On Wednesday, Amazon.com encouraged the smartphone-lovin' world to discover Fire -- the company's first foray into the smartphone market.
The oft-anticipated and oft-delayed phone was introduced at an Amazon event in Seattle. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos did the honors from the stage.
The buzz generated by the wait for Fire created its own conflagration of rumors. The new Amazon phone was said to include everything from a 3D-capable display to an ice maker. But now it's here, and it has a big Amazon logo on the back.
So, what do exactly do we have here then?
"Fire Phone puts everything you know about Amazon in the palm of your hand - instant access to Amazon's vast content ecosystem and exclusive features like the Mayday button, ASAP, Second Screen, X-Ray, free unlimited photo storage and more," said Bezos.
The company points out Fire is the only smartphone with Dynamic Perspective and Firefly, claimed to be breakthrough technologies. Dynamic Perspective uses a new sensor system to respond to how the phone is held, viewed and moved. Firefly seems to be a steroided version of the music-identifying app Shazam. Press the Firefly button on Fire and it will "quickly recognize things in the real world - web and email addresses, phone number, QR and bar codes, movies, music and millions of products, letting the user take action in seconds."
Dynamic Perspective seems to be an alternative to the hoped-for 3D display. It is not -- it's just gesture and motion-sensitive software with a few visual gimmicks thrown in.
Taking a look at what's underneath the 4.7-inch HD glass display (with an ambient light sensor and dynamic image contrast for ostensibly better outdoor viewing), we find a Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM; Global LTE and connectivity with nine bands of LTE, four GSM, five UMTS, 802.11ac support, Wi-Fi channel bonding, NFC and Bluetooth. Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus add a virtual surround sound effect. Imaging tools included a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, LED flash, optical image stabilization and HDR. There is also a front-facing, selfie-taking 2.1-megapixel camera. Cameras both front and rear will capture video at 1080p. Storage is not expandable and comes in either 32 GB or 64 GB editions.
Fire runs on an Amazonian derivative of the Android OS.
As rumored, Fire will be exclusively carried by AT&T. Duration of the exclusive arrangement was not disclosed. The 32 GB Fire is priced at $199 attached to a two-year contract. As an introductory offer, 12 months of free membership in Amazon's Prime club will be available to Fire purchasers. Current Prime members will get 12 months added to their accounts.
Early reviews have reflected mixed feelings about the Amazon Fire. Unfortunately, after all the breathless hype of the waiting period, it would have been difficult to have met every expectation. Most find Fire passable as a phone with only a few novel ideas to set it apart from well-entrenched competitors.
For Amazon, success will arrive if there is sufficient perceived differentiation of features, performance and utility between the Fire and other smartphones. That, and if Amazon can leverage the company's other assets that dovetail with Fire to create a cloistered yet satisfied world of Amazon devotees.
We'll begin to find out when Fire ships on July 25.