Amazon announces Fire smartphone

Amazon has announced its long-rumoured debut smartphone, the Fire, with two new technologies featured
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Amazon has unveiled its debut smartphone – the Fire.

Long-rumoured, the Fire includes two new technologies developed by Amazon – Dynamic Perspective and Firefly.

Dynamic Perspective uses a combination of four low-power cameras and four infrared LEDs built into the front face of Fire, a dedicated custom processor, real-time algorithms and a graphics rendering engine to allow the phone to respond to the way users hold and move the Fire handset.

Using Dynamic Perspective, users can use a series of one-handed gestures to auto-scroll, tilt, swivel and peek in order to navigate and control the phone.

For example, with auto-scroll, users can read a long web page or a book without having to touch the screen, tilting in Amazon Music shows song lyrics and peeking in the Maps app shows information like reviews.

Firefly allows the Fire to recognise real-life data, such as web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, movies, music and products, and capture the written data for use on the phone – for instance by creating a contact or searching online using Amazon’s database.

The Fire phone also includes Amazon’s Mayday instant support system over 3G or 4G, as well as Wi-Fi, and the Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP) service, which queues up movies and TV shows for playback based on users’ preferences.

Other features touted by the Fire include free unlimited cloud storage of photos taken with Fire, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 4.7-inch HD display with an ambient light sensor and Dynamic Image Contrast.

Connectivity options include global LTE, four-band GSM, 802.11ac support, Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth.

Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus virtual surround sound are built into the phone, with a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera with backside illumination, LED flash, 5-element f/2.0 lens, Optical Image Stabilisation and High Dynamic Range, and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera also included.

The handset is constructed from Gorilla Glass 3 for the rear and front, aluminum buttons, stainless steel detailing and rubber grip.

"Fire Phone puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand--instant access to Amazon's vast content ecosystem and exclusive features like the Mayday button, ASAP, Second Screen, X-Ray, free unlimited photo storage, and more," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO.

"We invented a new sensor system called Dynamic Perspective that recognizes where a user's head is relative to the device – we use it to offer customers a more immersive experience, one-handed navigation and gestures that actually work.

“This is only the beginning – the most powerful inventions are the ones that empower others to unleash their creativity – that's why today we are launching the Dynamic Perspective SDK and the Firefly SDK. We can't wait to see how developers surprise us."

Geoff Blaber, VP of research for the Americas at CCS Insight, commented: “Amazon's entry into the smartphone market is significant but the launch falls short of the promise.

“Innovation in hardware had to be accompanied by disruption in device and service pricing and Amazon is yet to deliver either of these ingredients.

"Amazon is a low margin business entering an intensely competitive and cost sensitive business in smartphones. To justify that investment and to drive Prime adoption Amazon has to be differentiating through disruption rather than joining the status quo.

“Amazon has been at the forefront of disruption in the hardware business but this announcement fails to repeat the impact of the Kindle or Kindle Fire tablet. This is contrary to the strategy of pricing hardware at cost to drive retail sales and service adoption – Amazon seems uncharacteristically caught between two business models.

“The Fire Phone is a capable device with some novel innovation. However, at $199 it simply isn’t disruptive enough. It will face an uphill struggle both attracting existing Prime users and acquiring new ones.”

The Amazon Fire smartphone is due for release on July 25th in the US, starting at $199 (£117) for a 32GB model, or $299 (£176) for a 64GB iteration of the handset, on a two-year contact.

Details of a UK release for the smartphone are yet to be announced.

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