Amazon is introducing its first smartphone. The Fire Phone is a 4.7 inch handset aimed at the company’s most loyal customers: Amazon Prime subscribers.
The phone has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, an HD display, and a Gorilla Glass, scratch-resistant screen. But those aren’t the features that really make it stand out from the competition.
It’s also tightly integrated with Amazon’s music, video, eBook, and app ecosystems and includes cloud features including unlimited online storage for your photos. Oh yeah, and it has an unusual 3D user interface that moves as you move your eyes over the screen.
The Fire Phone will be available exclusively through US wireless carrier AT&T. The 4G LTE phone will be available with an AT&T 2-year contract or as part of the AT&T Next early upgrade program.
Pre-orders start today and the phone will ship July 25th. A 32GB model costs $199 with a 2-year contract, or $27 per month with the Next plan (and no money down).
For a limited time, Amazon will also include a free 12 month subscription to Amazon Prime for new customers. Existing Prime subscribers will get an extra 12 months when they buy a Fire Phone.
The Fire Phone has a 1280 x 720 pixel IPS display with 590 nits of brightness for outdoor visibility. It’s covered with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3.
Other features include 2GB of RAM, a 13MP rear camera with a 5 element lens and optical image stabilization, and dual stereo speakers. The phone has a 2.1Mp front-facing camera, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC.
Those features are all pretty par for the course in the smartphone space. Here are some things that make this device different.
Amazon also includes a pair of tangle-free magnetic earbuds with flat cables with the phone.
You can snap photos quickly thanks to a dedicated camera button that lets you fire up the camera and take a picture no matter what else you’re already doing with the camera.
Dynamic Perspective (3D display)
One of the most talked-about features of the Fire Phone over the past few months has been its 3D user interface. Amazon calls this Dynamic Perspective, and what it means is that the phone can track your eye movements so that visual elements move as you move your head.
For instance you could look at a 3D model of a building on a map, and as you move your eyes or reposition the phone, the view of the building will change to show it from new angles.
Amazon includes a few lock screens with dynamic 3D effects including a forest scene, hot air balloons, and more.
Third party developers can also tap into Dynamic Perspective. For example, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed off a game called Tofu Fury which lets you tilt the phone to view different parts of the level.
It takes at least two dedicated cameras for Dynamic Perspective to work. One has a 120 degree viewing angle and the other has Z-depth to figure out how far your eyes are from the phone.
But the Fire Phone uses four cameras so that it’ll work even if you’re covering some of the cameras with your fingers. It’ll automatically use the best two cameras available.
The cameras also feature infrared lights so that they work even if you’re in the dark.
Technically, this is also part of Dynamic Perspective — but it kind of feels like a separate feature. You can control the phone by tilting it.
For example, you can tilt the Fire Phone to scroll through websites in a web browser, to switch pages while reading an eBook, or to flip through a carousel of items while you’re shopping.
When you combine the relatively palm-sized dimensions of the 4.7 inch phone with support for tilt gestures and 3D motion tracking, it could be a lot easier to use the Fire Phone in one hand than some other large-screen smartphones.
As you’d expect, the Fire Phone will have many of the features already available to Kindle Fire tablet users, including support for Amazon Prime Instant Video, Amazon Prime Music.
Like Kindle Fire tablets, the Fire Phone also supports third party services including Hulu Plus, Netflix, and HBO Go.
The phone also uses a feature called ASAP first introduced with the Fire TV set-top-box. It will detect your viewing habits and depending on the time of day it can cache and pre-buffer select video content so that it’s ready to go even before you fire up the video player.
Amazon’s Mayay service which launched for Kindle Fire HDX users is also available. This lets you tap a button and start a video chat with an Amazon customer support person in about 10 seconds.
They can talk to you via video window and even draw on your screen or control your device (with your permission), but they can’t see you.
Amazon is first and foremost a store… and there’s a new shopping experience built into the Fire Phone thanks to an app called Firefly. Press the Firefly button (it’s the same button as the camera button) and point your phone’s camera at a book, DVD, or QR code and it’ll recognize it and give you more information from Amazon’s database.
Firefly can also listen to music like Shazam or Google Play Sound Search and bring up songs on Amazon Music or third party apps… and it can recognize some TV shows as well.
The company says Firefly can recognize 100 million different items including artwork, videos, music, books, and other content. Third-party developers such as iHeartRadio can also create actions so that you could create a playlist from a song found by Firefly, for example. MyFitnessPal can give you nutritional information for foods you identify with the app.
Not surprisingly, you can buy songs, books, or other content Firefly discovers from Amazon.
Firefly also uses image recognition technology to let you do things like scan a phone number on a poster and open that number in the phone’s dialer.
Home Screen and app launcher
Like Amazon’s tablets, the Fire Phone runs a custom version of Android called Fire OS. But the OS has been tweaked a bit for smartphone use. Not only is there now a phone dialer, but the graphics and UI have been optimized for smaller screens.
There’s still a carousel on the home screen, but when you scroll through it you can previews of things like the latest email messages or upcoming calendar appointments so that you have some limited interaction with apps before you even open them. App developers can create their own widgets that will appear when you see their apps in the carousel as well.
The app drawer includes “cloud” and “device” tabs, letting you keep apps and content you don’t need on your device stored on Amazon’s servers. You can pin frequently-used apps to the top of the screen.
Here’s a run-down of the phone’s hardware:
- 4.7 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel, 315 ppi display with 590/cd/m2 brightness
- 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU
- Adreno 330 graphics
- Fire OS 3.5
- 32GB or 64GB of storage
- 2GB of RAM
- 13MP rear camera with HDR, auto-focus, optical image stabilization, f/2.0 5-element wide aperture lens, and LED flash
- 2.1MP front-facing camera
- 2400mAh battery with up to 285 hours standby time, 11 hous video playback
- Free cloud storage for photos and all Amazon content including books, music, and movies
- Support for screen mirroring
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi
- Bluetooth 3.0
- UMTS/HSPA+ and quad-band GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) and 9-band LTE (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20)
You can watch the entire launch event here: