Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone: The Smartphone War just got even more heated

Amazon, you finally freaking did it.

After mild successes with the Kindle Fire family of tablets, you finally developed a smartphone. It took you a little while, but I am thoroughly impressed.

Today, Amazon revealed the Fire Phone, the first smartphone from the company famous for its shipping services and Kindle family of e-readers and tablets. Let me tell you, she looks like a beauty.

The Fire Phone came blazing in with much enthusiasm from CEO Jeff Bezos, who announced the phone and its bevy of features today.

The phone, which runs Fire OS 3.5 Android variant, features a 13 megapixel camera with 2.1 megapixel selfie camera, 2.2 Ghz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, Adreno 330 graphics processor, and the new Dynamic Perspective sensor system (more on that in a jiffy). Among the numerous features are the Firefly image identification feature, phone gesture controls (tilting, for example), auto scroll, and 3D interface using aforementioned Dynamic Perspective sensor array.

So what the gobbledygook is Dynamic Perspective. If you'll look at Amazon't image above, you'll see four sensors in the corners of the device. Those are used to detect your face for scrolling, as well as for immersive apps, like a maps app or a game. Tilting the device gives you more perspective into what's being displayed. Even the lock screen is immersive!

Firefly is one of the most impressive features to me. It looks like Amazon took Google Goggles and much of the idea behind Google Glass and made it highly advanced. Text is automatically identified on, say, a business card or advertisement for example, and the phone can provide options to put that information into a contact card on your phone or pull up dialer and email. It also works on other things, like CDs, QR codes, and pretty much anything that can be legibly scanned. Firefly's non-visual features include identifying music, movies, and TV shows, making it an all-in-one identification tool.

Also, Amazon packed in the Mayday Button from the Fire HDX, meaning if you get confused, you can have a one-way video call with an Amazon expert who can help you use your device within 15 seconds of you placing your request. Neato.

I could go on about the features of the Fire Phone, but I'll say this instead: this could be a potential competitor with iPhone and Android. I want to see where the Fire Phone goes. I may not buy it, but I'll definitely give it a thumbs up.

There is a caveat: you can only get it on AT&T's network exclusively for now unless you buy it off-contract. That off-contract price is $650 for the 32 GB storage model, and a two-year agreement price of $200 or $27/month on the Next program (DON'T DO NEXT). The 64 GB model goes for $750 unlocked and $300 on that same two-year contract. You also get 12 months free of Amazon Prime service, regardless of if you're a new Prime user or an existing customer.

So if you are new to smartphones, want to be in Amazon's ecosystem entirely, or want to leave Android (never for me) or iOS, give the Fire Phone a look. You can preorder the Fire Phone now, and it will ship July 25 with 2-day shipping.

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