Amazon has introduced a new smartphone that will be closely tied to the products and services it sells, while adding such touches as the ability to render images in 3D. It was announced
Wednesday and will start shipping next month.
Here are some details on the new Fire phone:
1. Audio and object recognition
With a new Firefly feature, snap a photo of a book, and it'll show you where to buy it. Listen to a song playing in the background, and it'll direct you to that tune on Amazon. It can even direct you to knowledge, such as pulling up a Wikipedia entry on a painting you snapped. The feature will also let you snap bar codes, email addresses, phone numbers and more.
This concept isn't entirely new. Sony, for instance, has a tool for getting information over the Internet by snapping a bar code or a landmark. Firefly goes further, though, by incorporating audio recognition.
2. 3D images
You can rotate the phone and get a different view depending on your angle of vision. CEO Jeff Bezos calls this "dynamic perspective" and said the phone is basically redrawing the image 60 times per second. To make that happen, the phone has four front-facing infrared cameras to tell where your head is, even if your fingers happen to cover two of them.
You can use this feature, for instance, to get front and back views of a dress you are thinking of buying. You can take a character's viewpoint in games by moving your head to look around.
3. Taking photos
Beyond the four infrared cameras, there's a regular, 2-megapixel camera on the front for selfies and a 13-megapixel camera on the back. That's standard for phones these days.
The rear camera has image stabilization to counteract shaking as people take shots, something available in other phones as well.
Amazon is offering unlimited free storage of photos taken with the Fire on its Cloud Drive service.
4. Other details
At 4.7-inches, as measured diagonally, the screen is smaller than leading Android phone, but larger than Apple's iPhone. Bezos calls the Fire's screen ideal for one-handed use.
The phone will come with earbuds that have flat cords and magnets to clasp them together, so tangled cords will be history.
There's an auto-scroll feature that lets you scroll down website articles or books by tilting the phone. Samsung's Galaxy phones have that, too.
AT&T will be the exclusive carrier. The phone will be available July 25. People can start ordering them Wednesday at $200 for a base model with 32 gigabytes and $300 for 64 gigabytes. Both require two-year service contracts.
The phone comes with 12 months of Prime membership, which is normally $99 a year. Existing Prime members will get their term extended.
6. Not a first
Facebook once tried to release a phone tied to its services. The HTC First, released in April 2013, came with Facebook's Home software, which takes over the phone's front screen to present status updates, messages and other content. Both the phone and the software flopped.
Google also has its own phones under the Nexus brand, mostly to showcase its Android operating system. Google makes Android available for free for any phone manufacturer to use and modify. That makes it difficult to know what's really Android and what's a modification.