to make sure everything lines up properly.
In addition to using dynamic perspective to look cool, as rumored at least some aspects of the phone's interface can be controlled by tilting it. Examples like flipping through photos, turning pages of a Kindle book, opening a slide-out 'drawer' or scrolling a web page were either mentioned or demoed. Presumably the 'flip detector' also tracks your face to be sure you're using the phone and deliberately flipping it and not just shoving it in a bag or a pocket.
The Fire Fun runs Fire OS 3.5, which is Amazon's version of Android. That means you get the Amazon Appstore but not Google Play.
In addition to the face-tracking cameras, there's a 13 megapixel back-facing camera, paired with a dedicated shutter button plus unlimited cloud storage for your photos.
If technology often flummoxes you, you'll appreciate that the Kindle Fire's "Mayday" live support feature is also included on the Fire Phone. (I keep wanting to spell that Fire Fone.)
Of course Amazon is interested in selling you things, so the phone includes "Firefly" which is an image/song/video recognition system. Point Firefly at a jar of Nutella and your phone can not only tell that that this is indeed Nutella but it can take you right to Amazon to buy a jar. This'll make it even easier to check out goods at local brick & mortar stores and then buy from Amazon. Just don't come crying to me when you actually NEED a brick and mortar store and there aren't any left!
But Firefly goes beyond shopping, or will do eventually. For instance you can point it at a business card and it'll scan in street address and phone number. We'll see what kinds of things developers think up for Firefly, as there is an SDK available for third party devs.
Fire Phone with 32 GB of storage is $199 with a two year AT&T contract, or $649 off contract (it's exclusive to AT&T). For a limited time it comes with a year of Amazon Prime, which is a $100 value. If you're already a Prime Member they'll extend your subscription for another year. You can pre-order now for a July 25th release date.
I'm looking forward to reading some reviews. All this dynamic perspective and 'tilt to control' stuff seems like a gimmick to me, but maybe they'll actually be a game changer.
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