Amazon Fire Phone preview

Everything you need to know about Amazon's first ever smartphone

Amazon has already brought the fight to other tech giants with its Fire HDX tablets and Fire TV  media streamer, but it’s not planning on stopping there.

The online retail giant has now set its sights on the smartphone arena, and has officially revealed its champion - the Amazon Fire phone.

In a world dominated by quad-core specs and HD screens, Amazon is looking to set the Fire apart with an innovative 3D head-tracking display, as well as providing instant search for products which handily link back to its gargantuan web store.

Here's everything you need to know about the Amazon Fire:

READ MORE: 8 things you need to know about the Amazon Fire

A Standout screen

The Fire has a 4.7in, 720p display, which spec fans will view as lacklustre compared to the plethora of full HD (or even 2K) screens out there. 

But the Fire has a rather large trick up its sleeve. 3D.

No, not the awful lenticular 3D display that plagued the HTC Evo 3D. The Fire instead makes use of four front-facing cameras and infrared LEDs, which are able to track your face, producing a 3D effect.

Think of iOS 7's parallax effect, but supercharged. Apart form offering pretty 3D lock screens, the 3D effect could pave the way for innovative 3D games. 

Imagine peeking around corners in an FPS, or controlling a car by moving your head. Whether or not the fancy 3D screen will go beyond a curious gimmick remains to be seen, but we're giving Amazon points for standing out from the crowd nonetheless.

READ MORE: Eyes-on with The Eye Tribe: we play Fruit Ninja using nothing but our eyeballs

Dynamic Perspective

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

Amazon Fire Phone

You can, for example, scroll down a webpage simply by tilting the Fire. We can't personally see the advantage of such a gesture when we've got a perfectly good thumb to scroll through pages with more accuracy, but tilting the device to bring up supplemental information in maps is an example that does sound useful.

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 has released a Dynamic Perspective SDK which will enable developers to take advantage of all of these features. Here's to hoping they'll get onboard, because the Fire does have potential to be more than a gimmick. It just needs some clever coders to show us what it's really capable of.

Firefly

Firefly is the name Amazon's given to the Fire's powerful content recognition app. Pressing down the Fire's camera shutter button brings up the Firefly app, which is capable of recognising printed phone numbers, email addresses, URLS, QR and bar codes.

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.

And then of course, we have products. From books to DVDs, to video games and CDs, you can scan them instantly, before being whisked away directly to  the correct page on the Amazon store.

In essence, Firefly is an incredibly powerful Trojan Horse, designed to ensure that all roads lead you straight back into Amazon's world.

Useful? Absolutely. Dangerous? For compulsive shoppers - definitely.

More after the break...

Amazon through and through

There's plenty more Amazon services packed into the Fire. 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 (remember those?), who's happy to help you when you're stuck. 

They can even annotate your screen and take control of the Fire remotely. We'd buy a Fire for our non-tech savvy relatives for this one reason alone, as now they'll have someone else to bug. Result.

Don't forget the hardware

Amazon's 3D screen and software tricks almost overshadow the Fire's hardware, but that doesn't mean it's bad by any means.

On the outside, the Kindle Fire will remind you of the Google Nexus 4. It's slathered in Gorilla Glass on both sides, with a rubber bumper wrapping around its edges, embedded with aluminium volume and camera buttons.

The Fire also plays nice with 4G networks, and has dual stereo Dolby Digital Plus speakers, which promise a virtual surround sound experience, though our ears have yet to judge them in person.

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

The Fire is powered by Qualcomm's quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, matching the impressive specs of the LG G2.

It's not a bleeding edge phone in terms of raw specs, but Amazon's never tried to compete with the latest and greatest. 

Its approach is to provide its products with specs that are good enough for a pleasant user experience, and on paper, the Fire should be more than capable of doing just that.

404: Android not found

Well, sort of. The Fire is running Amazon's Fire OS v3.5, which is a very heavily modified version of Android.

It's so heavily modified in fact, that you won't even see a glimpse of Google's OS in use. 

The downside is that Google apps like Maps, Gmail and Chrome are all missing, as is the well-stocked Play Store.

Sure, Amazon's own app store has a fair amount of virtual goodies on its shelves, but it still doesn't offer the full category of the official Play Store.

Tech savvy suers can of course sideload apps, but if you're in it for the Google experience then this (as with all of Amazon's tablets) could very well be a deal breaker.

Price and release date

The Fire will ship in the US on 25 July, exclusively on AT&T, where the 32GB version will be available on a two-year contract for US$200. The same deal for the 64GB version bumps the price 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.

Sadly there's no word on release date, offers or prices for Malaysia, but we'll be sure to update this preview the moment the information comes through.

READ MORE: These are the best 10 smartphones in the world

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Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon Fire Phone
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