After years of speculation, Amazon today announced the Fire Phone, an Android-based device that features an innovative "dynamic perspective" imaging, a revamped UI, and, not surprisingly, strong integration with Amazon's ecosystem, including Mayday live help. Here's a look at the top seven features of the new Fire phone, available on AT&T for $199 with a two-year contract.
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The all-black Fire phone features a machined aluminum design with a Gorilla Glass 3 display. and rubber frame. While the 4.7-inch IPS display on the Fire phone isn't the highest resolution (just 720p), it has a rated brightness of 590 nits, which would make it the brightest among smartphones. Additionally, it has a circular polarizer, so the display won't disappear if you're wearing polarized sunglasses and you tilt the phone to landscape mode.
Inside is a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 quad core processor, an Adreno 330 GPU, 2GB RAM, and 32GB of storage. A version with 64GB of storage will cost $100 more.
Measuring 5.5 x 2.6 x 0.35 inches and weighing 5.64 ounces, the Fire is heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S5 (5.3 x 2.9 x 0.25 inches, 5.1 ounces) as well as the HTC One M8 (5.8 x 2.8 x 0.37 inches, 5.6 ounces).
Amazon says the Fire phone's 2,400-mAh battery will last up to 11 hours on video playback.
The rear-facing camera on the Fire phone has a 13MP lens, which is similar to the Samsung Galaxy S5, but with a faster f/2.0 lens and optical image stabilization, the phone will better be able to take images in dark settings that are crisp and have less noise than competing smartphones. The Fire phone will also have a dedicated shutter button, so that users will be able to take photos quickly from anywhere in the OS. Finally, Amazon will offer free unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive. That's a step up from Apple's photo stream, which will only store up to 1,000 images. Unlimited storage doesn't apply to videos, though.
Video and Music
Like Amazon's HDX tablets, the Fire phone will feature Amazon's X-Ray for music, movies and TV shows, and will support slinging to a second screen, such as Fire TV. Like the Fire TV, it will use predictive caching to anticipate your favorite shows and pre-buffer them so that they will start streaming instantly.
The Fire phone will have dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus for virtual surround sound, and come with magnetized earbuds and flat cables, which are intended to prevent tangles.
Introduced with the last version of its Fire tablets, Mayday support is also coming to the Fire phone. This feature will work over 4G, and calls will be answered in seconds. Additionally, if you have an issue with AT&T's service, Mayday will hand off the call to AT&T customer support.
Using the camera, FireFly can recognize products -- be it games, food, soap, books, or anything--and shows you its Amazon rating, as well as a link to purchase it through the phone. It can also identify music, like Shazam, and give you a link to buy the song or album you're listening to. Amazon will also release an SDK, so that third parties can build actions for FireFly. For example, iHeart Radio can create a station based on the song FireFly recognized. MyFitnessPal will bring up nutrition information if you take a photo of, say, a bag of Cheetos.
Other clever features of FireFly include the ability to identify audio tracks from TV shows and movies. In the on-stage demo, FireFly was able to recognize a particular scene from "Game of Thrones," and displayed a link to its IMDB page, as well as links to purchase or rent the episode. If you take a photo of a piece of art, FireFly will also bring up information about the painting, artist via Wikipedia.
Users will be able to access FireFly via a dedicated button just below the volume controls on the left side of the phone, which will work even from the lock screen.
It's like Apple's Parallax feature on steroids. With four cameras mounted at each corner, the Fire phone detects where a user's head is in relation to the phone, and then adjusts what appears on screen accordingly. On the lock screen, for instance, you can tilt the phone to see different aspects of images, which are redrawn in real-time. Apart from making images look cool, though, Dynamic Perspective will let you scroll through Web pages and documents simply by tilting the phone; the more you tilt, the faster it will scroll. It's also used in maps and games to create a more immersive environment.
Each of the cameras has a 120-degree field of view, and works using infrared technology so it can track your face, even in the dark. Using Global shutter technology, the lenses are 10 times as efficient as more traditional cameras, and will only turn on as needed.
The Fire phone features a slightly redesigned interface from the Kindle Fire. In the top half of the screen are icons showing your apps in a carousel, but the bottom half now features active widgets, which enable you to perform basic actions without having to open the app. For example, if the top half of the screen has the email icon in the center, it will show your most recent emails on the bottom half of the display. From there, you can delete or reply to messages. Or, if the calendar widget is in the top half of the screen, your upcoming appointments will appear below.
The Amazon Fire phone is currently available for pre-order, and will ship on July 25. It will cost $199 with a two-year contract on AT&T, or consumers can opt for AT&T's NEXT program, which will cost $27 per month. Consumers will also get 12 months of Amazon Prime service ($99 per year) for free, even if they're already Prime members.
Stay tuned for our hands-on with the Amazon Fire phone.
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