After much speculation, Amazon announced its new Fire smartphone, which features a comfortable and durable design, innovative 3D-like display and a new way of using the camera to identify – and then purchase anything. The new Fire Phone will be available, on July 25, 2014, for $199 on AT&T, to test out its new features.
Design: Similar to the iPhone 4S, the front and back of the Fire phone is swathed in Gorilla Glass 3. The sides, though covered in a soft-touch material, are angled at the corners, which makes the phone comfortable to hold. Measuring 5.5 x 2.6 x 0.35 inches, the Fire is skinnier than the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, which are 2.8 and 2.9 inches wide, respectively. The Fire phone weighs 5.64 ounces and is heavier than the S5 (5.1 ounces) and the One M8′s 5.6 ounce design.
Display: The 4.7-inch display on the Fire phone may only be 720p, below that of the 1080p panels found on other flagship devices; but it’s exceptionally bright. If it lives up to Amazon’s claim of 590 nits, the Fire phone would be more than 200 nits brighter than our smartphone average (352 nits), as well as the iPhone 5s (470 nits) and the HTC One M8 (402 nits).
Dynamic Perspective Display: It’s something that you need to see to believe. Amazon took the parallax feature on the iPhone 5s to a whole new level. Using four cameras on each corner of the phone, the Fire phone tracks your head and eye movements to re-draw images and icons on the display, so the images really shift around when you move the phone.
This feature also lets you change the view of landmarks in the maps app, to give people a better sense of what a city they’re unfamiliar with looks like. Ultimately, the success of this feature will depend on how many third-party developers use it in innovative ways.
Advanced Camera System: Fire phone features a custom-tuned 13 megapixel camera system, with a fast five-element wide aperture f/2.0 lens for crisp, beautiful images. With optical image stabilization, Fire phone keeps the shutter open up to four times longer for stunning shots, even in low light conditions.
Gestures: You can tilt and twist the phone certain ways to bring up different menus. For instance, by rotating the phone quickly to the left will bring up quick settings, while angling it to the right or left will cause side menus to appear. And you are able to scroll through long documents by tilting the phone up or down.
The more you tilt, the faster it scrolls. You can also swipe on the screen to perform all these actions as well, but Amazon’s hope is that these gestures will seem more natural.
User Interface: Based on Android 4.2.2, Fire OS 3.5 has some nice features that set it apart from iOS and Android. The UI has a three-panel philosophy; at any time, you can flick (or gesture) in from the right or left to open contextual menus.
The Smart Widgets let you view pertinent information from an app without opening it. For example, if the icon for the camera app is at the top of the screen, small thumbnails for recent photos appear below. Select one, and the app will open. The Calendar app shows upcoming appointments, while the Mail app displays recent messages, which you can delete with a swipe.
Firefly Technology: The new Fire phone is designed to help you buy stuff more easily from the company, and Firefly is a new and, novel way of making that happen. Long-press the camera button and the Firefly app will open. Point it at pretty much any object, and little stars will appear on screen – it’s a kind of magic, you see–and Firefly will not only identify the object, but provide links to buy it from Amazon. However, Amazon is letting other developers in on the action. The coolest part of Firefly is its music and movie recognition.
Conclusion: Innovation features in the Amazon new Fire phone will certainly attract many smartphone users. However, the success of the Fire will ride on two things: apps and battery life. Amazon has the first down, but will the Fire’s 2,400-mAh battery stand up to the rigors of an ultra-bright display, four cameras constantly in use, and streaming audio?