Price, release date, Firefly and 3D
The 4.7-inch smartphone company is Jeff Bezos and Co.'s attempt to put its etail services into consumers pockets, but the phone has a number of tech tricks up its sleeves that may make it a smartphone contender.
We've rounded up the eight things you'll want to know first about the Amazon phone right here.
Let's get the bad news out of the way right up front: Despite endless rumors that Amazon would subsidize some or all of the hardware or data costs for members of its annual Prime service, Fire Phone starts at $199 (about UK£117, AU$212) for 32GB - and that price requires a two-year agreement with exclusive carrier AT&T.
AT&T Next customers can also from two plans with no annual contract, no activation fee and no down payment starting at $27.09 per month with a 24-month installment agreement and the option to upgrade (with qualified trade-in) after 18 monthly payments.
While 32GB is a nice doubling of storage capacity compared to something like the base model iPhone 5Swith 16GB, the news gets worse for shoppers hoping to avoid contracts entirely, which will require shelling out $649 (about UK£382, AU$691) up front. (In either case, a 64GB model is also available for $100 more.)
On the plus side, for a limited time each Fire Phone comes with a full year of Amazon Prime, which normally costs $99 per year - and yes, that includes current members, who will get an additional year tacked on for good measure.
2. Release date
For US customers, Fire Phone is available to preorder starting today from Amazon's website, but the device won't land in the hands of early adopters until Friday, July 25.
Although there's no word yet on when Fire Phone will be available internationally, Amazon confirmed the handset is ready for international roaming; new apps or music can be purchased abroad with a US credit card, although movies and TV shows can't be steamed outside of the 50 states.
Fire Phone comes with a dedicated Firefly button on the left-hand side, which can be pressed whenever the user wants to identify something, such as a song playing on the radio, the movie or TV show currently being watched or even one of more than 70 million products sold by Amazon, including household items and packaged media such as video games, DVDs and CDs.
But Firefly is more than just a shopaholic's best friend: The technology can also be used to scan web or email addresses, phone numbers, QR or bar codes and more, and Firefly enabled apps such as iHeartRadio or StubHub bring the fun to third-party content as well.
Amazon touts Firefly's ability to recognize 245,000 movies and TV episodes plus 160 live television channels, as well as 35 million songs from the Amazon Music catalog; the company's IMDb service will also power X-Ray, which is capable of providing second screen information on actors, synopsis and more.
4. Dynamic Perspective
Remember all those wild rumors that Amazon was working on a smartphone capable of displaying glasses-free 3D? Fire Phone instead comes with "a custom-designed sensor system" called Dynamic Perspective, which responds to how the user holds, views or moves the device.
In addition to offering a more immersive experience for apps and games, Dynamic Perspective offers a variety of one-handed shortcuts - no more tapping around with mere fingers, because menus and shortcuts can be called up without touching the screen.
For example, a tilt of the device calls up left or right panels for navigating menus, while a swivel action jumps directly to notifications; auto-scroll makes it easy to keep reading endlessly, while peek declutters the screen and enables quick actions when needed.
Mayday, apps, hardware and more
First introduced with the Kindle Fire HDX line, Amazon's award-winning, on-device customer service Mayday is also integrated into the Fire Phone, promising free, live tech support within 15 seconds or less, no appointment required and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long.
As part of Amazon's exclusive partnership with AT&T, Mayday support will also extend to the carrier's 4G LTE cellular network, although normal data charges will apply, so better to keep those Mayday sessions to a minimum when Wi-Fi isn't available.
Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos went to great lengths during the launch event to tout the Fire Phone's more capable camera system, which apparently puts rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 (which produces images too blurry) and even the iPhone 5s (too noisy) to shame.
That's because Fire Phone has a feature both of those lack: Optical image stabilization, which works with the custom-tuned 13 megapixel image sensor to produce "crisp, beautiful images" as well as "stunning 1080p" HD video, according to Amazon's hype machine.
Perhaps more importantly, the dedicated Firefly button on the side of the handset also doubles as a quick-launch trigger for the camera, ready to fire off shots in as little as one second.
If that doesn't impress, Amazon is also throwing in free, unlimited cloud storage for full-resolution photos taken with the Fire Phone, with automatic video backup to Amazon Cloud Drive so you'll finally be able to take advantage of that 5GB of free cloud storage.
7. Apps & games
To the surprise of virtually no one, Fire Phone is once again a gated community offering Amazon's own built-in apps (which now includes Messaging, Maps, Weather and more) as well as more than 240,000 titles available from the Amazon Appstore. (Contrary to overly ambitious rumors, there's no Google Play Store to be found here.)
The good news is that favorites such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Pinterest, Instagram, Pandora, Netflix and Whatsapp are all present and accounted for, and Amazon continues to offer a free app every single day, which will certainly help new Fire Phone owners build up a library on the cheap.
Impressive Dynamic Perspective sensor system aside, Amazon hasn't skimped on the rest of the Fire Phone hardware, packing a zippy 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB RAM inside, along with Adreno 330 graphics for fluid video and gaming playback.
Those chips power a 4.7-inch HD "ultra-bright" display said to be readable indoors or out, along with enough juice for 22 hours of talk time, 285 hours of standby, 65 hours of audio or 11 hours of video playback.
Fire Phone also comes equipped with nine LTE bands, four GSM bands and five UMTS bands capable of international roaming along with 802.11ac wireless, NFC and Bluetooth support.
On the audio front, Fire Phone includes a pair of Dolby Digital Plus-infused speakers along with a premium, tangle-free headset touted as both "ergonomically designed and technically tuned for amazing sound."
Will the Amazon Fire Phone be enough to snuff out the current inferno of smartphone heavyweights, let alone the presumably white-hot iPhone 6 when it arrives later this year? We'll have to wait until July 25 to find out.
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