Amazon Unveils Fire Phone With HD Display Optimized for Outdoor Reading

Amazon Fire, incorporates unexpected twists—two sensor technologies, FireFly and Dynamic Perspective—as well as expected features like the Mayday service.

Amazon Fire

As anticipated, Amazon introduced its first smartphone, the Fire, at a June 18 press event in Seattle.

The Fire features a 4.7-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD HD display, "optimized for one-handed use," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera with an f/2.0 five-element lens and unlimited photo storage in the Amazon cloud, a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, an Adreno 330 graphics processor, 2GB of RAM, dual stereo speakers and virtual surround sound.

Added to these is a long list of items that received intense amounts of attention.

"We obsessed over the chamfer on the USB connectors," said Bezos. The display has a "circular polarizer" that allows for optimal viewing outdoors in bright sunlight. Amazon "lavished" attention on the Fire to optimize it for reading, and the earbuds, which have flat cables, were specially designed not to tangle.

There are also all the other expected ways that Amazon has set itself up to add a smartphone to its ecosystem. The Mayday service Amazon introduced on the Kindle Fire HDX is included free, Fire users will be able to "fling" video from their phone to their Fire TV, and there's access to the Prime Music store Amazon introduced last week—more than 1 million songs, all free and without ads for Amazon Prime members. (All the expected rival streaming-music services are also supported.)

There were also some unexpected features.

Bezos introduced FireFly, which is prompted with the press of a dedicated button on the phone's side and uses sensors to identify things—from art to music to a jar of Nutella—and order it.

And finally, making the big reveal we've all been waiting for, Bezos showed off "Dynamic Perspective"—3D-like capabilities made possible, thanks to sensors on the Fire's top corners.

When Bezos pulled up a map of New York, he tilted the phone and the Empire State Building popped up, as though on a 3D model. Moving the phone in this way, the user is treated to new details, whether viewing a map or a catalog of dresses, as Bezos did during the demo, tilting the phone to make ladies in summer frocks hurry past.

It also opens up tremendous potential for gaming. To get developers taking advantage of this, Amazon is immediately making available software development kits (SDKs) for Dynamic Perspective, as well as Firefly.

Fire's interface is similar to the Fire HDX's, with its line of "hero icons," though there are "active widgets" below them that, for example, show you the first few new emails you have, without your having to tap the email icon. There's also a tab to move between content stored on the device and in the cloud.

The Fire is now available to preorder. With a two-year contract, AT&T will sell a 16GB model for $199 and a 64GB model for $299.

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