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Amazon Announces 'Fire Phone' 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-actually-made-from-fire dept.
Amazon has unveiled the Fire Phone. It runs a modified version of Android, and it will launch exclusively for AT&T's network. The screen is a 4.7" IPS LCD (they tested from 4.3" to 5.5", and decided 4.7" worked best for single-hand use), with an emphasis on brightness. It runs on a quad-core 2.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, and an Adreno 330 GPU. It has a rear-facing, 13-megapixel camera using an f/2.0 five-element lens with image stabilization. There's a dedicated physical button on the side of the phone that will turn it on and put it into camera mode when pressed. The phone comes with dual stereo speakers that produce virtual surround sound. Amazon wants the phone to be distinctive for its ability to provide video content, both from a hardware and software perspective.

The Fire Phone runs Mayday, Amazon's live tech support service for devices. They also demonstrated Firefly, software that recognizes physical objects using the phone's camera, as well as TV shows and songs it hears. It runs quickly, often identifying things in less than a second (and it pulls up an Amazon product listing, of course). It can even recognize art. Firefly has its own dedicated physical button on the phone, and Amazon is providing a Firefly SDK to third parties who want to develop with it. Another major feature of the Fire Phone is what Amazon calls "dynamic perspective." Using multiple front-facing cameras, the phone tracks the position of a user's head, and uses that to slightly adjust what's displayed on the screen so content is easier to see from the new angle. It allows for gesture control of the phone — for example, you can tilt the phone to scroll a web page or move your head slightly look around a 2-D stadium image when browsing for available seats. Putting your thumb on the screen acts like a mute button for the head tracking, so it isn't confused when you look up from the screen or turn your head to talk to somebody. It's an impressive piece of software, and they've made an SDK available for it.
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Amazon Announces 'Fire Phone'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @01:51PM (#47265085)
    ...for any device that has batteries inside it. All you need is one faulty batch, and this is quickly confirmed as the phone that burns people's hands off.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps one of the buttons can be set to directly call the Fire Dept.

    • At least it's not a new phone from Sony themselves.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tooslickvan (1061814)
      Actually, Fire Phone is a great name the phone because if it catches fire but with a battery defect that causes it to catch on fire it will be too difficult to write headlines like Amazon CEO fired for Fire Phone fires that no one will be fired since no one will understand what's going on.
    • by dtmos (447842) * on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:30PM (#47265451)

      Yeah, "halt and catch fire" has a new meaning when the device has a lithium battery.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      It's probably not the best name for any device.

      I can see people going to a Fire Phone sale thinking they were going to get phones at a heavy discount. And you could describe early adopters of this phone as having caught onto fire.

      It's just a bad name in general.

  • I loved my Nokia N900 phone (sadly lost somewhere in the wilderness of Africa), and I was long looking forward to the Neo900 [neo900.org] project that would give me a slightly upgraded device with the same hackability and (for privacy fanatics) cell modem walled off from device RAM. But every time I read a new phone announcement, like this Amazon one, my enthusiasm wanes. Even lower-end phones have increasingly fine resolution and RAM, while the Neo900 looks antiquated with its 3.5" TFT, 800x480 screen and paltry 1GB RA
    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:04PM (#47265197)

      My enthusiasm is dead not because of the tech, but because of all the handcuffs that come with today's devices.

      This stupid Amazon phone, for instance, only works on the AT&T network. WTF? AT&T is probably the worst of the bunch. That alone disqualifies it for me. The bit about it spamming me with Amazon ads doesn't help. I don't need a phone that tries to sell me stuff.

      Other Android phones aren't much better; they're closed-source and don't get updates for more than a few months after they're released. CyanogenMod may be a good alternative here, but you have to select your phone carefully here since only a few select phones have good CM support.

      Apple phones are the epitome of lock-in. And Windows phones are, well, Windows phones.

      What I want is a well-made Android phone that runs CyanogenMod, has an easily-replaced battery and SD card, and works on T-mobile (at least until they get consumed by some shitty company like Verizon).

      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:21PM (#47265373) Homepage Journal

        What I want is a well-made Android phone that runs CyanogenMod, has an easily-replaced battery and SD card, and works on T-mobile (at least until they get consumed by some shitty company like Verizon).

        How about a Galaxy S4? That's what I'm running. I have a Sprint-branded model running on Verizon MVNO prepaid (only carrier around here - sounds like it's different where you live). I got mine from Amazon, as it happens - looks like they have a T-Mobile [amazon.com] model too.

        Mine's running 4.4.2 CM milestone, fully encrypted. 64GB SanDisk SDHC (make sure you do an aligned format under Linux) w/ Incipio Dual Pro case. Battery pops out on demand. Make sure you get Odin for Windows if you intend to install custom ROM's.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Thanks, I'll check it out. I'd like to just keep my HTC Sensation 4G, but it doesn't seem to be that well supported by CM.

      • Wait, the fact that it's a $200+ physical shopping app with monthly charges doesn't bother you?

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Did you miss this line? "I don't need a phone that tries to sell me stuff."

          Besides, you're not paying to be sold stuff, you're paying for a phone and the other functionality that comes with that. But the shopping stuff is an add-on that spoils the utility of the device IMO.

          Still, I wonder how good the hardware is. If the phone is being subsidized by Amazon, and if CyanogenMod can make a new firmware for it (which doesn't have any shopping stuff or other crapware), then it might be worth it. Of course, A

      • by SpzToid (869795) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @03:11PM (#47265751)

        Have you considered a Fairphone to meet your specifications, which among many other redeeming qualities prides itself on its repairability, which includes being able to root your own phone whenever you want? So you can install CyanogenMod, or perhaps Jolla's Sailfish OS (that can also run Droid apps). It has a *lot* going for it, especially its designer's goal of staying out of the scrap heap as long as possible. About the only downside is the one attribute they didn't prioritize by design is being the fastest phone with the latest technology; but you must also consider the upsides when doing your own research to see if this is a good phone for you.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06... [nytimes.com]

        https://www.fairphone.com/ [fairphone.com]

        It uses a GSM SIM card, so it'll work on T-mobile worldwide as you require. I've held one and it's plenty classy in the hand.

      • I ran into this issue since I'm on AT&T. Originally bought a Samsung Galaxy
          S 5 and promptly returned it because it's currently not rootable. So then I bought an HTC One M8 when I found out there's manufacturer support for rooting. You can also wait for the Cyanogemod Official phone (looks pretty nice too)

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        My enthusiasm is dead not because of the tech, but because of all the handcuffs that come with today's devices.

        That's because people just want a phone that also has the ability to browse the web and run applications. If you are one of the few that want a phone without such "handcuffs" to be able to use it for other things then go with a Nexus phone.

        Apple phones are the epitome of lock-in.

        You aren't "locked in", don't be ridiculous. That is just the excuse of lazy people, if you want to change there is nothing stopping you from changing though oddly enough it's often geeks complaining that they are "locked in" so what exactly is it that you are having so m

    • by jbolden (176878)

      What's wrong with the Google Nexus as a nerd-friendly hackable phone?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        What's wrong with the Google Nexus as a nerd-friendly hackable phone?

        Lack of a card slot and battery door. Otherwise nothing.

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        Unless I am mistaken (and please point me to a reference if so, I can't find one), GNU/Linux can only run in a chroot environment on recent Google Nexus phones, on top of CyanogenMod. The N900 booted into the same desktop Linux environment one is used to from one's PC without almost no tweaking.

        Furthermore, I assume that the Nexus talks to its cell modem through shared memory, whereas the Neo900 promised to separate the modem from the rest of the system for the sake of security.

      • What's wrong with the Google Nexus as a nerd-friendly hackable phone?

        Mostly nothing - except for the Nexus One, which got orphaned at gingerbread after 18 months (vaguely understandable, since it was underpowered) and the Galaxy Nexus, which got orphaned at about 2 years (which stinks, because it still has plenty of power).

        I'm on the Nexus 4, hoping it doesn't meet a similar fate. This thing has plenty of life left in it, and if Google/LG went with components for which drivers become unavaliable at the next major Android update, I'm giving up...

    • Estimated price is between $800 and $1150. For a phone with an 800x480 screen? Seriously?

  • prices (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @01:59PM (#47265145)

    According to AT&T's site, the phone will cost $199 with a two-year contract for a 32GB device and $299 for a 64GB device. The phone will cost $650 off-contract, which is common for high-end smartphones.

    • by jayveekay (735967)

      None of the top-100 off-contract smartphones on Amazon.com are more than $250. I'm sure there are off-contract phones that cost $650+, but not a lot of people are buying them on Amazon.

      http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sel... [amazon.com]

      • by kamapuaa (555446)

        but not a lot of people are buying them on Amazon

        Yup. The top two selling phones are Windows, so obviously Amazon top-100 sellers are not representative of larger trends in the marketplace.

    • The phone has *the same* specs as the OnePlus One, minus the head tracking camera. The OnePlus One costs $299 *off contract* while the Fire Phone costs $649 off contract. Are the head tracking cameras on the front are worth $350 extra versus an otherwise identically specced phone from a company that is actually turning a profit? The "value add apps" on the Fire Phone would seem more like an avenue for trimming margin rather than adding it, since they exist solely to sell you more things through Amazon.
      • by swv3752 (187722)

        Yeah, but I am fairly certain one will be able to buy an Amazon Fire Phone, unless one is really lucky at begging, one cannot buy a Oneplus One.

    • by Albanach (527650)

      I wonder if this price is more about maintaining AT&T exclusivity than being a real reflection of the phone cost. Still, I think the contract requirement while being tied to a single network is going to be a deal breaker.

  • Can't wait for the phones to be available used. Well, yes, yes I can wait, especially until I hear whether there's going to be a uSD slot

  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:04PM (#47265195)

    According to Amazon's website, the phone will range from $649 to $749 with an AT&T contract and will be available starting July 25.

    cite [go.com]. Even if that's a misprint and that's the price without a contract, that is WAY too much money!

    It is amazing how much phone you can get for $100 now - GPS, decently high-res screen, MicroSD slot. If you ask me the movement is towards off-contract phones that provide a decent value, and $749 phones are going the way of the $3500 PC.

    • What's funny is that for a lot of us, our first PC probably cost around 3500$ back in the day and now most people think the Mac Pro is a really expensive computer.

      • What's funny is that for a lot of us, our first PC probably cost around 3500$ back in the day and now most people think the Mac Pro is a really expensive computer.

        That's true. But when I bought my first computer, there wasn't one sitting next to it for $200.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Em Adespoton (792954)

        A walk down memory lane:

        • Apple Lisa: January 19, 1983: US$9,995
          Macintosh 128k: January 24, 1984: US$2,495
          Macintosh 512k: September 10, 1984: US$2,795
          Macintosh XL: January 1, 1985: US$3,995
          Macintosh Plus: January 16, 1986: US$2,599
          Macintosh 512Ke: April 14, 1986: US$2,000
          Macintosh SE: March 2, 1987: US$2,900 (dual floppy) US$3,900 (with 20 MB hard drive)
          Macintosh II: March 2, 1987: US$5,500
          Macintosh IIx: September 19, 1988: US$7,800
          Macintosh SE/30: January 19, 1989: US$6,500
          Macintosh IIcx: March 7, 1989: US$5
    • by jbolden (176878)

      Once you have several phones the cost of an on-contract phone is $40 including $17 (though usually closer to $20+) in subsidy i.e. only really about $18-23 on contract + $5g for extra data. The off contract prices in the USA aren't close to that low.

      For an individual off contract makes a lot of sense but once you are buying 2, 3, 4 the on-contract experience is just too good.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      A lot of people spend a lot of time on their phone. Maybe 30 minutes or more. If your phone lasts you a couple years, paying a dollar a day for a phone that is (and let's be honest) substantially better is probably worth it.

      If you don't use your cell except for emergency phone calls, yeah what the hell, get whatever's cheapest.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Well, I tossed out the figure of $100 is pretty low, but even an LG G2 is right about half that. Then again, if you're resigned to being on contract with AT&T, I guess it makes sense to go with the phone that gets the biggest subsidy.
        • by kamapuaa (555446)

          $400 LG G2s are nowhere near as good as a $650 Galaxy S5, though. I can't tell strangers how to spend their money, but personally most people I know, and myself, use their cell phone enough that it's worth spending an extra $250 spread out over the course of two years.

          And whether you have a 2-year contract or not is basically not a factor, my wife and I don't, and it seems T-Mobile and AT&T have both made monthly plans the focus of their marketing. I just said 2 years because that makes it about a dol

          • How so? LG G2 has a similar processor as the S5 (Snapdragon 800 vs 801) but a larger screen and similar camera. Plus all carrier variants of the G2 are rootable now. That's not the case for the S5.

            • by kamapuaa (555446)

              S5 is smaller, better screen (even if it's .1" smaller), better camera, faster, has a micro SD slot, replaceable batter better build quality (my wife recently got the S5 over the similar Nexus 5). Water resistance is kind of cool, I've heard of people destroying their phones that way.

              Not that the G2 is a crap phone, I just think something you spend a lot of time on is probably worth spending an extra $.35/day or whatever that works out to.

      • A lot of people spend a lot of time on their phone. Maybe 30 minutes or more. If your phone lasts you a couple years, paying a dollar a day for a phone that is (and let's be honest) substantially better is probably worth it.

        If you don't use your cell except for emergency phone calls, yeah what the hell, get whatever's cheapest.

        If we're actually going to use logic on this... You're likely to drop/break that phone in the first 6 months. We either need more durable phones are cheaper phones. Less durable, more expensive phones are definitely the wrong direction. I had a Chinese phone for a while that was waterproof, shock proof, dual sims, etc... I loved that phone but it only worked on 1 US carrier and they dont have service where I live now.

        • by kamapuaa (555446)

          If we're actually going to use logic on this... You're likely to drop/break that phone in the first 6 months.

          I've never broken a phone. If 6 months was the expected lifetime, I'd pay extra for some kind of insurance plan.

          Chinese phones work on unlocked GSM and work fine on AT&T, TMobile, or all the various cheap monthly plan services.

          • Chinese phones work on unlocked GSM and work fine on AT&T, TMobile, or all the various cheap monthly plan services.

            That's fine for voice, but data is painful unless a phone can use the same UMTS or LTE frequency as AT&T or T-Mobile. And no, not "all the various cheap monthly plan services" work with "unlocked GSM". Sprint MVNOs in particular work with Sprint-blessed devices because Sprint uses some variant of CDMA2000 and will probably continue to do so until VoLTE matures. Besides, I get the impression that the only carrier that works in Charliemopps's neck of the woods is Verizon, another CDMA2000 carrier. Am I ri

    • by jpellino (202698) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:31PM (#47265469)
      The higher numbers are for without a contract. Dynamic perspective is Apple's current feature plus flagpole-sitting. Firefly is nice, it's their version of Delicious Library plus Shazam plus ABC, "It even tells you where to buy it!" Really? Guess where it's going to tell you to buy it... That one handed tilt feature will come in very handy while walking or being the passenger in a vehicle. Repurpose it as a speed reading app.
  • by Assmasher (456699) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:07PM (#47265229) Journal

    ...the rest of their stuff?

    If so, not only a "no thanks" but I would like to add a "I hope you die a flaming fiery death and nobody is stupid enough to buy you..."

  • So much for being free of old-tech companies. I guess the "free to use" phone will have to come from Google.

  • Is it a smartphone or a boat flare?
  • Inferno. Unfortunately the next product in line to take that brand name happens to be a line of refrigerators.
  • by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:26PM (#47265417)

    This thing should fail and fail hard.

    AT&T only.
    1280x720 resolution.
    $649 or ridiculous contracts.
    No external sd support.
    Not real Android.
    No Google Play store or Google apps.
    Weakly specced.
    Nonstop monitoring and control by Amazon.

    It's going to sell like fucking hotcakes, isn't it?

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:36PM (#47265521)

      Never underestimate the stupidity of the general public.

    • Not sure all of your criticisms are fair, though I agree generally it's ridiculously expensive and locks the user into bad things, like AT&T. Other items on your list that I agree are bad are issues you and I are in a minority with - SD card support, for example.

      To be fair though there are some interesting UI innovations there. I'd be interested to see if other phone companies follow suit.

      And I hope they weren't stupid enough to give it a glossy screen if the UI is based on creating an optimal view

    • I don't think it will sell to well. The Kindle Fire had the advantage that it was cheap... This isn't really that cheap.
      Apple iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy looks sharp. This just looks like generic Smart phone.

      The feature that is has is cool for a few seconds then you get sick of them.

    • Specs look in line with other phones to me. The Note 3, which ran me like $700 (no contract), is 2.3Ghz quad core and an Adreno 330. So this seems pretty similar.

      Only thing I see is the screen rez, but that really isn't that big a deal. The ultra high rez for phones thing is a little silly. Once you get around 300PPI or so, which this is, there really isn't any visual detail to be gained. Pixels are too small to be perceptible. So it is spec wanking to go higher and higher on small displays.

      Criticizing the

      • The Note 3 has a 1920x1080 screen (ruined by fucking pentile though), has a stylus, has a larger screen (obviously), runs real Android and comes with Google's apps and the Play store, has much better battery life, supports micro SD cards, supports all carriers and bands, and will have been on the market for 10 months (almost an eon in the mobile world) before Amazon's phone is in anyone's hands.
        For the Fire Phone to be similar (yet obviously inferior) to a phone that's nearly a year older isn't a good thing

    • by Albanach (527650)

      1280x720 resolution on a 4.7" screen is plenty.

      My Moto X and Nexus 4 are both clear. of course they're both half the price of Amazon's offering.

    • On one hand you want Google Play store and Google apps but on the other you don't want Nonstop monitoring.

      hmm.

  • by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @02:42PM (#47265551)
    When shopping for phones I always look for one which runs a fork of Android, which is locked into Amazon services, which is tied to a phone provider and doesn't cost any less than a regular unencumbered phone.
    • I agree. The AT&T exclusivity is particularly unappealing. Does Amazon think they have something desirable here? Where is the hook that makes the exclusivity worth it? It's hard to fathom what they are thinking.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @03:04PM (#47265701)

    This phone strongly reminds me of the Motorola ROKR, a pre-iPhone device whose sole redeeming quality, vs. any other dumbphone of the time, was that it could play tracks you downloaded from iTunes and manually transferred to the phone over USB 1.0. It would only accept 100 songs and/or 1GB of files, whichever limit you hit first. It wouldn't play MP3's.

    Amazon has released a phone that has nothing to distinguish itself from the competition other than the fact it is hog-tied to the Amazon ecosystem. It's does not have any particularly interesting features that could not be implemented in pure software, and the price is nothing to write home about either.

    I don't see any reason why anybody would purchase this over the Moto G LTE, or any number of other smartphones that are available for a heckava lot less money. If you really don't mind being tied to a contract, there are better phones for less than the $200 they want.

    • As far as I can tell, the advantage of the Fire Phone over Android phones with Google Play is that the Fire Phone lets U.S. customers who already subscribe to Amazon Prime shipping watch movies without having to pay extra for Netflix or an iPod touch or iPhone.
  • No doubt whoever came up with the name "fire phone" will continue to enjoy a long and prosperous career at amazon long after typing "fire phone" into Google and clicking image search.

  • by Schnapple (262314) <tomkidd@viatexas.cPERIODom minus punct> on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @03:13PM (#47265775) Homepage

    The Fire Phone runs Mayday, Amazon's live tech support service for devices.

    I haven't experienced it myself but when I see the Amazon Kindle Fire commercials where they demonstrate you can talk to a live Amazon person to help you use your tablet, my first thought was "that would be great for my parents", especially since it would lessen the number of calls I would get from them on how to do something with their technology device du jour.

    You would think that something locked down like an iOS device wouldn't lend itself to needing this kind of tech support help, but in certain areas - especially phone calls - there's a certain level of resistance to technology complexity with the older crowd. It sounds like I'm being mean with regards to age but I have known several older people over the last few years who went out and bought an iPhone because it was the new shiny thing and then took it back because they couldn't figure out how to use it or didn't like how complicated it made things. As much as it makes perfect sense to you and I that the phone is a more generalized computing device nowadays and wanting to make a phone call is basically launching a program, the older set knows that you used to just open the fucking thing and start dialing.

    I'm not sure if the Fire Phone will make all that better (in particular I can almost guarantee my parents in particular would fucking hate the 3D screen thing) but I do think perhaps there's an untapped market out there for people who want a less-smartphone. After all, isn't that basically what "locked down" Android tablets like the Kindle Fire and the Nook are? Google, Apple and Microsoft are all trying to outdo each other on technical whiz-bang, and this entry from Amazon doesn't seem to impress the Slashdot crowd at all. Maybe this one is for our parents?

  • I hope this thing doesn't take off, or we'll have to test our apps on yet another device running a heavily polluted Android

  • This is really all about their extra software. Why not just license it to phone mfgs?

  • There's a dedicated physical button on the side of the phone that will turn it on and put it into camera mode when pressed.

    What?

    I've had that since 2013 on my Sony Xperia ZL.
    And even before that on the Sony Xperia Arc.
    And even before that on the Sony Xperia X10 since 2011.

  • Let's see.... either you pay $199 and get locked into an AT&T contract and then have to pay even more money to get your phone unlocked at the end of it, or you pay $349 and get a Nexus 5/6 and use it with any carrier you want. Oh and did I mention it also has access to the Play store?

  • don't use video when Roaming att will bill $15 + meg and no you can't unlock and use a local sim.

  • by YoungManKlaus (2773165) on Wednesday June 18, 2014 @04:57PM (#47266979)

    I finally want a new kindle with a high-dpi e-ink display, everything else I could not give two fucks about.

  • Bezos' Walled Flea Market with Free Spyware

  • They have patented the one-click photo taking with that button and everybody else now has to use at least 2 clicks to take a picture.

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