Amazon launch Fire Phone to rival iPhone

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Amazon Fire Phone. Pic: AP
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Amazon Fire Phone. Pic: AP
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Online retailer Amazon has unveiled its first smartphone, the Fire Phone.

The new device was announced by the company’s CEO Jeff Bezos at an event in Seattle, where the company is based.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off the app grid on the new Amazon Fire Phone at a launch event, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off the app grid on the new Amazon Fire Phone at a launch event, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

It’s smaller than leading Android phone, but larger than Apple’s iPhone.

In the build up to the event there had been speculation about a 3D display coming to smartphones for the first time with the Fire Phone.

Mr Bezos showed off the phone’s “Dynamic Perspective” feature, which uses four cameras to create depth in the screen and create the perception of 3D, following head and hand movements.

“It’s time to whip the crown from Apple,” said Mr Bezos before showing off the new handset for the first time.

The much anticipated device has been rumoured for some months, and will come with a 13 mega pixel camera - a higher specification than on the current generation iPhone, as well as a brighter screen designed for outdoor use.

Amazon also announced that the Fire Phone will come with a new app called Firefly, which uses the camera and visual recognition to identify objects ranging from books to CDs as well as listen to music before looking for it on Amazon. The feature will also recognise phone numbers and web addresses, as well as TV shows. Amazon claims it can recognise 100 million items in less than one second.

Users will also have unlimited photo storage via the Amazon Cloud, and syncing with the company’s recently launched Fire TV set-top box so you can send media to your TV.

The MayDay 24-hour video help feature will also be available on Fire Phone, Amazon confirmed.

The new phone has a 4.7 inch screen, and users can navigate through the interface by tilting the phone in different directions. It is the first time the retailer has created a phone, and follows on from the success of the Kindle eReader and Kindle Fire tablet, with sales of eBooks overtaking those of physical copies in the UK in 2012.

Although Amazon did not confirm a release date for the UK, experts predict it will be on sale this year outside the US.

SPECS AND FEATURES:

- The phone has a screen that measures 4.7 inches diagonally. Mr Bezos says the size was chosen to be ideal for one-handed use.

- Mr Bezos touts the camera on the new phone. He says it has image stabilisation to counteract shaking as people take shots. Amazon is offering unlimited free storage on its Cloud Drive service.

- The phone will come with earbuds that have flat cords and magnets to clasp them together, so tangled cords will be history.

- The phone will have features familiar to users of other Amazon gadgets. Besides X-Ray and Mayday, there’s access to e-books to borrow for members of Amazon’s 99 dollars-a-year Prime program.

- Media reports point to a smartphone that might have multiple cameras to produce 3-D images. It wouldn’t be the first 3-D phone, but it would set it apart from leading phones such as Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

- Some analysts speculate that the 3D feature might tie into an Amazon shopping app. Shoppers might be able to use the phone to take a 3D picture of a product in a store, then search for the object on Amazon and buy it online.

- Amazon’s Kindle tablets run a highly modified version of Google’s Android system, and it’s likely an Amazon phone would do the same. That means apps for the phone would be limited to what’s available through Amazon’s own app store. The store has grown to include more than 240,000 apps, but there’s much more for Android and Apple devices.

AVAILABILITY:

- The Wall Street Journal has reported that AT&T will be the exclusive carrier for the new phone. If that’s true, it would be a similar approach to what Apple took when it unveiled its first iPhone in 2007. AT&T had exclusive rights to the iPhone in the US until 2011, when Verizon and eventually others got it, too.

- Analysts say the phone might come with a data plan that could let owners use Amazon services without using up any data.