Wait, what? Amazon is now making smartphones? Isn’t it an Internet bookstore or something?
Yes, indeed. But in its quest to be “the everything store” — or, more precisely, its quest to be Apple or Samsung — Amazon has followed up its Fire tablet and Fire TV box with the Fire smartphone.
“Wait, we’ve already got the iPhone, Android phones, the Windows Phone, and even a few BlackBerry phones still kicking around,” the whole world thought at once. “Do we really need another cellphone platform, with its own operating system, apps, and accessories?”
If Amazon thinks so, the Fire phone had better do some amazing tricks. It had better stomp the competition. It had better be pretty persuasive to make you turn your back on the 1 million apps and features of more established phones.
The six-camera phone
The Fire phone has a 4.7-inch screen, lovely but lower resolution than the latest from Apple, Samsung, and others (although you can’t actually see much difference). The front and back of the phone are hard-to-break Gorilla Glass, and the edges are rubberized. It feels nice — heavy and substantial — but not as slim, svelte, or sculpted as other premiere phones.
The buzziest new feature is what Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective. The four front corners of the phone have cameras.
Together, they track your face as it moves; in some apps, the angle of what you’re seeing shifts in a startling and very cool way. You notice it most on the Lock screen, where you get a choice of hyper-3D scenes:
This perspective business isn’t an especially big step forward in efficiency or usefulness. It’s neat-looking on the Lock screen, and it’s handy in certain games written just for this phone. But otherwise, man, that’s a lot of cameras for a special effect.