Amazon's long-awaited smartphone is finally here, and sticking to tradition, the company's named it "Fire". Many of the rumors surrounding the device over the past month have proven true, such as the four cameras at the front, and its AT&T exclusivity.
Admittedly, the hardware strikes me as the least-interesting part of Fire, so let's tackle that first. Under the phone's 4.7-inch display (1280x720) is a 2.2GHz Snapdragon quad-core SoC and 2GB of RAM, plus support for LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth. It includes a 2400mAh battery, a 13 megapixel camera at the rear, and a 2.1 megapixel camera at the front.
For the Fire, it's the software that will help it stand out of the crowd. For starters, the four "low-powered" front cameras help power "Dynamic Perspective", a feature that will allow your head movements to control on-screen content. This could be used in apps to access certain areas quicker, or in games. Assuring that this is a feature developers will take advantage of, an SDK for the feature is being released today.
Also unique here is the dedicated "Firefly" button, one that will help you take information from the real-world and do something with it on your phone. For example, an email address on a poster could be scanned and interpreted by the phone so that you could send an email, and you can probably guess to its uses involving music, movies, TV shows, and other static information like QR codes, website URLs, and bar codes. Like Dynamic Perspective, Amazon is today releasing an SDK for Firefly.
Amazon's bundling other interesting services or features on the Fire as well. Mayday, for example, is an on-demand help service, quickly connecting you to a live Amazon employee who will help you solve any problem on the device. Amazon claims its response time averages at 15 seconds, which is undoubtedly impressive. More impressive though might be the fact that the service is available 24/7/365, and is free.
ASAP is another unique feature, and it stands for "Advanced Streaming and Prediction". As it sounds, the service will predict what you're going to watch next, and will pre-load them so that you don't have to wait. I can see it now: It's going to queue up Groundhog Day immediately after I watch Groundhog Day, I can feel it.
Other features include X-Ray, which adds a number of capabilities to books, music, and video. While watching a TV show, for example, using X-Ray could reveal information on IMDB, like trivia and other bits of useful information. Own a Fire TV? You'll no doubt like the Second Screen option, which allows you to "fling" content off of the Fire and onto the Fire TV.
Cloud storage is huge, so it's no surprise that Amazon has bundled in a related feature somehow. Here, the company is allowing people to store an unlimited number of photos taken with the device on its servers. This will be especially useful to those who end up losing their device, or simply didn't keep backups. It's important to note that this service is for photos only, and not video.
If you like what Fire offers, it can be yours starting on July 25. Exclusive to AT&T, it's being priced at $199 for a 32GB model under a 2-year contract (a great price given 16GB is the norm at the price-range), while a 64GB model will be available for $299. Those not interested in shelling out that much cash at once will have the option to go with a payment plan: $27.09/mo for 24 months for the 32GB model, or $31.25/mo for the 64GB. Either of these plans would allow you to upgrade to a new smartphone after 18 months. Spending five bucks more on either of these payment plans will reduce the total number of months to 20, and allow you to upgrade after only 12 months.
Given all that the Fire offers, I can honestly say that Amazon could be hitting the ball out of the park here. Some might hate the lack of a 1080p screen, but it's a relatively small hit given all of the features the device ships with. If this launch model takes-off, there's little doubt that other variants will come in time.
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