Tech News: Amazon Announces New Phone 'Fire'

  1. Amazon announces Fire Phone : First phone with head-tracking tech
    • 4.7 inch screen, Quad core 2.2GHz, Adreno 330 graphics, 2GB RAM.
    • Runs FireOS, a fork of Android.
    • Available on contract with AT&T for two years; starting $199
    • While the hardware is not exceptional, its ability to track user’s head is what makes it different from the rest.

      This is done through four corner-mounted, front-facing infrared cameras and produces wild 3D effects. But it’s not tradition 3D in the sense that images pop out the screen. The head tracking tech adds depth to the phone. It’s like looking down a street. But into your phone’s screen.

    • Using the head-tracking capability, Amazon built Dynamic Perspective, which allows a 3D image viewing experience in the phone. [Read more below]
    • Fire and Prime

      Amazon has built this phone for the Prime subscriber. Much like with the Fire TV, the Fire Phone will ship with a person’s Prime information already entered. The phone is, after all, all about selling more wares and Amazon is ensuring there are no barriers to entry for its best customers, those who subscribe to Prime. It also includes the personalized customer support service Mayday that debuted on the Kindle Fire.

    • Fire phone comes preloaed with a feature called ‘Firefly’ (read about it below).
    • 13MP campera. The quality of the photos compares with those from Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S (Read more about the camera below).
    • Comes loaded with popular music streaming apps : Spotify and Pandora. Not restricted to Amazon Prime Music
    • Mayday, which allows customers to interact with service agents over phone or video chat in just one-tap, is also available on Fire Phone

    • Mayday would make it easier for customers to work with unfamiliar features.
  2. Amazon Fire Phone’s Dynamic Perspective offers a new angle on smartphone displays
    • Amazon introduces a new way to experience a smartphone by using 3D effects.

      Instead of creating the illusion that an object is coming right for you, you’re given a, well, dynamic perspective on things. Look at a lockscreen picture of a forest, or egyptian ruins, and you’re given a chance to peer behind or around some of the objects on screen. For a more practical application, consider the maps: during the presentation, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tilted the phone to pan about the map, getting a better angle on details like a particular street’s name. Tilt the phone gently, and you’ll pull up Yelp info and reviews.

      Or maybe you like shopping – in one example, Bezos pulls up a line of dresses on Amazon, and tilts the phone to scroll through the stack. Reading more to your liking? Just tilt the phone to scroll up and down a web page or e-book. You can even set things to autoscroll at a deliberate pace, essentially putting your literature on cruise control – drop a thumb to pause i

    • Field of view of a single front-facing camera is too narrow to track user’s head
    • Fire Phone uses 4 cameras mounted on the corners to track head and eyes.
    • The company collected a lot of images of faces and applied machine learning to perfect the tracking capabilities.
    • Dynamic Perspective SDK is available
  3. Fire phone introduces ‘Firefly’
    • A feature that lets you identify things that you see in the real world.
    • You can also directly buy off using this.

      During the demonstration on stage, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed off how Firefly can be used to scan barcodes on items, a book cover, a CD and more. There’s a Shazam-like audio recognition component as well – Firefly can identify songs, and it can even listen to a show, and then let you access that specific scene on Amazon, which is a clever trick.
      Firefly can also recognize art, and then pull up the associated Wikpedia entry, something Apple’s Siri and Google Now can’t yet do.

      At launch, Firefly is capable of recognizing over 100 million items, said Bezos. That includes 245,000 movies and TV episodes, 160 live TV channels, 35 million songs and 70 million product

    • There is a dedicated button on the phone (besides the volume rocker) for Firefly! "Dedicated Firefly button"
    • Firefly looks like an extension of Flow, Amazon’s visual-recognition technology that used to reside in its own standalone mobile app.
    • When pointed at a sign board, it can identify the number (using image-to-text) and determine if a phone number doesn’t exist, or directly call/save the number on the sign board.
    • Firefly SDK will also be available, including text, audio and image recognizers, content databases and support for custom actions allowing developers to bend Firefly to their own personal needs.
    • MyFitnessPal created an app, using the SDK, to find the nutritional value of food item seen through the camera.
    • The ability to recognize objects/entities through the camera lens of a phone would significantly benefit Amazon as identification is the first step in the purchasing process.
  4. Fire phone’s camera and unlimited cloud storage, for free!
    • Amazon Fire Phone hosts a 13MP camera
    • Side-by-side shots show that the images are comparable to those from iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5. However, it’d be best to wait until more reviews pour in or try out yourself before commenting on the camera quality.
    • There’s a dedicated camera button, allowing users to jump to camera directly by clicking the button (without unlocking the phone or searching for the app)
    • One click opens the camera app, second takes a photo.
    • Unlimited storage on Amazon Cloud Drive

      Each Fire Phone comes with unlimited uploads and storage to Amazon Cloud Drive, for life, for free. There are no conditions on that offer, which makes it much more attractive than either the paid offering from Amazon (iCloud Photos) or Google’s Drive offerings, which also use paid tiers to limit how much you can upload at once.


Tech News’ is a series of articles where I attempt to share and summarize recent developments in technology (and the related industry) that interest, amaze and/or excite me. These would attempt to cover topics ranging from impressive apps to Google’s latest acquisition to jaw-dropping updates from SpaceX or Tesla Motors and much more.