THE NEW PHONE THAT WANTS TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU BUY
ALL THE RUMOURS WERE corect. Amazon did, indeed, have a smartphone up it sleeve and, despite repeatedly denying its existence, the firm’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, took to the stage in Seattle to reveal the Fire Phone.
It certainly burns bright, with a 4.7-inch IPS LCD display and four front cameras, one on each corner, that create a 3D-style effect on screen, using your head as an input. It’s what Amazon is dubbing “Dynamic Perspective”, with the handset tracking your face’s position and altering the appearance of games and apps to add faux depth. Whether it’s an innovation or gimmick, we’ll have to wait and see.
Out back is a further 13-megapixel camera with both optical image stabilisation and a f/2.0 lens – the widest aperture of any phone on the market. There’s a 2.2GHz quadcore processor, 2GB of RAM to keep things ticking over, a dedicated Adreno 330 graphics chip, plus built-in dual stereo speakers with virtual surround sound from Dolby Digital Plus. Amazon also adds to the 32-64GB internal storage by throwing in free, unlimited cloud space for photos and 1080p videos. Very nice.
However, it’s not raw specs that have attracted the most attention, it’s the operating system. Once again, like its Kindle Fire tablets before it, Amazon runs a reskinned version of Android and, once again, it’s a completely walled garden, locking out Google Play and only letting you purchase bespoke apps. Now, while 240,000 apps to choose from may sound like a lot, the much-maligned Windows Phone has 255,000, and it’s a truly miniscule haul compared to the million-plus platforms of Google and Apple. But it has basics like Facebook, so it depends on your demands.
While you can’t buy Android apps, the Fire Phone encourages you to splash the cash on everything else. The new Firefly feature is basically a sidekick to an online spending spree: take a photo of any real-world object and Amazon searches its databases for a price and the option to buy it. It can also use Shazam-like powers to recognise films, TV shows and music, before offering you info from IMDB, the option to buy, download or stream from Amazon, or affiliates such as StubHub.
It’s all incredibly user-friendly, of course, with the same Home carousel seen on the Fire tablets, but if you do run into distress the Mayday video call helpline is available via Wi-Fi and 3G. It also comes with LTE, NFC and Bluetooth – not LE, though, so you can’t sync smartwatches or fitness bands.
Crafted from sleek aluminium and Gorilla Glass, with a spec that stands firm against rivals, the Fire Phone is certainly a bold first move from Amazon. In many ways, you could say it’s the ultimate consumer phone. from US$649 off contract, Amazon.com, out july 25 in us
Fire it up: Amazon’s tablets and set-top now have a brand new smartphone cousin