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Amazon Fire

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 Amazon Fire Expected July 2014 (US)
23rd January 2012

There have been rumours for some time that Amazon was working on a smartphone to complement their Kindle Fire range of tablets, and finally we have seen the official launch of the Amazon Fire, a relatively high-end smartphone that isn't quite like any of the competition.. which is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.

To look at, the Amazon Fire is easily one of the dullest phones around. A minimalist black slab, the only thing that makes it distinctive is the Amazon logo on the back (although you can add a coloured cover if you want).. but it is what is underneath the rather boring exterior that makes it different.

Before we go deeper, we'll take a quick tour of the basic specifications. The Amazon Fire has a 4.7" 720 x 1280 pixel display, a 13 megapixel primary camera with OIS and 1080p HD video capture plus a secondary 2.1 megapixel one on the front, inside it has a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU with 2GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of non-expandable storage, LTE and NFC support plus all the features you'd expect to find in a reasonably high-end smartphone. The Fire packs a decently-sized 2400 mAh battery and weighs a somewhat hefty 160 grams.

The operating system is Fire OS 3.5.0 which is a fork of Android, and is basically the same thing found in the Kindle Fire range. This is one of those good things or bad things depending on your point of view - the Amazon app store doesn't have the range or quality of Google's, but on the other hand Fire OS does allow you access to Amazon's very large content base. So, if content such as movies, music and books are more important than apps then the Amazon Fire might be the device you are looking for.

But the Amazon Fire has a few tricks up its sleeve. One of them is a sort of simulated 3D effect which uses an array of cameras on the front of the device to track where the user's head is and to adjust the display accordingly. These cameras also allow for gesture control and can help you read a book without touching the screen.

 Amazon Fire Another feature is "Firefly" which can scan barcodes, web site addresses, email addresses and other data and then allows you to do things with it such as visiting their site or storing contact details. But it goes much further too - it can also recognise movies, TV shows and music and can bring up more details about them as you watch.

As with high-end Kindle Fire devices, the Fire smartphone has a "Mayday" feature which puts you in with a expert to tell you how to use the Fire's features. And although other devices might match some of the Fire's other features, the Mayday service is something unique in this class of device. The Fire also includes a year's subscription to Amazon Prime which would normally cost $99 in the US.

At the moment Amazon have only announced availability on the AT&T network in the US where the price ranges between $199 for the 32GB model with a new contract to $749 for a 64GB model with no contract. This makes it a similar price to the class-leading HTC One M8 which is a superior bit of hardware in most respects, but doesn't include access to Prime. Amazon say that it should be available from July 25th onwards.

Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets have been moderately successful, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to a successful smartphone. Will it be a game changer for Amazon? Or a complete disaster like the HTC First? Time will have to tell on this one.

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Amazon Fire at a glance

Available:

Q3 2014

Network:

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900

UMTS 850 / 900 / 1700+2100 / 1900 / 2100
LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20

Data:

GPRS + EDGE + UMTS (3G) + HSPA+ +

LTE + WiFi

Screen:

4.7" 720 x 1280 pixels

Camera:

13 megapixels (main)

2.1 megapixel (sub)

Size:

Medium smartphone

139 x 67 x 8.9mm / 160 grams

Bluetooth:

Yes (3.0)

Internal memory:

32GB or 64GB

Memory card:

None

CPU:

2.2GHz quad-core

RAM:

2GB

Java:

Not specified

GPS:

Yes (plus GLONASS)

OS:

Fire 3.5.0

Battery life:

22 hours talk / 12 days standby (2300  mAh cell)

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