Amazon.com made its boldest move yet into the electronics hardware business
by entering the fiercely competitive smartphone market earlier this month with the release of the Amazon Fire Phone.
The Amazon smartphone is suited with top-of-the-line components and priced to compete with other high-end devices. The Fire Phone is a perfectly capable gadget, but it isn't so remarkable that Apple or Android owners will jump ship. At best, the device is a convenient choice for devout Amazon shoppers, but at worst, it's just another fish in a sea of smartphones.
The Amazon Fire Phone looks like an oversized black iPhone with front and back glass panels, curved corners, and a narrow, rectangular build. But it diverges in a couple of ways. The Fire Phone has rubber side edges, prominently features the Amazon logo on its back and it includes a speaker on both its top and bottom sides for stereo sound -- a rarity among smartphones.
But the Fire Phone's most distinguishable feature is its four infrared LED sensors located on each corner of its front panel. These "ultra-low power specialized cameras," as Amazon calls them, work together to detect where a user's head is relative to the phone. Amazon calls this feature Dynamic Perspective, and it's used to add 3-D effects to the device's interface as well as give users another way to control their gadget. For example, with the photo app, users can prompt the Fire Phone to display the date of each picture and video by moving their head to the left or right of the device. Third-party developers can also implement Dynamic Perspective into their apps, and some already have. In the video game "Lili," users can look around the 3-D world by moving their faces around the screen in real life. It's a neat feature, but it's very gimmicky. Unless more developers find useful ways to implement it into their apps, most users will likely forget Dynamic Perspective exists.
Another unique feature on the Amazon Fire Phone is called Firefly. It uses the device's camera and microphone to detect text, products, movies, TV shows and music. The feature is activated by holding down the camera button on the left side of the device. Once on, users point the phone at whatever they want to detect. You can aim it at a business card to add a phone or email address to the phone rather than typing it out; using Firefly while watching a TV show will pull information from IMDB.com; and if you aim Firefly at a product, the Fire Phone will call up the Amazon Web page for the item, making it easier for you to buy it. (continued...)
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