Amazon takes wraps off Fire smartphone

Amazon takes wraps off Fire smartphone; AT&T confirmed as exclusive partner

19 JUN 2014

Amazon announced its much-anticipated smartphone, Fire, featuring a display which shows three-dimensional images that responds to movement, along with image, text and audio recognition.

The ‘Dynamic Perspective’ technology uses four low-power specialised cameras and four infrared LEDs built into the front of the device to detect the position of the user’s head relative to the device. A dedicated processor and real-time computer vision algorithm then adjusts the image accordingly.

The technology allows apps and games to be more immersive. For example, the Amazon Shopping app will allow users to get a full view of an item of clothing, while players can move their head to look around corners and obstacles.

In addition, it enables one-handed gestures such as auto-scroll when reading, swivel, tilt and peek. For example, tilting in Amazon Music will display song lyrics, while a swivel gesture reveals quick actions.

Ian Fogg, head of mobile at analyst firm IHS Technology, said that while the technical features of Fire are impressive, they didn’t represent a game changer to drive adoption.

The other distinctive feature of Fire is the Firefly button, which provides image, text and audio recognition for web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, movies, music, and more than 100 million other products (potentially giving a major boost to Amazon’s online sales).

The company has made software development kits available for both Dynamic Perspective and Firefly, to allow developers to develop new functionality on top of the technology.

Fire runs a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor, has a 4.7-inch screen, a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera and 2.1 megapixel front-facing sensor, and supports nine LTE bands. It is available with 32GB or 64GB of storage and uses Amazon’s latest forked version of Android, Fire OS 3.5.0.

Like the Kindle Fire tablet range before it, the smartphone provides access to the e-commerce company’s content ecosystem, including more than 33 million songs, apps, games, movies, TV shows and books.

Fire includes a Mayday button, for quick advice from an Amazon expert; ASAP, which predicts content users may want to view and prepares for instant playback; X-Ray, which provides more information on content; and Second Screen which provides the capability of sending TV shows and movies to the Fire TV device.

It was confirmed that AT&T will start as an exclusive operator partner for Fire when it ships on 25 July. The 32GB version will be priced at $199 with a two-year contract, while the 64GB version will cost $299.

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere criticised the previously-rumoured exclusivity deal for being anti-competitive, while noting the failure of AT&T’s exclusive deal for the HTC First, the first smartphone to feature the Facebook Home interface.

IHS Technology’s Ian Fogg said the launch pricing puts Fire in direct competition with Apple and Samsung and expects the price to be reduced “within months”.

“This is a high risk launch price strategy which is unsustainable for a smartphone market entrant. Simply having a well-known brand on the box is not enough to sell smartphones as Nokia and Motorola know well,” Fogg noted.

He added that launching with a single operator in one market means Fire will be less attractive for third-party app developers wanting to build apps for the device’s differentiating features. Amazon will either need to accept this, or pay developers to produce apps, raising its costs, Fogg said.


Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

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