Amazon took another giant leap in its evolution from an online bookseller by announcing its first smartphone: the Fire Phone.
The Fire Phone is Amazon’s answer to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S5. It features a 4.7-inch, 720p display, 2.2 Ghz Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. It runs the latest version of Android Fire OS, 3.5.
There are two things about this phone that make it stand out. First, is a new technology called Firefly, which lets the phone scan pretty much anything. The item is then instantly identified and presented with a link to buy it from the Amazon store. This technology works with phone numbers, web and email addresses, movies, TV shows, music and over 100 million products. This potentially makes the phone a shopper’s best friend.
The second feature is something Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective, the 3D interface that was rumored with the phone. Unlike other existing 3D devices, the Fire Phone uses different perspectives to render the 3D effect. With the lock-screen activated, photos are transformed from static images to deep, immersive 3D experiences. Within its maps app, you can look at stunning 3D renderings of the Empire State Building and use the perspective to see streets that you normally may not have seen. The system also responds to how you hold and move your phone. If you are in the maps app, a gentle peek left or right will bring up Yelp reviews, a swivel will bring up access to important notifications and quick actions and a tilt up or down will allow you to scroll through an article on the Washington Post, a web page or a Kindle eBook.
This 3D technology has already attracted companies like Zillow and Stubhub. Imagine being able to log into their app and go directly into a virtual showroom that let’s you see how large a space is without ever having to step foot in the room. Or, if you are looking at stadium seats, you will be able to swivel your phone to see 90 degrees from your seat, as if you were actually there.
Games also can take advantage of this system. During the keynote in Seattle, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, showed off a game called Tofu Fury, which allows players to use Dynamic Perspective to peek around the corner in levels to see what obstacles are in your path.
In order to achieve this effect Amazon used some incredible technology. The phone uses four front-facing cameras, each with a 120-degree field of view, in order to track where your head is at all times. The company uses four cameras in case some of them are covered during use, but only two are required to get the exact coordinates of your head. Each of the cameras also features infrared lights, so it will work in total darkness. Amazon has developed the technology to the point that it can distinguish between real and fake faces (i.e if you’re wearing a Chewbacca t-shirt, it won’t get confused). The rear-facing camera on the phone is 13 megapixels and takes great stereo low-light images. While the technology behind Dynamic Perspective is cool, privacy advocates may have some concerns about four cameras watching your face at all times.
Other features include a dedicated Mayday button, that allows you to access Amazon’s 24-7 customer service, free unlimited photo storage through Amazon’s Cloud, Dolby Digital plus speakers, a tangle-free premium headset and one year of Amazon Prime, which now includes the newly debuted Amazon Prime Music. This feature includes unlimited music streaming for Prime members, who already have access to 33 million movies and TV shows, along with a vast number of Kindle books.
Amazon is clearly making a statement to the tech world with this debut. The Fire Phone, as it stands now, falls within the hardware specs of other mid-range devices. However Firefly and Dynamic Perspective add a cool factor to the phone that, along with the benefits of an Amazon Prime membership, could make it tough competition in the smartphone market.
The Fire Phone is available for pre-order now on Amazon. It ships July 25 and will cost $199 for 32GB model or $299 for a 64GB model.