Thursday 19 June 2014

Amazon announces Fire Phone

After years of rumours, Amazon’s first smartphone is official. Dubbed as Fire Phone, the phone was unveiled by the e-retail giant at a press event in Seattle, US on Wednesday. It will be released in partnership with US telecom operator AT&T starting $199 with the usual two-year contract.

Apparently in development since 2009, Amazon smartphone is an impressive device with interesting combination of hardware and software.

Talking about the internals first, made of a rubber frame, the Fire Phone sports Gorilla Glass on both front and the back of the smartphone. It features a 4.7-inch HD IPS display and is powered by 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor.  The phone also comes with 2GB of RAM, 13MP rear camera with OIS and a 2.4MP front camera.

According to Amazon, the company has also included a physical camera button, which gives direct access to the camera app (and Firefly feature, more on this later). Among other specifications, the phone packs NFC, 32/ 64GB of on-board storage, 2400 mAh battery, and 4G LTE support.

On the software front, Amazon Fire Phone runs Fire OS 3.5, which is based on Android 4.2.2 but the company is promising to release an update with Android 4.4-based Fire OS in the future. The company has also introduced two new features with Fire Phone – Dynamic Perspective and Firefly – which are an integral part of the Fire Phone experience.

Starting with Dynamic Perspective, which is a USP of Fire Phone, the feature uses the four specialized cameras and four infrared LEDs built on the front of the phone and the included special software to enhance your smartphone experience and provide you with cool little utilities.  The four cameras and IR LEDs track user head movements and shift perspectives depending on a user’s activity. Users can scroll through screens by tilting or swivelling the phone.

“Dynamic Perspective also enables a new class of apps and games that are more immersive, and make it quicker and easier for the user to access information. For example, peek to instantly see close-up front and back views of a dress in the new Amazon Shopping app for Fire. In games like Lili, take on the character’s viewpoint and move your head to look around corners, obstacles, and other objects,” Amazon noted in a press release.

Coming to Firefly, it is a feature that mainly helps you buy stuff. Easily accessible via a physical button, it can identify movies, TV shows, music, household items, books, DVDs and other items. Once recognised, the app will show the related Amazon listings for the products or shows information from IMDB, Wikipedia etc., depending on what it has looked for. Amazon says it can also identify web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR, bar codes, printed text on signs, posters, magazines and business cards and allow you to save important information or act on that information like make a call to a phone number recognised from a business card.

In addition to Dynamic Perspective and Firefly, Amazon has also included Mayday customer support for technical assistance, ASAP for pre-caching of online media, X-Ray for more information about books, movies, songs etc., and Cloud Drive for free unlimited storage for photos.

The company has also stated that Fire Phone comes with full backup support, so Fire customers can automatically back up device settings, notes, bookmarks, messages, and installed applications on the Amazon cloud.

“Fire Phone puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand—instant access to Amazon’s vast content ecosystem and exclusive features like the Mayday button, ASAP, Second Screen, X-Ray, free unlimited photo storage, and more,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO.

Availability & Offers

Amazon Fire Phone is already on pre-order via Amazon and AT&T websites and will start shipping on July 25. The company is also bundling free subscription to Amazon Prime service for one year. Existing users will get 1-year top-up. The free Prime subscription is a limited period offer.

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