AMA­ZON'S FIRESTARTER

THE NEW PHONE THAT WANTS TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU BUY

Australian T3 - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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