By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated June 18, 2014.
It's out. After substantial teasing by Amazon and speculation by observers, the retail giant has released the Fire Smartphone, featuring head tracking capability.
At a launch event Wednesday in Seattle, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos described the new device as the phone created for the Amazon Prime customer. It is the fourth in the company's line of new, branded hardware devices, following the e-reader, tablet and TV set-top box.
Using its four, built-in, front-facing corner infrared cameras, the user's head can be tracked so that, according to witnesses, the phone's screen appears to be a kind of window because its perspective changes as your head does.
A 3D graphic generating software called Dynamic Perspective operates at 60 frames per second and can allow on-screen elements to be seen under others, such as graphics under icons. Amazon is describing the 3D functionality as Dynamic Perspective.
The Amazon Fire phone features a 4.7-inch IPS screen, a 13-megapixel camera with image stabilization, a quad-core 2.2 GHz processor, 2 GB memory, and unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive. The phone is priced at $199 for 32 GB or $299 for 64 GB of internal storage with a two-year contract from AT&T. For a limited time, a one-year subscription to Amazon Prime will be included free. The phone is immediately available for pre-order, with delivery July 25.
Targeted for the Amazon Prime user, the Fire will have a user's Prime billing and shipping data pre-entered when the new device arrives. Amazon Prime normally is a $99 per year subscription service that provides free two-day shipping on products and access to streaming music, TV shows or movies.
Additionally, as some predicted, the new phone comes with the customer support service called Mayday. Initially offered on the Kindle Fire tablet, Mayday is a virtual button that calls up a live video support service to answer any questions. Amazon says the response time to get a service rep on the Kindle Fire has been under 15 seconds.
Another new feature, Firefly, uses camera imaging to detect phone numbers, movies, books, games, music, URLs, QR codes, household products or food, and is designed to enable purchasing of real world products. One application mentioned at Amazon's launch event: point the phone at food, and, through an interface with the calorie counting app MyFitnessPal, it can show nutritional value of the dish. A physical button on the side of the device is specifically for Firefly, and the phone tracks all items that have previously been recognized.
Firefly can also help with certain files, such as calling up Wikipedia entries about recognized art or detecting music from a show and directing the user to the Amazon video product containing that scene. It also can recognize dialog from movies and TV shows and pull up relevant information about the cast, a TV series and reviews. Amazon said Firefly can recognize about 100 million items, which can be interfaced with outside apps through the company's newly released software development kit.
Other features include screencasting if you have the Amazon TV set-top box. It allows the phone's screen content to be sent to a nearby TV screen, essentially a kind of built-in version of Google's Chromecast. Another function, called ASAP, is intended to predict what video the user wants to watch next, pre-loading it in the background for faster access.