Date: Thursday, June 19th, 2014, 08:17
Category: Amazon, Android, Announcement, Features, Mobile Phone
On Wednesday, Amazon introduced the latest iPhone competitor, the Fire Phone which boasts a number of unique features. First up is the Dynamic Perspective feature which gives users a 3D perspective view of items on a map or within a game. The same technology allows you to tilt, auto-scroll, swivel, and peek to navigate menus and access shortcuts with one hand. These functions are controlled by its four forward facing cameras located in the four corners of the handset. This allows two cameras to track the user’s head regardless of the position in which the phone is held. Imbedded infrared sensors allow the feature to be used in complete darkness.
Next up is Firefly, Amazon’s equivalent to Shazam for everything you can buy as well as other information. Point the Fire Phone’s 13 MP rear-facing camera at a book or an item in a magazine, and Firefly will return results about the item that may be important such as where to buy it, or bring up a celebrity’s IMDB entry. Firefly can also read telephone numbers and give you the option of calling or saving the information. It’s a little like what Google Googles was supposed to be, but mainly for media and text.
Another key feature is Mayday, a term used primarily in radio communications to indicate distress, which allows you to instantly call up an Amazon tech support agent to walk you through any problems you might be having with the phone. I’ve read that this feature is already on the Kindle Fire, but this was the first I’d heard of it. You can get a glimpse of the feature being used in Amazon’s customer response video, which shows a live webcam image of your helper in the corner. The agent can then walk you through the steps needed or actually take remote control of your phone and show you what you need to do to solve your issue. I’m sure a lot of questions about security will come up around that feature. Should a phone really be so difficult to use that it needs to have built in live support?
All of this, and its additional features, is powered by the Fire OS (listed as 3.5.0 currently) which is based on Android and adds, “cloud services, a content-forward user interface, built-in media libraries, productivity apps, and platform enhancements to integrate Amazon’s digital content and improve performance”. As part of the initial release of the Fire Phone, Amazon is also including one free year of Prime services, including the recently announced Prime Music, or tacking on an extra year free for current subscribers.
The phone launches exclusively in the U.S. on AT&T July 25 and starts at $649 contract-free with a 32-gigabyte capacity, or $199 with a two-year service contract. A 64-gigabyte model will also be available for $749 off-contract, or $299 with a contract. Preorders are available now from Amazon’s web site. Amazon even offers the option to trade in your current device for a gift card at the same time.
There is a lot that looks good, but we won’t know for sure if it’s all that it’s cracked up to be until they start winding up in customers’ hands. I anticipate there could be some issues with the 3D perspective and one handed flip and tilt navigation features just from viewing the video. So, what do you think? Will you drop your iPhone or other Android device to get your hands on one of these? Do you think the Mayday feature will be useful, or will people be too embarrassed to use it? What do you think is a real killer feature and not just some gimmicky razzle-dazzle? Let us know in the comments or on the Facebook page.