Welcome to the future. A future where everything around you is available for purchase, and your phone never stops watching you.
This is the future promised by Amazon and their new Fire Phone, revealed this morning by CEO Jeff Bezos at a live event in Seattle. If you’re on the AT&T network in the United States, this future will shortly be made available for $199 on a two-year contract. Everyone else, for better or worse, will have to wait.
I wasn’t able to get an invite to Amazon’s livestream, so I made to with this liveblog from The Verge. If I ended up getting any of this wrong blame them, not me.
- Gorilla Glass 3 with a rubber frame. Also glass on the back.
- 4.7-inch screen. “The perfect size for one-handed use.”
- 590 nits (?) brightness, circular polarizer enabling wide-angle viewing outside with sunglasses.
- Quad-core, 2.2GHz processor, Adreno 330 graphics. 2GB of RAM.
- 13MP rear camera with f/2.0 lens and optical image stabilization.
- Unlimited photo storage from Amazon
- Dual-stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus virtual surround sound.
- “No-tangle” magnetic earbuds with flat cables.
- $199 on a two-year term, 0 down and $27/month with AT&T Next.
- Amazon Prime included free for 12 months.
- Pre-orders start today, ships July 25th.
As with previous Amazon tablets (which apparently have sold in the “tens of millions”) this new device from Amazon was made to make it easier for you to buy more stuff from Amazon. So expect deep integration with Amazon TV and Amazon Music Prime.
But wait, there’s more…
An app called Firefly is basically a scanner on steroids. It goes far beyond translating 2D and 3D bar codes; by pressing a dedicated button on the side of the phone you can basically point it at anything and, ultimately, be presented with the listing for said thing on Amazon.
There’s a bit more to it than that, but the examples given on stage this morning were mostly about analyzing music or pointing your Fire Phone at your TV screen and getting high-level information about what your watching—plot synopses, cast info… and don’t forget that Amazon DVD listing!
One nice thing about Firefly is that is scrapes images and uploads only what it needs to Amazon’s cloud servers for analysis.
But wait, there’s more…
This is what Amazon calls their brand-new 3D interface for the Fire Phone. The home screen, lock screen and apps—like maps and certain games—change perspective as you move your head and/or the device. In addition, you can interact with your device by tilting it. The obvious example is auto-scrolling through a web page or ebook. Yes, Samsung did this on the Galaxy S4, but apparently Amazon does it better.
Here’s the part that’s either scary-cool or just plain scary. The Fire Phone has a total of four front-facing cameras tirelessly devoted to figuring out who you are, where you are, how far your face is from the screen and what it is that you’re trying to do in that particular moment. The data that these cameras capture is directly uploaded to Amazon’s servers for analysis—facial recognition, sharing with the NSA, that type of thing.
Also, this quartet of cameras has infrared, so they can “see you” even in the dark.
So that’s Amazon’s Fire Phone. More details, hands-on videos, etc. are being posted as I write this, so check some of that out then come back here and discuss.