Today in Seattle, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the Fire Phone, the online retailer's first crack at a smartphone. No, it wasn't 3D as some rumors suggested. (Perhaps thankfully.) Nevertheless, Fast Company is live in the Pacific Northwest covering the event as it happens.
What makes the Fire Phone special? Take my hand. Let's find out.
Specs And Camera
Spec-wise, the phone is about mid-level, at least as far as 2014 phones go. The Fire Phone boasts a 4.7-inch display (putting it on par with the Moto X size-wise), and includes a Quadcore 2.2 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and an Adreno 330 graphics processor.
Inside the box, it will come with a pair of earbuds dangling from flat cables, sporting magnets that clasp together.
So far, at least, it looks like the 13 megapixel camera will be one of the Fire Phone's more interesting features. It boasts a f/2.0 lens with optical image stabilization that "counteracts natural hand tremors all humans have," Bezos says. Users will also get unlimited photo storage using Amazon's cloud services.
The big, question, of course, is why does Amazon want to get into the smartphone game? Answer: It makes it very easy for consumers to buy stuff from Amazon.com. The phone's defining feature, called Firefly, allows users to take a picture of an object—say, a copy of Harry Potter & the Prisoners of Azkaban—in order to buy it. It provides a convenient credit card funnel back to the Amazon mothership, and there is even a dedicated Firefly button built into the hardware of the phone itself.
The visual intake component is just a part of Firefly. Another Shazam-like feature on the Fire Phone allows users to identify songs they hear out in the real world, so that they can purchase it from Amazon Music. During one demonstration, Bezos used it to identify a scene from HBO's Game of Thrones.
In other words: This is a machine engineered to make spending money as easy as a few button presses.
Dynamic Perspective And Tilt Scroll
It's reminiscent of the iOS 7 effect on the wallpaper and lock screen—but more dramatic. Move the phone in your hand, and the display pops out at you. You can also use dynamic perspective to scroll through content. So how does the phone know where you are? The Fire Phone includes four—yes, four—front-facing cameras, each with a 120 degree view, to track where your head is.
Like the Kindle Fire, the phone will be tied to Amazon's App Store, meaning the selection could be more limited than something you'd find on other Android phones.
Here's a biggie: The phone will be available exclusively through AT&T—just like the iPhone when it initially launched. The phone will run $199 for the 32GB version with a two-year contract and $299 for the 64GB version. It ships July 25, and buyers will get a free year of Amazon Prime.
The phone, which was originally projected to launch back in 2012, was hinted at in a teaser video that Amazon released earlier this month, which shows users (or actors) interacting with a gadget and moving their heads in such a way that suggested 3-D rumors could be true. Further adding confusion, CEO Jeff Bezos sent reporters a cryptic package last week which included his favorite children's book: Mr. Pine's Purple House.