An Early Look at the Amazon Fire Smartphone

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-07-21 Print this article Print

eWEEK recently received a hands-on demonstration of the Amazon Fire smartphone that AT&T will exclusively sell starting July 25. Priced at $199 with a two-year contract, the Fire might seem to be breaking the Amazon pattern of pricing hardware low and making up its profits on software and services down the road. However, that $199 is for a 32GB version (not the industry-standard 16GB). It also comes with a one-year Amazon Prime subscription, a value of $99 (if you already have Prime, Amazon will tack on another year) and unlimited cloud storage. Those details make the phone seem more ready to fight. However, whether the device can beat out those of competitors—or more exactly dominators Apple and Samsung—for consumer attention, is another matter. Amazon is making a solid effort, surely, with its Mayday 24/7/365 help service, Firefly technology, which identifies and helps people shop for more than 100 million things and what Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective—technology that enables users to, among other things, navigate the phone with a wrist jerk, turn pages with their eyes and play games by moving their heads. Have a look for yourself.

  • An Early Look at the Amazon Fire Smartphone

    by Michelle Maisto
    1 - An Early Look at the Amazon Fire Smartphone
  • Meet the Amazon Fire

    The Fire smartphone has a 4.7-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS), LCD HD display with "Dynamic Image Contrast" technology that makes for a great outdoor viewing experience. It also allows, in some instances, for a 3D-like experience.
    2 - Meet the Amazon Fire
  • Amazon Fire OS

    The Fire runs the Android-based Fire OS, which will be familiar to anyone who has used a Kindle Fire HD X tablet. On the tablet, a user swipes horizontally between most-used or favorite app icons. On the smartphone, Amazon has done one better, adding related content below the icon.
    3 - Amazon Fire OS
  • Icon Carousel

    Here is another view of the icon carousel, with related information below it, as well as typical bottom-of-the-phone fare: icons for email, messages, the phone and the browser (Amazon's Silk browser).
    4 - Icon Carousel
  • Lightweight Materials

    The Fire is made of plastic. While very light, it doesn't make for an expensive feel—which may not be what Amazon's biggest fans are after anyway.
    5 - Lightweight Materials
  • In Profile

    On the phone's right side are up and down volume buttons and a third button that brings up the camera. Keep that camera button depressed, and Firefly is turned on.
    6 - In Profile
  • Firefly in Action

    It's clear that Firefly is doing its work when little firefly-like lights begin to swarm an object and identify it, whether it's a box of lemon drops, a Spiderman DVD or a business card. In this case, Firefly grabbed the details and saved them to the user's Contacts.
    7 - Firefly in Action
  • Firefly in Action

    In the instance of the lemon drops, Firefly recognized what the box was and then made suggestions about what a user might want to do next—share the image, get nutrition information or go to its Amazon page.
    8 - Firefly in Action
  • The Ultimate Shopper

    Choose the latter option, and you can add the item to your Amazon cart or buy it with a single click.
    9 - The Ultimate Shopper
  • Dynamic Perspective

    The 3D-like features the phone makes possible include uses like adding more texture, or context to maps.
    10 - Dynamic Perspective
  • One-Handed Gestures

    An Amazon representative said a big goal was to keep map results looking "clean." A user can search for something—for example, coffee, as we did here—and see dots for locations.
    11 - One-Handed Gestures
  • Getting the Most From Maps

    With a little flick of the wrist, however, those dots can offer up additional information. (The details slide out like a drawer.)
    12 - Getting the Most From Maps
  • A Win for Game Developers--and Gamers

    The software development kit behind Dynamic Perspective has been shared with developers. So the same sensors that enable things like automatic scrolling, while a user is reading (the sensors watch where your eyes are on the page) can make possible fun games like this one, where the on-screen snowboarder moves with the user's head. A jerk of the chin (a more natural gesture than it sounds) makes the snowboarder jump.
    13 - A Win for Game Developers--and Gamers
  • One-Handed Gestures

    The same wrist-flick gesture used in Maps has perks on the Home screen. Flick left, and information relevant to the moment (calendar info, weather, etc.) is listed.
    14 - One-Handed Gestures
  • One-Handed Gestures

    Flick your wrist to the right, and a menu is opened up.
    15 - One-Handed Gestures
  • Amazon Fire in Summary

    Analysts expect the Fire will have a niche following of people who are big Amazon users. There are also perks for Amazon TV owners, as videos can be "flicked" from the phone toward a TV and begin playing. For anyone who's not a major fan of Apple, doesn't have a strong alliance to straight-up Android (the Fire does run Android apps), is a Prime subscriber and likes the idea of saving $99, the Fire is worth considering.
    16 - Amazon Fire in Summary

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