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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone officially announced - Here's all you need to know


Amazon Fire Phone - banner
After what seemed like a lifetime of speculation and rumors, Amazon finally unveiled its first smartphone at a special event which took place in Seattle. The Amazon Fire Phone as it is called, features a 4.7 inch 720P HD display which boasts outstanding outdoor visibility, a 13MP rear camera with optical image stabilization and a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM.

Besides having top of the shelf specs, the Amazon Fire is not just about the technical details: Amazon has packed it with a few nice tricks.

Amazon Mayday

First, the Mayday customer support feature that allows you to connect with an Amazon representative to help you with any issue you might have is on board the Fire phone. The Amazon representative can can co-pilot you through any feature by drawing on your screen, walking you through how to do something yourself, or doing it for you. Throughout the process, you'll be able to see the Amazon expert live on your screen, but they won't see you.

Mayday promises that you can get assistance in 15 seconds or less. You dont have to make an appointment or wait in line. You get help on your phone when you need it free of charge.

However it must be noted that Mayday will not be able to cover physical damage. So if you face issues where your Amazon Fire Phone refuses to switch on, you will have to switch back to the traditional method of sending it back to Amazon for repairs.


Amazon Firefly

Next lets meet Firefly: an Amazon powered search engine that uses your Fire Phone's rear camera in order to recognize over 100 million items on Amazon's catalogue. Firefly identifies printed text on posters, magazines, and business cards - make calls, save new contacts, send emails, and visit websites without typing long addresses.

Firefly recognizes over 240,000 movies and TV episodes, and 160 live TV channels. Firefly uses X-Ray, powered by IMDb, to show information on actors, plot details, and related content - add titles to your Watchlist or download to watch later.

Firefly recognizes songs so you can access artist information, play related songs, download albums direct to your Fire phone, or add them to your Wish List to purchase later on. With Firefly-enabled apps like iHeartRadio and StubHub, you can create radio stations based on an identified artist, or even find tickets for their next show. Once it has identified an item, it will compare it with Amazon's own massive database of products available online, and giving you the option to purchase what you need.

Amazon is opening Firefly to third-party developers, and one of the first such is MyFitnessPal, which will help Firefly recognize the different foods you scan and provide you with nutritional information. Considering the growing appeal of Amazon's own app store, we should hopefully see the list of third-parties developing for Firefly grow and prosper. Developers can learn more about the Firefly SDK here.

What's more, Firefly is built right into your Fire Phone's camera button. So whenever your camera is fired up, so is Firefly ready to help you organize your life. Again, the on-stage demo was very convincing in terms of the speeds at which Firefly operates, and the width of product categories it can recognize, so right now, this definitely feels like another potential winner for Amazon when it comes to thoughtful services.

Amazon claims that you can recognize over 1,000,000 items with Firefly, and considers this feature so crucial to the experience that you even have a dedicated button for it on the left - click it, and the app starts.


Amazon Fire Phone runs Fire OS 3.5
Amazon runs Fire OS 3.5 based on Android

Amazon has introduced the latest version of Fire OS with the Fire Phone. Fire OS is based on Android, but built around Amazon's services and ecosystem instead of Google's. Amazon has its own App Store which and built-in media libraries, productivity apps, and platform enhancements to integrate Amazon's digital content and improve performance.

Since the Fire Phone is tied with Amazon's ecosystem, you can get the best experience with Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime will give you immediate access to:

  • Amazon Music - with a collection of over 30 million songs
  • Amazon Instant Video - with access to the most popular movies and TV shows
  • Kindle Books - where you can borrow and read millions of books from Amazon's library
Amazon Prime also gives you benefits of shopping on Amazon, like the two day free shipping.

Owning an Amazon Fire Phone also gives you access to features like


X-Ray for music, video, and books - With X-Ray for music, follow along with lyrics for tens of thousands of popular songs, plus get easy-to-access artist information, all with an easy tap or right panel tilt. See IMDb trivia, actor information, plot synopses, and character backgrounds with X-Ray for movies and TV. On books, X-Ray lets you trace characters, places, and ideas as you journey through chapters, using information from Shelfari, YouTube, and Wikipedia.

Second Screen - Start a show on the go and finish it at home with a flick of your finger. Second Screen turns your TV into the primary screen and frees up your Fire phone to provide playback controls, a customized display for X-Ray, or simply be a place to email, browse the web, and more while you watch a movie. Second Screen is available for Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and recent Samsung TVs.

Immersion Reading - Synchronize the text of your Kindle eBook to its companion Audible audiobook. Real-time highlighting on your Kindle eBook as you’re listening helps comprehension, and relieves the strain of reading on the go. Available on thousands of Kindle books and companion Audible audiobooks.

ASAP - ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) learns what movies and shows you like and gets them ready for you to watch. The more you view videos on your Fire phone, the more accurate ASAP becomes, dynamically adapting to your viewing habits.

Free backup and restore - You Amazon Fire Phone can automatically back up device settings, notes, bookmarks, messages, and apps without the need for configuration or connection to a computer, so it's easy to restore your information to a new Fire phone if your device is lost or damaged.

Cloud storage for your content - Amazon customers also get 5 GB of free personal cloud storage, so you can store your own videos, documents, and other digital content in the cloud, for easy access from all Amazon devices and Cloud Drive. All photos and video captured with your Fire Phone will be stored for free on the cloud, without counting on your free space.

Whispersync - With Whispersync for Voice, listen to an audiobook on your commute, then automatically pick up where you left off at home, on your Kindle. Whispersync also works across Kindle e-readers and reading apps, Amazon Instant Video, and select GameCircle titles.


Amazon's Dynamic Perspective 3D UI

The most notable feature of the Amazon Fire Phone, however, is the much rumored 3D effect, achieved with four front-facing infrared cameras that track your head's position towards the device. Why four? Amazon figured out that people would often cover two of the cameras with their fingers, so instead of going with just two, it opted for four for safety. The company can even tell between a picture of a head and a real head, and it's built this expertise after extensive testing.

Amazon Fire Phone immersive gamesImmersive Apps and Games

See news updates from USA Today, Yahoo! News Digest, and more, scan your Pinterest feed, or play recent iHeartRadio stations—all from your home carousel, without even opening the app

With Firefly-enabled apps, you can get tickets with StubHub, see trending topics on Twitter, and, coming soon, identify art, wine labels, and more.

Move your head to look around a world or control a character's movement in popular games like Lili and Snow Spin. Use the peek feature to see more of the battlefield in Saber's Edge. Plus, look for exclusive new titles from Amazon Game Studios later this summer.

The Amazon Fire Phone is built for single handed use with the ability to access menus, shortcuts, and useful information with tilt, swivel, and peek.

Amazon Fire Phone swivel
  • Tilt for panels - use the left panel to navigate menus, and the right panel to access useful information and shortcuts, like attaching photos to a text message, viewing song lyrics, and more.
  • Swivel for access to important notifications and quick actions like Mayday, Flashlight, Settings, and more.
  • Peek keeps your display uncluttered by revealing additional details and quick actions only when you need it.
You can even read while holding your Fire Phone with one hand. With auto-scroll, scan long web pages or read entire books without ever having to touch the screen.

Home carousel
Amazon Fire Phone carousal
The Home carousel, which Kindle Fire owners will be familiar with, has been enhanced for the Fire Phone. You can scroll, scan, and take action without opening the app or leaving the carousel. Scan and delete emails, see your next appointment, find recent photos, access most visited web sites, and more, right from your home screen carousel.



Hardware

Now that we have discussed what makes the Amazon Fire Phone unique, lets take a look at some of its hardware features, which Amazon has provided a lot of attention to.
Amazon Fire Phone hardware
The Fire Phone features a 4.7 inch 720p HD touch display. It may not have a Quad HD resolution like the the LG G3 nor does it have the size portrayed by some of the phablets in the market. However Amazon has focussed on giving the display a a wide viewing angle, circular polarizer, and an industry-leading ultra-bright display at 590 nits, to making it easy to see in all lighting conditions, indoors and out.

The Dynamic Perspective feature we mentioned above uses four ultra-low power specialized cameras, plus four infrared LEDs for invisible illumination, real-time computer vision algorithms, and a custom graphics engine rendering at 60 fps.

Amazon has even paid attention to the smaller details, and provided a tangle-free headset with the purchase of your Fire Phone.

In terms of connectivity, the Fire Phone features nine bands of LTE, four bands of GSM, five bands of UMTS, plus Wi-Fi 802.11ac support, NFC and Bluetooth.

The device is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip with 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 300 graphics processor, which should be more than capable of handling this hardware.


Camera

The Fire Phone comes with a 13 megapixel rear camera, with a five-element wide aperture f/2.0 lens and  optical image stabilization. You also have a secondary 2.1 megapixel camera in front for video calls. Fire Phone keeps the rear shutter open up to four times longer for better quality photos, even in low light conditions. Amazon didn't shy away from comparing its photos with the Apple iPhone 5s and the Samsung Galaxy S5. But we would have prefered to see how the unit compared with a device which had optical image stabilization on board like the Nokia Lumia Icon or the LG G2

Galaxy S5 vs. Fire Phone vs. iPhone 5s

The Fire Phone can capture 1080p video at 30fps on both its front and rear cameras, which is a standard on most flagships these days. All your photos and videos captured by your Fire Phone will be backed up to your Amazon Cloud Drive. You get free, unlimited cloud storage for all photos taken with Fire phone (in full resolution). So you dont have to worry about what to keep or delete. You can access your content anytime on Fire Phone, other Amazon devices, or Cloud Drive apps.


Pricing and Availability

The Amazon Fire Phone price is set at $199.99 with a two-year contract on AT&T. The Fire Phone release date is July 25th. It will be an AT&T-exclusive (at least in the beginning), so don't expect to see it on other carriers soon. Note that it's the 32GB model that sells for $199.99, while for the same price most other flagships offer 16 gigs of storage. The 64GB model will also sell with a 2-year contract on AT&T at a price of $299.99.

You can also opt for AT&T Next 12 / Next 18 - $32.50 / $27.09 a month (32GB model) for 20 / 24 months and the ability to upgrade to a different, qualifying device in the next 12 / 18 months. The numbers for the 64GB model sit at $37.50 / $31.25 for Next 12 / Next 18, respectively. Luckily, the Fire Phone will also be available for $649 / $749 (32GB / 64GB) unlocked and contract-free.

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