Fire Phone

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Amazon Fire Phone
thumb
Manufacturer Amazon
Compatible networks UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz), Quad-band GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20)
First released 25 July 2014;
58 days ago
 (2014-07-25)
Availability by country United States, United Kingdom, Germany
Type Smartphone
Form factor Slate
Dimensions 139.2 mm x 66.5 mm x 8.9 mm (5.5" x 2.6" x 0.35")[1]
Weight 160 grams (5.64 ounces)
Operating system Fire OS 3.5.1 compatible with Android 4.2.2 Jellybean
System on chip Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
CPU 2.26 GHz quad-core Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330
Memory 2 GB RAM
Storage 32 or 64 GB
Battery 2400 mAh
Display 4.7 in (120 mm) IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 3
1280×720 px (315 ppi)[2]
Rear camera 13 MP CMOS sensor with OIS[3]
Front camera 2.1 MP
Connectivity Bluetooth 3.0
GPS
Micro USB
NFC
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Website www.amazon.com/firephone

The Fire Phone is a smartphone designed and developed by Amazon.com.[4] It was announced on June 18, 2014 and marks Amazon's first foray into the smartphone market, following the success of the Kindle Fire tablets, running the Fire OS operating system. It was available for pre-order on the day it was announced. In the United States, it launched as an AT&T exclusive on July 25, 2014.[5]

The phone is notable for its hallmark feature "Dynamic Perspective": using four front-facing cameras and the gyroscope to track the user's movements, the OS adjusts the UI so that it gives the impression of depth and 3D.[6] Other notable Amazon services on the phone include X-Ray, used for identifying and finding information about media; Mayday, the 24-hour customer service tool; and Firefly, a tool that automatically recognizes text, sounds, and objects then offers a way to buy it through Amazon's online store.[7]

Reception towards the Fire Phone was mixed. Reviewers were divided over the features of the device, many calling them gimmicks without much practical use, whereas others felt that they were innovations in the smartphone market. Many also panned the integration with the Amazon Store, expressing dissatisfaction over the invasiveness of the recommendations in the phone's software. Nearly all outlets agreed that it was best to "wait and see", calling out previous examples of Amazon's iterations that improved on the product. Amazon has not released sales figures for the Fire Phone, but analysts have judged that it has not been commercially successful.

History[edit]

Development[edit]

The Fire Phone was rumored to be under development for several years prior to its release. Amazon reportedly started work on the phone in 2010, showing a prototype to AT&T in 2011.[8] The first mention of a possible phone designed by Amazon appeared August 2010 in the New York Times, with a source within Lab 126 claiming that "entering the mobile phone market... seemed out of Amazon's reach. But... Amazon had not definitively rejected the idea of building a phone in the future."[9] Shortly thereafter, some claimed that Amazon might purchase WebOS from Hewlett-Packard, using its software and patents to build a phone.[10]

Later, in 2012, The Wall Street Journal contended that Amazon was testing a smartphone, with a screen size between four and five inches.[11] Bloomberg also reported that Amazon was looking to acquire patents in order to defend against allegations of infringement concerning the use of wireless technology of the phone.[12] The Verge claimed that "multiple sources" confirmed the existence of the Amazon phone[13] and that it would be announced alongside the updated Kindle Fire and Kindle Paperwhite in September.[14]

In 2013, reports claimed that Amazon would partner with HTC[15] to create a "Kindle Phone" that would be free with Amazon Prime membership.[16] Amazon denied these rumors, stating that the company "will not launch a phone this year" and that if it did, it "would not be free".[17] Although many rumors turned out not to be accurate, several final specs, the use of 3D,[18] and the release date[19] were correctly reported.[20]

Release[edit]

The phone was introduced in Seattle in Fremont Theatre, at a press event held by Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos.[5] As a limited time promotion, buyers are offered a year of Amazon Prime[21] and 1,000 Amazon coins[22] with the purchase of a Fire Phone. Six weeks after the introduction of the phone to the market, its price was cut to $0.99 from $99 with a two-year contract[23] and from $650 to $449 off contract.

Specifications[edit]

Hardware[edit]

The Fire Phone uses a 4.7 inch IPS LCD Gorilla Glass 3 polarized touchscreen display with a pixel density of 315 ppi. Its frontside features the screen and a rounded rectangular home button below the display. The back, made of the same Gorilla Glass, houses the camera, LED flash, and a secondary microphone. The sides of the phone are made of a soft touch plastic. On the top of the phone there is a lock/power button and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The left side of the device has 3 buttons made of anodized aluminum:[24] two volume buttons and a camera shortcut button. When the camera button pressed, the camera app opens; when held down, Firefly is opened. The bottom of the phone has the primary microphone, a micro-USB connector port, and dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital sound processing.[25][26]

The phone uses a Snapdragon 800 chip paired with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. Internal storage is non-expandable, with options between 32 GB and 64 GB. The rear camera is a 13 MP CMOS sensor with an f/2.0 five-element wide aperture lens with OIS. The battery is non-removable and has a capacity of 2400 mAh; Amazon claims this provides up to 22 hours of talk time and up to 85 hours of standby time.[26]

According to the product teardown site iFixit, the BOM of the Fire Phone is estimated to be approximately $205; this figure is higher than the iPhone 5s but lower than the Samsung Galaxy S5.[27]

Accessories[edit]

Included with the phone are earbuds Amazon claims to be "tangle-free"; the earbud tips can be attached to each other magnetically and also have a flat cable in order to minimize tangling.[28][29] These earbuds can be purchased separately as a standalone accessory.[30] Also included with the phone are the USB cable and power adaptor, as well as a quick start guide. The phone is only available in black, but first-party cases can be purchased (black/cayenne leather, black/cayenne/citron/blue/royal polyurethane).[21]

Operating system and software[edit]

Similar to the Kindle Fire tablets, the Fire Phone is powered by a forked version of Android called Fire OS. The Fire Phone was preloaded with version 3.5.0 of Fire OS, which is based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The fork replaces Google's default UI with a carousel of recently accessed content and apps (called "Home Carousel"), and also serves to promote Amazon's various services.[28][31] A new feature introduced with the Fire Phone is the presence of "active widgets", widgets underneath the icon showing recent activity and/or information about the app. Pre-loaded applications on the Fire Phone include Amazon Appstore, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Music, Amazon's Silk browser, and Audible Audiobooks.[22] Although the phone uses Android, it does not have access to the Google Play Store. An update, Fire OS 3.5.1, brought quick app switching (dubbed "Quick Switch" and accessed by tapping twice on the home button), folders (dubbed "App Grid Collections"), pinning of apps on the home screen, improved photo taking capabilities, sending of high resolution videos via MMS, and improved battery life.[32]

An example of the three-panel design on the home screen of the Fire Phone: The navigation menu on the left, the app menu in the center, and the notification panel on the right.

Also introduced with the Fire Phone is a three-panel design for apps: the leftmost panel displays settings, the center panel is the main screen for apps, and the rightmost panel is used for "delights" - features specific to an app. The example given at the press conference was the music app: the main panel displays the music playing, the left panel shows navigation and settings, and the right panel shows the "delight" of live song lyrics.[28]

Using the four front cameras and the gyroscope, the Fire Phone provides shortcuts based on the orientation of the device. Marketed as "Dynamic Perspective" with actions such as tilt, swivel, and peek, they allow a user to navigate menus/access shortcuts, view notifications, and reveal quick actions respectively. This also allows a user to scroll through a webpage or flip a page in a book by tilting the phone.[25][33]

Photos taken with the Fire Phone are automatically backed up to Amazon's Cloud Drive; Amazon offers unlimited photo storage for this device.[31][34]

Mayday and Firefly are also selling points of the phone. Mayday is a free, 24-hour customer support service for users of Amazon's devices, allowing the customer service access to the device in order to show a user particular functions of their device.[35] Firefly uses the camera and microphone to identify objects that can be bought from Amazon (such as media) or to scan useful information (such as addresses and phone numbers).[24][31][36]

The Fire Phone can also send its screen to any Miracast enabled device, including the Fire TV, Xbox, Sony PlayStation 3/4, or select Samsung Smart TVs. It can also function as a second screen.[29]

In September 2014, Sygic introduced first navigation application optimized for Amazon's Fire Phone. It is currently the only navigation app to take full advantage of the Fire Phone’s Dynamic Perspective feature by providing stunning 3D effects. Sygic Navigation for Fire Phone will also utilize the Hero Widget.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The reception to the Fire Phone was mixed. Although reviewers found Firefly and the Dynamic Perspective features to be significant differentiators,[34][37][38] they also noticed several drawbacks. Such drawbacks include the 2013-level technical specs (including the lack of Bluetooth LE),[34][37][39][40] the underdeveloped OS,[34] its high price,[8][40][41] and the exclusivity of the device to AT&T's network.[8][40][42] The hardware also received a mediocre reception: while some liked the design,[43] others were concerned about the durability of the glass[34] as well as the thickness and weight.[34][40] However, the headphones were well received by at least one reviewer from Gizmodo, who said that "all cheap headphones should at least be this great."

Engadget's Brad Molen stated, "Although Amazon's debut phone isn't bad, per se, but there's little incentive to switch carriers or platforms to buy it. Its unique features don't provide enough utility, and come at the expense of battery life and performance.". They also criticized the "limited [Amazon] ecosystem", including the lack of frequently used apps available on other platforms. The reviewer gave the phone a final rating of 70 out of 100.[44]

Re/code's Walt Mossberg opined that the Fire Phone is "perfectly suited for people heavily invested in the company's ecosystem... But to top Apple and Samsung, Amazon needs to do better."[45]

David Pierce from The Verge gave the phone a 5.9 out of 10; although praising the phone's camera taking abilities, the "solid" battery life, and "cool ideas like Dynamic Perspective and Firefly", the main drawbacks included the confusing interface, bland design, Firefly's poor accuracy, and the phone's commercialism. He concluded by saying, "Amazon’s first smartphone is a series of interesting ideas in a package that is ... much less than the sum of its parts."[46]

Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times compared the phone to "Mr. Pine's purple house" (in which the eponymous character paints his house purple to stand out from others), stating that "Amazon has built a nice, solid, plain white house. You'll love living in it, if you can ignore all the purple.". This references the "superficial features" of the Fire Phone, "born of the same superficial impulse", including Dynamic Perspective. They also criticized the phone's appearance, stating that it "looked more like a prototype than a finished product." Unlike The Verge, The New York Times felt that the interface was "relatively simple to navigate".[47]

The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey Fowler praised Amazon for "attempting to make inroads that might disrupt the giants", remarking that the smartphone market needed new ideas. All the same, the reviewer compared the phone's features to "the grown-up equivalent of a 9-year-old riding a bike with his hands in the air" - gimmicks, without much real-world usage. They also stated that the battery never lasted for an entire day, a "telephonic cardinal sin".[48]

ZDNet's Zach Whittaker wrote that the Fire Phone could be described in two ways: a motion sickness inducer, or a gimmicky device at best, but one that has great potential. Unlike other reviewers, he felt that the phone was "beautifully constructed" and "easier to hold". Dynamic Perspective, on the other hand, gave him motion sickness and made the text harder to read. He concluded that the Fire Phone had strong hardware, but that the software let it down.[49] James Kendrick, another of ZDNet's autors, expressed that the "feature in Fire OS that makes devices so nice to use is the large carousel toward the top of the home screen (..) Fire OS is similar to iOS in one regard in that it hides the power of the OS under the hood. What’s exposed is the part of the OS that makes the Amazon device comforting and easy to use. (..) That’s why Fire OS is better than Android for the majority of smartphone and tablet users."[50]

It has been labeled as the most-polluting phone by Greenpeace, who claims that Amazon's servers are powered by non-renewable sources of energy. Amazon disputes these claims, claiming that Greenpeace's data is incorrect and misleading.[51]

Commercial reception[edit]

The Fire Phone occupied the number one spot on the "Best Selling" list on Amazon.com, before sales dropped precipitously after two weeks.[52] Amazon shares dipped by 10% 24 July 2014, one day prior to its launch on AT&T, due to increased losses incurred by the development of the Fire Phone.[53] On 25 July 2014, several AT&T stores reported little to no sales, although several stores experienced increased foot traffic and interest for the Fire Phone.[54] Amazon has yet to release official sales figures for the device.

According to Chitika Insights, an advertising company, by analysing ad impressions from 25 July to 14 August 2014 (20 days after the release of the device), the Fire Phone constituted approximately 0.02% of the smartphone market in the United States and Canada. The device's usage share "remained steady but relatively flat".[55] The Guardian later extrapolated based on data from ComScore and Chitika, claiming that there were no more than 35,000 Fire Phones sold in the first 20 days.[56] In September 2014 The New York Times reported that sales had been "dismal", and that "analysts say Amazon has sold only a few tens of thousands" of Fire Phones.[57]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Amazon unveils Fire Phone". CBC News (CBC). Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Cunningham, Andrew. "Amazon announces the Fire Phone, $199 with 2-year contract for 32GB". Arstechnica. Condé Nast. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Molen, Brad. "Live from Amazon's phone announcement in Seattle!". Engadget.com. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  5. ^ a b Eadicicco, Lisa (2014-06-18). "This Is Amazon's First Smartphone: The Fire Phone". Business Insider. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  6. ^ Moynihan, Tim (2014-06-18). "Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s New Fire Phone". WIRED.com. Condé Nast Inc. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  7. ^ Lowensohn, Josh. "The Amazon smartphone is here: meet the Fire Phone". The Verge. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  8. ^ a b c Cheng, Roger (2014-06-18). "AT&T: Amazon Fire Phone will get 'classic hero treatment'". C|Net. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  9. ^ Bilton, Nick (2010-08-10). "Amazon Is Said to Look at Hardware Beyond Kindle". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
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  11. ^ Luk, Lorraine (2012-07-11). "Amazon, With Suppliers, Is Testing a Smartphone". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  12. ^ Culpan, Tim; Kharif, Olga; Vance, Ashlee (2012-07-06). "Amazon Said to Plan Smartphone to Vie With Apple IPhone". Bloomberg. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  13. ^ Chuang, Steve (2012-12-14). "Foxconn Allegedly Manufacturing Amazon's Smartphone Model". China Economic News Service. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  14. ^ Patel, Nilay (2012-05-12). "Exclusive: Amazon phone confirmed, could be announced tomorrow". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  15. ^ Willis, Adam (2014-05-26). "Amazon Smartphone – Rumored Specs". Gamer Headlines. The Gamer Headlines. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  16. ^ Erati, Amir; Lessin, Jessica (2013-09-06). "Exclusive: Amazon Wants To Offer Its Smartphone for Free. Who Will Follow?". The Information. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  17. ^ Efrati, Amir (2013-09-08). "Amazon: No Phone Launch ‘This Year’ and ‘Would Not Be Free’". The Information. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
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  21. ^ a b "Personalize your Fire Phone". Amazon.com. 2014-06-18. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
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  46. ^ Amazon Fire Phone Review. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
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  48. ^ Fowler, Geoffrey (2014-07-23). "Amazon Fire Phone Review: Full of Gimmicks, Lacking Basics". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  49. ^ Whittaker, Zachary (2014-07-28). "Hands-on with Amazon's Fire Phone: Gimmicks over purpose". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  50. ^ Kendrick, James. "Fire OS: Better than Android for the masses". http://www.zdnet.com. CBS Interactive - June 20, 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  51. ^ The Amazon Fire Is the Most-Polluting Smartphone | Motherboard
  52. ^ Duryee, Tricia (2014-06-30). "Amazon Fire Phone nosedives on company’s bestsellers list, dropping to #61 after debuting in top five". GeekWire. GEEKWIRE, LLC. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  53. ^ Rushe, Dominic (2014-07-24). "Amazon posts huge loss in second quarter, despite sales rise". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
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  56. ^ Arthur, Charles (2014-08-26). "Amazon has sold no more than 35,000 Fire phones, data suggests". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  57. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (13 September 2014). "Smartphones: The Corporate Personality Test". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 

External links[edit]