Everything about the Amazon Fire smartphone and why Samsung and LG care

amazon fire phone topAmazon has once more brought the fight to other tech giants after officially dealing its latest blow in the shape of  its Amazon Fire phone. So much so, it seems to have Samsung and LG keeping a close eye on it.

To be honest, the smartphone arena over the last couple of years has just been tech companies trying to out-do each other with thinner phones, with multi-core chips and super high resolution screens.

Amazon has taken a different approach with the Fire by bringing an innovative 3D head-tracking display to the table along with providing instant search for products which handily link back to its gargantuan web store.

According to the Korean media (citing “industry sources”), both LG and Samsung are keeping a watchful eye on the Amazon Fire Phone to see how this device can affect the smartphone industry. LG and Samsung will be taking into account the possibility that the Amazon Fire Phone could change the mobile game forever as this particular device seems to offer a good balance between affordability, ease of access to content and great service – not to mention free unlimited cloud storage!

So what is the Amazon Fire smartphone packing that has these big-hitters worried?

It’s from Amazon

Perhaps a little obvious to state but coming from Amazon you get a bunch of services packed into the Fire as standard.

ASAP (which handily stands for Advanced Streaming and Predictions) predicts which movies and TV shows you’ll want to watch, buffering them in the background before you hit play, for instant playback.

Fire users will also have unlimited cloud storage for all photos taken with the Fire’s 13MP camera, and they’re automatically backed up too, so you can snap and forget, without worrying about deleting shots to free up memory.

Amazon’s Mayday service also makes a return, and this time it works over 3G and 4G too. If you’re stuck or have any questions, the Mayday feature will put you in direct contact with an honest-to-goodness real human being (you must’ve seen those annoying ads, right?), who’s happy to help you when you’re stuck.

They can even annotate your screen and take control of the Fire remotely. Handy for those relatives that like to use you as their personal tech support 😉

Hardware

The body of the Fire is protected by Gorilla Glass on both sides, with a rubber bumper wrapping around its edges, embedded with aluminium volume and camera buttons. It looks good to me and should feel like a quality device.

The Fire also plays nice with 4G networks, and has dual stereo Dolby Digital Plus speakers, which promise a virtual surround sound experience – that’s something I’d like to hear for myself before commenting further.

A 13MP camera with optical image stabilisation is found at the rear, while a 2.1MP front-facing camera takes care of video calls. Both cameras can shoot 1080p video.

Under the hood there’s a quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM.

All-in-all the Fire Phone is well kitted out and should perform pretty good against the likes of the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 – in fact it’s very similar in spec to last year’s flagship G2 and S4 devices. I bet you weren’t expecting that.

That screen

The Fire has a 4.7-inch, 720p display. I can see some of you rolling your eyes at the lack of a full HD or more screen but this is a special screen with a rather neat trick.

It’s 3D. Thankfully not the kind of lenticular 3D display found on the HTC Evo 3D. The Fire makes use of four front-facing cameras and infrared LEDs, which are able to track your face, producing a 3D effect.

This not only means that you get swanky 3D lock screens but that 3D effect could pave the way for innovative 3D games.

Imagine peeking around corners in an FPS, or dodging punches by moving your head (although that would look weird on the bus).

Amazon is calling its 3D tech Dynamic Perspective. Essentially, it’s a 3D effect that adds the impression of depth to its images which could come in handy when using maps, moving around the interface and that game playing I’ve mentioned already.

The 3D screen is only one part of Amazon’s ‘Dynamic Perspective’ feature set though. One-handed gestures are another focus. Auto-scrolling, tilt, swivel and peek gestures are all possible, thanks to the Fire’s built-in accelerometer.

You can scroll down a webpage simply by tilting the Fire so you can ‘flick’ down the screen wearing the thickest of mittens should you so desire, also tilting the device could be used to bring up supplemental information in maps, for example.

Amazon is has also upgraded its carousel home screen, which now provides real-time updates right beneath the app icons. New emails, recent photos and favourite websites are presented on the home screen beneath their respective apps, and it’s Amazon’s answer to stock Android’s widgets.

Amazon Fire smartphone tripleFirefly

Firefly is basically Shazam for objects. This new content recognition app uses the Fire’s main rear camera to scan items be they objects, images, text, logos, phone numbers, and provide information about them on the fly. Being Amazon, there’s even the opportunity to buy whatever it is you’ve just scanned – as long as it’s stocked by them.

According to Amazon there are 100 million objects in it’s catalogue and it leverages the company’s cloud computing power to provide the info quickly and efficiently, and even scrapes the image taken to glean only the most essential details (such as text) to complete the task. That way, it’s not constantly transmitting 2MB photos and sapping your data plan.

Not only that, but it can also recognise movie and TV channels, linking into IMDb to serve up additional info about the film you’re currently watching.

Firefly can recognise what you’re listening to too, linking in with Amazon Music’s entire catalogue, letting you buy songs you’ve just heard, in an instant.

This could be a good thing for collectors or a bad thing for their bank accounts.

Google-less

Kinda.

The Fire is running Amazon’s Fire OS v3.5, which is a very heavily modified version of Android. If you didn’t know that it was based on Android you’d probably never guess as it is so cloaked by Amazon-ness. This also means that there’s no hint of the good bits that Google brings to the Android OS.

No Google Maps, Gmail or Chrome will be found on the Fire and the same goes for the well-stocked Play Store.

Amazon’s own app store has a fair amount of virtual goodies on its shelves, but it’s still a way off from what the official Play Store has to offer.

Release

The Fire will ship in the US on July 25th, exclusively on AT&T, where the 32GB version will be available on a two-year contract for US$200. Opt for the 64GB version and the price bounces up to US$300.

Amazon is also offering 12 months of Amazon Prime with all Fire purchases, for a limited time. That includes Prime Instant Video, and access to millions of songs and books.

There’s no word as yet for a release date, offers or prices for the UK.