Slated to debut in late July, Amazon’s powerful Android-based smartphone uses multiple cameras to deliver 3D depth on its screen, and also offers the impressive-sounding Firefly feature that’ll help you get info about real-world items quickly (and, of course, buy them).
Curious about what to expect from this fresh handset? Here’s what you need to know.
1. It uses multiple front-facing cameras to create a 3D effect
The Fire Phone has four infrared cameras, one tucked away in each corner (plus a standard selfie-shooter up top), which track your head positioning to deliver what Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective. Essentially, it’s a 3D effect that adds the impression of depth to its images—rather than popping out graphics at you—which could come in handy when using maps, playing games, and even moving around the interface.
2. It offers an array of navigational gestures
Tilt-to-scroll has rarely worked as well as intended on other devices, but Amazon says it’s got it figured out with the Fire Phone. Additionally, you’ll be able to quickly tilt the device in different directions to pull up panels with additional UI elements. Hopefully these features prove as useful as promised, and not odd, burdensome, or just plain gimmicky.
3. The hardware is no slouch
With a quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM, the Fire Phone doesn’t come across like the mid-range device we might’ve expected from the value-conscious Amazon. In fact, power-wise it’s not far removed from the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 – indeed, it’s very similar in spec to last year’s flagship G2 and S4 devices.
Up front is a 4.7in HD display running at 1280×720 (315ppi) – no S5-aping 1080p display here, let alone a G3-quality 2K 2,560 x 1,440 one. It also sports LTE connectivity, and a 2400mAh battery.
4. Firefly labels the world around you (and helps you buy it)
Firefly is a new feature that uses the back camera to scan items in the world—objects, images, text, logos, phone numbers, etc.—and provide information about them on the fly, plus the ability, naturally, to buy them direct from Amazon. It leverages Amazon’s cloud computing power to provide the info quickly and efficiently, and even scrapes the image taken to glean only the most essential details (such as text) to complete the task. That way, it’s not constantly transmitting 2MB photos and sapping your data plan.
5. It has what sounds like a great camera—and unlimited cloud storage
With optical image stabilization built in, Amazon says the 13-megapixel shooter is better than both the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S, particularly in terms of low-light photos. The five-element, wide aperture lens should deliver decent photos even in poor light, and there’s a dedicated physical camera button to bring up the app within about a second. And forget iCloud restrictions—the Fire Phone offers unlimited online storage of your photos via Amazon Cloud Drive.
6. It supports Mayday for on-the-fly tech support
Got a question about your Fire Phone, its software, or maybe the Amazon ecosystem? Like the Kindle Fire HD tablets, the Fire Phone supports Mayday functionality for video support from one of Amazon’s trained specialists. Amazon says it’ll take an average of just 15 seconds to get someone on the line, and that it works over Wi-Fi, 3G, and LTE alike. You’ll never be lonely again.
7. It’s a media-centric device—and even the earbuds seem cool
Naturally, the Fire Phone is deeply embedded in Amazon’s media ecosystem, and it brings some really neat features, such as ASAP, which predicts which movies and TV shows you might want to watch and starts loading them up, as well as the second-screen X-Ray functionality seen on the Kindle Fire tablets. And the earbuds have a flat cable and magnetic buds that snap together when not in use, helping them avoid getting tangled in your pocket.
8. It’s launching in July, exclusively on AT&T
Now, the bad news. As expected, the Fire Phone will debut exclusively on AT&T in the United States, and it will be available on 25 July. The 32GB model sells for $199 (R2,135) with a two-year contract, while a 64GB version goes for $299 (R3,200). Without a service plan agreement, they sell for $649 (R7,000) and $749 (R8,060), respectively. No word yet on an international release at this time. Initial buyers will also receive a full year of Amazon’s Prime subscription service for free.