Amazon has leapt into the crowded and competitive smartphone market this morning, unveiling the Fire phone. A look at the handset’s specs and it’s clear that Amazon has built the Fire phone to face off against today’s top phones, including Apple’s iPhone 5S, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8). And, of course, the device is tightly integrated to Amazon’s online shopping, music and video services. But there’s a lot more you need to know about Amazon’s smartphone debut.
The Fire Phone is watching you
On stage at Amazon’s Seattle unveiling of the Fire phone, CEO Jeff Bezos said it’s “really good at tracking faces.” The Fire phone will use four dedicated front-facing cameras with an especially wide field of view to recognize and track where your head is, where you’re looking and how close the device is to your eyes.
Using infrared technology, it will even track your head when you’re using the phone in the dark. The reason the Fire phone is tracking your head and where it’s at, is to pull off a feature that Bezos called “dynamic perspective.”
AT&T and only AT&T
The only telecom that’ll sell the Fire phone for now will be AT&T. The nation’s second largest carrier has the exclusive on Amazon’s handset for the US market. No word yet on when the Fire phone will be available abroad, but you will be able to buy it off contract.
It’s not cheaper than other phones
Despite speculation that the Fire phone could sell at very low break-even price, Amazon will sell it for a price that compares to today’s other flagship smartphones: $US199.99 with 32GB of built-in storage on a 2-year AT&T contract, $US299.99 for a 64GB model. The 32GB model off contract will sell for $US649. Pre-orders started today.
Amazon Appstore = No Google Apps
The Fire phone runs Amazon’s forked version of Android, which it calls the Fire OS. But, just as with the Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon won’t have Google’s services, and instead adds in its own. Amazon provides a web browser, maps, weather, calendar, email, messaging, music and video apps. And while there’s no Google Play store, the Amazon Appstore will have popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Pandora, Netflix, HBO Go, Uber, Yelp and StubHub—at least aimed for the phone’s launch.
Amazon Firefly makes buying easy…too easy?
Firefly is an integrated feature geared to help you buy stuff—from Amazon. There’s a dedicated button launches the service, that can identify songs or TV shows via the microphone, or uses the camera to recognize consumer products. Any content or product that Amazon sells will automatically be queued up for you to buy (now or later). Firefly can also use the phone’s camera to recognize phone numbers of local businesses.
‘Advanced’ cameras, free cloud storage
The Fire phone has a 13-megapixel camera and a dedicated camera button to wake the camera and snap a photo, even if the phone is asleep. Phone buyers also get unlimited photo storage in Amazon’s Cloud Drive—at least for those photos that were shot with the Fire phone. As with other flagship phones, the Fire Phone shoots 1080p video and features HDR, panorama and burst modes—but Amazon boasts that its camera has better low-light performance than the competition.
Tap for Mayday
Mayday, Amazon’s free, live, on-device tech support first seen on Kindle Fire HDX tablets is coming to the Fire phone, too. The video chat window with a customer service representative will pop up within 15 seconds of you asking for help, says Amazon. Just like on the tablets, a Mayday rep can control your phone remotely if you authorize them to do so.
Larger than an iPhone
With a 4.7-inch 720p display, the Fire phone is larger than the current iPhones, but not as big as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One (M8). It’s also fairly slim, at 0.53 inches, and weighs 5.64 ounces.
Glass on both sides
Like the iPhone 4 and 4S and Google’s old Nexus 4, the Fire phone is built with glass panels on both the front and rear. Amazon uses Corning GLW 0.80%’s durable Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, but the glass isn’t shatter-proof: If you have a habit of breaking phone displays, this presents twice the risk. Sandwiched between the glass panels is a band of aluminum, coated in rubberised plastic. And you can have any color Fire phone you like, as long as it’s black.