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Amazon Fire Phone is official: MayDay, Firefly, 3D, and everything else we know

amazon fire phone news features mayday
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Amazon finally launched the Fire Phone at a packed event in Seattle on June 18, 2014. After months of rumors, expectations were running high. Even though we’ve already heard about most of the specs, the device, once revealed, is still impressive, particularly the MayDay, Firefly, and Dynamic Perspective 3D features. Read on to find out more about Amazon’s first smartphone attempt.

All good specs

Just like the rumors speculated, the Fire Phone features a 4.7-inch display with an HD resolution. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the Fire Phone is optimized for one handed use, even though it has a larger display. The display is made out of Gorilla Glass 3 and has a rubber frame around the edge. The display looks long and wide, sort of like an Apple iPhone 4S or Google Nexus 4. Here’s a list of all the specs:

  • Screen: 4.7-inch 1280 x 720 pixel LCD screen
  • Processor: 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor
  • Graphics: Adreno 330 GPU
  • RAM: 2GB RAM 
  • Memory: 32 or 64GB of storage
  • Cloud storage: 5GB of extra free space via the Amazon Cloud Drive
  • NFC: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 3.0
  • Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 802.11ac
  • Data: 4G LTE
  • Battery: 2,400mAh battery (up to 11 hours during video playback and 22 hours of talk time)

Amazon added dual Dolby stereo speakers to the Fire Phone for surround sound while watching videos on the device. After all, watching videos is what people love to do on smartphones and tablets. Amazon stated that “more than 200,000 videos, including exclusives…” will be available for Fire Phone users through instant video.

Second Screen and X-Ray

Even though the Fire Phone’s display may not be Full HD or Quad HD, Amazon wants you to watch as much Prime content as possible with the phone. As an incentive, Amazon includes a 12-month membership to its Prime service with the purchase of a Fire Phone. Prime offers 33 million titles of music, movies, and TV shows, in addition to free shipping on products bought from Amazon’s store. 

Amazon clearly hopes that the free trial will inspire Fire Phone users to join Prime if they haven’t already. To help new Fire Phone owners make the most of Prime’s video content, it added a feature called Second Screen.

Second Screen is somewhat similar to Apple’s AirPlay and Google’s Chromecast, because it lets you push the video you’re watching on your phone to an Amazon Fire TV and select Samsung televisions. That way, you see all of Prime’s great content on the big screen. With Second Screen enabled, you can then use the Fire Phone to learn more about the content you are watching by pulling up info via IMDB (Amazon calls it X-Ray, which also works when playing music or reading books).

Camera with unlimited photo backup

The device also has a 13-megapixel camera on the back with a f/2.0 lens with optical image stabilization. Amazon says that the camera shutter will stay open longer to ensure that even low-light shots look stunning (while this would be fine for static shots, we aren’t sure how this would affect action scenes). Users can take panorama, burst, and action shots, too. Amazon will also offer unlimited photo storage, so users can take as many pictures as they want without worrying about storage constraints.

Mayday means best customer service around

Amazon stated that its well-loved Mayday feature will be included in the Fire Phone. Mayday is Amazon’s new take on customer service, which lets users call an Amazon tech expert 24/7, 365 days a year, in case of a problem. When you hit the Mayday button, a helpful tech expert will appear to solve all your problems. They can even draw on your screen to show you what you need to do. Mayday will now be accessible via Wi-Fi or AT&T’s 4G LTE data network. Normal data charges will apply, though, so be mindful of your data cap.

Firefly scans real-world objects, locates them on Amazon

Firefly is a great new feature that helps you find the products and objects you encounter in the real world, online. The ultimate show-rooming tool, the feature uses the one of the cameras on the front of the Fire Phone to recognize books, DVDs, phone numbers, QR codes, CDs, games, and all other kinds of media. Once Firefly figures out what you’re looking for, it searches for that product in its database and finds a version that you can buy on Amazon. We are sure brick-and-mortar retailers won’t be too pleased.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

If it’s not a product you’re looking for, but rather information on a painting, tourist site, or something else, Firefly will hook you up with a Wikipedia page on the subject. Amazon says that it can recognize more than 100 million items, including 240,000 movies and TV shows, 160 live TV channels, and 70 million different products.

The Fire Phone has a dedicated button for Firefly, so you’ll be able to find and use the feature easily.

3D effects with Dynamic Perspective

Prior to the launch of the Fire Phone, everyone was talking about the brand-new 3D effects that would revolutionize how you will use Amazon’s smartphone. Bezos finally showed off the 3D effects during the June 18 event and it doesn’t appear to be hokey or silly, like we feared it would be.

Amazon is calling its 3D effects “Dynamic Perspective.” In essence, the new feature merely allows users to interact with images, Web pages, and other content like maps, in a different way.

With a simple tilt of the Fire Phone, you can change the point of view you have of each image, map, or 3D-enabled app you are looking at on the device.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Bezos demonstrated how the phone moves with you as your perspective changes. He also showed how a simple tilt of the phone displays a new angle of each image. In the maps app, he took a look at the Empire State building from several different angles. In the pictures, it does look as though the building is 3D. 

The effect can also work when you’re shopping. For example, when you’re looking through a rack of dresses online, you can move through to the next one by tilting your phone to the right or left. Amazon created a brand-new Shopping app, which lets you view products from every angle imaginable.

Then, when you’re browsing the Web, you can tilt the Fire Phone back to scroll down. This effect also works with ebooks in the Kindle app. One of the coolest Dynamic Perspective features lets you access app menus more easily, too. To view the menu on any app, all you have to do is tilt the phone to the left and it will pop up. Conversely, if you tilt the phone to the right, information and short cuts appear. For example, when you’re in the messaging app and you want to send a picture, tilting your Fire Phone right will give you access to all your photos, so you can pick which one you want to send.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Bezos also spent a lot of time detailing how it created the 3D effect and accurate head-tracking software.

In order to accurately track users’ head motions, Amazon added four front-facing cameras, placed at a 120-degree angle on each corner of the device. Infrared sensors and a great algorithm were also needed to make Dynamic Perspective work perfectly.

Amazon finished up its explanation of the new feature with a call to developers to convert their Android apps into better ones that work on the Fire Phone.

Small, finishing touches

Bezos highlighted a few more, smaller features for everyday use. For example, if you’re late to a meeting, the calendar app will alert you and you can send a quick message telling everyone to start without you. Another feature lets you set your ringer to silent for a set amount of time, in instances when you really don’t want to take any calls. You can also send images directly from the messaging app by swiping from the right.

Preorder today from AT&T

As expected, Amazon announced that the Fire Phone will be an AT&T exclusive. The device is available on several different AT&T plans, including the Next Plan. Anyone who wants a Fire Phone can  preorder it today. The full price of the Fire Phone is $650 for a 32GB unit or $750 for a 64GB unit.

The 32GB version of the Fire Phone will cost $200 with a two-year contract, or $27 per month if you choose a Next plan. Buyers will also get 12 months of Amazon Prime for free when they buy the phone; current Prime subscribers will also get 12 months for free if they buy the Fire Phone. Shipping starts on July 25.

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Malarie Gokey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Mobile Editor, Malarie runs the Mobile and Wearables sections, which cover smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and…
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