It shouldn't come as any surprise – Amazon has unveiled their latest competition for Apple, the Fire phone. They have been competing with Apple for some time now, first with the Kindle Fire that was advertised by comparing it directly to an iPad, and then the Fire TV, so this seems like it was bound to happen.
This smartphone, only available on the AT&T network, will hit the shelves in late July with the price tag of $199 according to Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO. He described the phone at an event in Seattle, showing the audience all it can do and saying why it is revolutionary in a sea of smartphone options. But is it?
Design and Specs
It measures 5.5 x 2.6 x 0.3 inches and weighs in at 5.6 oz., much heavier than the iPhone 5S (3.95 oz.) and a hair taller. The back of the phone measures a bit narrower than the front allowing your hand to wrap more comfortably around it. The display itself measures 4.7 inches, and according to Bezos, this makes it much easier for one-handed use. In fact, he believes that its size and design will be a huge factor in a consumer's decision to purchase the phone. The screen is only 1,028x720p resolution.
The Fire phone runs on Fire OS 3.5, a version of Android without the presence of Google services. It's powered by the Jelly Bean OS with a bit of 4.4 KitKat thrown into the mix to make improvements on performance. The Fire phone features a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with Adreno 330 graphics and 2GB of RAM.
As far as looks are concerned, from afar it isn't much different from other phones. It's black in color, sports Gorilla Glass on both the front and back, and has a standard home button. However, upon closer inspection, you'll notice the five cameras located on the front. Just what do you need with five cameras?
Those five cameras serve an important purpose. One of them takes your standard selfie, while the other four serve as infrared eyes that make the 3D and motion effects possible. One feature putting those infrared cameras to work is Tilt-to-Scroll, and although it is very responsive, the wrong gesture made accidentally can cause issues. Say goodbye to the wobbly USB with the steel connectors used in its design, along with magnetic headphones cranking out Dolby Digital Plus virtual surround sound.
The Home key is like a 3-in-1 button. Press the button once, and you'll see the start-screen carousel. A second press summons the app tray, organized by what is stored directly on the phone versus what is stored in the cloud. If you press and hold the button, voice assistant is activated, just like the voice assistant on the Amazon Fire TV. You can text and email along with other functions – Amazon is still working on this feature.
The Fire phone allows you to swipe down to access notifications, turn on the flashlight, and activate Mayday, Amazon's customer service solution. The way the menus themselves work is a bit different. You have to swipe left and right to bring up menus for each app. A nice feature: Prime members will get unlimited storage of their photos using the subscription service. Also, Second Screen and X-Ray are also included.
One reason the phone might receive a lot of attention is the Firefly app, a universal visual scanning app that puts to use the camera to identify things around you. It compares the image to a database of items and then tells you what it is, and if it's available on Amazon, the link to purchase the item.
Kind of reminiscent of Penny's dream app in The Big Bang Theory, where she wishes to take pictures of shoes she likes in order to determine where she can buy them, isn't it? Firefly even has its own button to make it even easier. You can even use it to identify the audio on TV shows and pull up the information on IMDB.
Although it won't be available here in the US until July 25, you can preorder your Fire phone now. If you're a Prime member, you'll get a free year added onto your account. If not, you'll receive a free year to the service.