Late the to the game, but finally here, the Amazon Fire Phone is now available for AT&T customers. While the online retailer's first entry into the smartphone market inserts itself into hostile territory, dominated by Apple and Samsung, there are more than a few features that make the handset worthy of a purchase.
The Fire phone's 13-megapixel camera places it between the 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel offerings of the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s, respectively. While both the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5s both have wider apertures than Amazon's phone, affording them more depth of field, the Fire phone stands out with its inclusion of optical image stabilization.
The rest of the Fire phone's story is similar to the smartphone's camera when compared with rivals -- the Fire phone seeks to stay competitive by employing pronounced differences. While some consumers and reviewers have struggled to see how the smartphone's features will have long-term practically, and they may well never move beyond the realm of novelty, the Fire phone's software is what makes the handset a wildcard among its well-established peers.
Like Amazon's tablets, the Fire phone has been fitted with a highly modified version of the Android OS. The Fire phone comes with version 3.5 of the Fire OS, while the latest Kindle tablets run on version 3.1 of the OS.
The Fire OS rethinks context menus, enabling users to access settings menus with a swipe to the left side of an app's interface and call content with a swipe to the right side. For example, a swipe to the left side of a GPS app will launch contextual settings and the same motion to the right side of the screen will pull up points of interests and other content. The screen has a 4.7-inch display
The Fire OS also makes uses of its motion sensors to deliver content on screen. It ties in with another of the Fire phone's intriguing elements, though this one may take some time to see its potential fully realized.
Using four infrared cameras to track the heads of users, Dynamic Perspective augments the content on the Fire phone's display to invoke a 3D effect. When looking at Google Maps, structures will "pop out" as you tilt and swivel the Fire phone.
The Fire phone also uses gestures to deliver more information on screen. So when a users tilts the phone to the right, for example, those Google Maps structures will generate a 3D effect and they'll also be accompanied by labels.
Firefly serves as the Fire phone's media recognition software, linking offline items to Amazon's massive inventory. Firefly can recognize phone numbers, email addresses, web links, TV shows, movies and music.
After Firefly identifies something, users can load the newly discovered items into their Amazon shopping carts or add it to their wish lists until the time is right for a purchase. If a user has an old address book, Firefly can convert it into digital contacts -- the same goes for business cards, posters, ad pages and so on.