Amazon announced today that it has invented a telephone. The Amazon Fire Phone is billed as “the first smartphone designed by Amazon.” Among the phone’s most distinctive features is the fact that it is made by Amazon. Industry observers were quick to note that the telephone is also not made by Apple or Samsung, which sets Amazon’s telephone apart from the phones made by those companies.
The Fire Phone comes with “Firefly technology,” which uses the phone’s camera to identify products in the real world so that you can purchase them in the imaginary realm of Amazon. Direct your phone toward a 17.5-pound case of food thickener at your local medical-supply bazaar, for instance, and the Fire Phone will present a button to buy that item on Amazon. That’s just an example—not every product is necessarily compatible with Firefly (although the company claims it will recognize more than 70,000,000 different items), and nobody needs that much food thickener, certainly not me.
“Dynamic perspective” is another innovation that Amazon sought to highlight: Depending on the application, the Fire Phone can shift your view of information on the screen or present different menus depending on how you tilt the phone. This differs from the gyroscope controls that are already familiar in smartphones because it uses an array of cameras to track the location of your head relative to the device. It’s perfect for customers who have long wished that Amazon could have multiple cameras trained on their face at all times.
You can also use one of the Fire Phone’s thousands of cameras to take pictures, and Amazon posted a comparison shot to demonstrate the superiority of the Fire Phone’s camera. Note that the Samsung Galazy S5 inexplicably and rudely puts the word “Blurry” in the upper-left corner of its image, while the iPhone has placed an equally discourteous “Noisy” in its photo. Amazon pledges that the Fire Phone will never place disparaging words in the photographs taken by its users. Which is nice, because I’d hate for the shots of my Third Annual Diet Coke Gel Eating Contest to be ruined by my smartphone’s withering commentary.
For now at least, the Fire Phone is exclusive to AT&T, and it starts at $200 for the 32-gigabyte model with a two-year contract or $650 without a service plan; the 64-gigabyte model costs $100 more. It is available for pre-order on Amazon, unlike practically any new book published by Hachette.