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Jeff Bezos and Amazon make an impressive case for Fire phone

Amazon’s press conference today revealed a few things we were expecting to learn about the companies first smartphone and confirmed a few things we already knew. The event, which was not streamed online, was live-tweeted and blogged by several tech bloggers. According to Business Insider’s account of the conference, 60,038 people had applied to be present in Seattle when the conference actually took place.

Amazon's Fire phone-slide0
Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire phone at a press conference on June 18.

We knew the phone would be 4.7 inches, which presenter Jeff Bezos described as ideal for one-handed use, as Amazon’s tests proved. He said that the phone will have a quad-core 2.2 GHz processor and 2GB RAM. The camera will be 13 megapixels and have image stabilization. As for storage of photos, Bezos says there’s room for an unlimited number of images. And Amazon will include ‘tangle-free’ headphones with every device.

Now to the things were needed more information about. The phone is officially named the Fire phone, taking after Amazon's Kindle Fire. It appears to be similar in shape and size to leaked photos of Apple’s iPhone 6, which may have caused a bit of a stir as the Fire was rumored to be available around the same time as the iPhone 6. However, that was all cleared up with the announcement that the phone will ship July 25, with pre-orders starting now.

It was speculated that the phone would be on the market for a relatively low price. However, as a phone exclusive to AT&T, it’s pricing is standard. The 32 GB phone is $199 with a two-year contract. The phone is also available with 64 GB.

The phone will support Amazon apps as well as third party apps. The developer’s kit is immediately available for developers to be able to integrate their own apps.

Now to the good stuff: Bezos discussed the 3-D effects on the phone, which Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective. It allows a user to tilt their phone to reveal more information. So when using their Maps feature (which answers the question of whether they’d develop their own app or use Google’s), users can see detailed 3-D renderings of buildings; in this case, the example used was the empire state building. But more than that, the dynamic perspective will change based on where your head is in relation to the phone. If you tilt one way on the map, Yelp reviews will appear for the restaurant you’re looking at.

In a section for shopping, tilting can let you see the back of a dress or more dresses similar to that dress. For reading, tilting the phone will allow for scrolling, which keeps the screen and material unobscured by fingers. A scroll can be set at a locked speed so the screen doesn’t have to be titled the whole time. For games, tilting the screen will let you see inside the game’s world. Overall, dynamic perspective allows you to have lots of information available but without cluttering the screen.

In order to make this happen, Amazon has put in four special cameras on the front of the phone. Each camera can pick up 120 degrees versus a regular camera which can only pick up 72. Though there are four cameras, only two are needed. Because cameras can be obscured, the phone will use the two with the best view at any given time. Because users will undoubtedly be using their phones in pitch darkness, the phone also includes four infra-red lights on each camera, so optimal lighting is always achieved.

Bezos noted that Amazon started the process of recognizing heads and faces four years ago. Through a process that involved recognizing millions of faces of people from around the globe, Amazon’s technology now has it down pat, and isn’t distracted by heads on cups or magazines and isn’t thrown off by big hair or bad lighting.

One of the phone’s biggest features also utilizes a camera. Called Firefly, the feature has its own button on the side of the camera that will allow the camera to recognize foods, objects and QR codes. According to Bezos, Firefly can recognize over one hundred million items. This also includes movies, tv shows and songs. In the demonstration, Firefly was able to recognize a scene from ‘Game of Thrones’ down to the second. If you have it focus on a piece of classic art, the feature will direct you to a wikipedia page to learn more about it. The feature can also take text from a photo. The example used was pulling out a phone number from a photo of a flier for renting a home.

After Firefly has recognized something, you then have a few action options. If you scan a book, you’re then given the option of buying it for your Kindle. Firefly can recognize a song, and then you’re able to buy it in Amazon music. This new option coupled with Amazon’s one-click shopping can mean a very dangerous thing for a parent with a small child interested in pressing buttons.

As suspected, Amazon has integrated MayDay into the phone, which will put the user in contact with either Amazon’s customer support or At&T’s. In his presentation, Bezos noted that customers have complained about using forums or needing to go to a physical store to have their phone issues solved.

Amazon is certainly bringing a lot of new features to the table. For fans of their tablets and services already, this phone could definitely pose a threat to Apple and Samsung. The little features and perks (one year of Amazon Prime is included with the phone), could definitely make Amazon a viable competitor in the smartphone game.

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