Announcing the Fire Phone from Amazon
June 18, 2014 | 3:14 pm
By Juli Monroe
Okay, the name, while not surprising, isn’t doing it for me, but I think I still like it.
Anyway, as you probably know, Amazon was set to announce their new phone today, and sure enough, they announced the Fire Phone.
I switched between Engadget and Techcrunch coverage and got a decent picture (so to speak) about what the phone entailed. As you’d expect, it’s as tied into the Amazon ecosystem as the Kindle Fire tablets, so you can get books, video and music on it. Pandora, Spotify and the like will also be available, so you’re not tied to just Amazon’s admittedly limited selection.
It has Mayday and a new service called “Firefly,” which can detect phone numbers, movies, books, games, CDs, food just by pointing your camera at them. Which means they will be easy to buy from Amazon. Not a big surprise. Everyone’s been saying that the phone will encourage people to use Amazon more. However, the phone will also pull up Wikipedia entries and allow you to play overheard songs from Amazon or other music apps. Kind of cool, and I’m sure we’ll see lots written about it in the coming weeks. Firefly comes with an SDK so third-party app developers can use it too. Can you say nutrition information for the food you just ordered? myfitnesspal has already created the app to do that on the Fire Phone. Handy.
What about specs? 4.7″ display. A quad-core 2.2GHz processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM. The camera is a 13MP rear-facing with f/2.0 lens and Optical Image Stabilization. It also has a hard camera button, which I haven’t seen on a phone in a long time. And wouldn’t mind having again. It has a rubberized frame and Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so the thing should be sturdy. While it’s a bit smaller than the larger phones that have come out recently, like the Galaxy S5, which has a 5.1″ display, and the processor isn’t quite bleeding edge, it’s decent.
The 3D display that everyone was talking about prior to the event didn’t come across particularly well on the liveblog, but it looks intriguing. Images on maps can display in a 3D-like fashion. It’s apparently like looking into a picture, and you can peek under icons, apparently to see app info, like incoming emails. I think I’ll have to see this one in action. The tilt function and dynamic display also can be used in navigation, like tilting the phone to scroll through a carousel of images. Tilt scrolling also works on ebooks. Or you can specify a constant scroll speed. Not something I’d want. I’ve tried auto scroll on books before, and it doesn’t work for me.
Naturally, the 3D effect looks good in games. Techcrunch said it was like the 3DS without the headaches.
For those who don’t like the Fire app carousel, you can have an Android-like grid, with the ability to pin both apps and content to the grid. The grid works like a psuedo-widget with things like recent emails or the next calendar appointments showing at the bottom of the screen.
So what about the four cameras we kept hearing about and some were skeptical of? Well, there are four of them, with a 120 degree field of view, to keep your face in frame at all times. There are four so that no matter how you use your phone, there are always two cameras to track your head. What about in the dark? No problem. They are infrared. Clever. Bezos also explained how they taught their machine to recognize and track all kinds of faces.
They added some small touches, like a way to silent the ringer for just three hours. That would be great for someone like me who turns off the ringer at the start of a meeting and then forgets to turn it back on again. Nice!
What about the rumor that it would be an AT&T exclusive? True. Since I think I would seriously consider this phone, it makes me glad to be on AT&T. However, I think it’s just as bad an idea as making the original iPhone an AT&T exclusive. Hopefully, there’s a limited time period.
So what’s the price? $199 with a new contract or $27 a month with AT&T Next, which is basically the same as say, an iPhone, although that’s for a 32GB model, not 16GB. Now here’s the nice part. You get 12 free months of Prime, which adds onto an existing Prime membership. Phones ship on July 25, and you can pre-order today.
Yes, I’m tempted. As I said in an earlier article, I’m up for an upgrade in October, although I could upgrade using Next earlier than that. I want to wait for the hands-on reviews, but I might consider it. One of my reservations is how firmly I’m tied into the Google infrastructure. I like Gmail, and I’d miss it on my phone. Depending on how the Fire phone email program handles Gmail, I might be okay, but we’ll see.
What about you? Do any of the new features appeal?