Amazon announcement: it’s a…phone!

Amazon announcement: it’s a…phone!

Amazon Fire Phone, 32GB (AT&T) (at AmazonSmile)

I’m watching Brad Molen’s liveblog on


and checking

Amazon’s own site (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’ll update this as things are revealed.

  • 60,000 people asked for invitations (about 300 are there)
  • Jeff Bezos looks relaxed in a “California suit” (suit jacket, dress shirt and jeans…also wearing non-business shoes)
  • A LOT of talk about Prime, and how much membership increased when they added perks. I’m guessing they are going to talk about Prime Music before the hardware reveal
  • They’ve been in the device business for ten years, since the first Kindle…but that was in 2007. Maybe since the first prototype?
  • Shout out to Mr. Pine’s Purple House…ironically, since the text doesn’t appear to be part of the images, it appears that the publisher has deliberately blocked text-to-speech access in the Kindle edition
  • There it is…the Fire Phone!
  • 4.7″ HD display, ruggedly built with Gorilla Glass
  • Ultrabright display (590 nits)
  • Quad core 2.2 GHZ processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 13 MP rear-facing camera
  • f 2/0 five element lens
  • optical image stabilization
  • Showing comparison pics to iPhone 5S and Samsung S5…no question, Fire Phone looks better (at least in low light)
  • Physical camera button…even with the phone off, two pushes gets it going
  • Unlimited online photo storage
  • Dolby speakers with Surround Sound
  • Some new weird tangle-free headphones (earbuds, actually)
  • Big section on how cool video is…and you can do second screen and mirroring (you can fling it to a Fire TV)
  • It will have the ASAP feature from the Fire (which I think is great…it pre-loads videos it thinks you might watch, like the next episode in a series, so they start right away)
  • The apps screen includes HBO Go
  • Prime Music (and the availability of apps for competitors)
  • A shout out to books…yay! 🙂 Also the Newsstand
  • Immersion reading
  • Plugging customer service…might be Mayday! Yep, there’s the fake Mayday rep from the Kindle Fire commercials! Mayday is included free, available over both wi-fi and 3G/4G
  • Just saw a Flashlight app in the settings part…I’ve always downloaded one to my phones, nice to have it as an onboard feature
  • About to show off a feature called Firefly (go, Whedonverse!) ;)…requires props
  • Firefly is object recognition (including scanning UPCs and tags, it looks like). Point it at a book or a videogame, and it finds it in the database. Gee, I wonder what they want you to use that for? 😉 Shopping, of course! It’s the ultimate super showrooming app! 😉
  • Firefly can also do Soundhound like song recognition. As a cool feature, it can look at a TV show and identify it
  • It recognizes paintings as well
  • I didn’t know Jeff wears glasses…
  • Point it at a sign (even a poster wrapped around a pole) and it can pick up a phone number or e-mail address
  • 100 million items can be recognized
  • Cool!
  • Wow! It had a hard time reading a phone number because of glare (hard to tell if it was a 3 or an 8) so it checked which ones were possible in that position, given the rest of the number
  • Heavy duty OCR (Optical Character Recognition)…hm, might lead to a lot of capture of books that way (which would be legal with public domain titles for sure)
  • Dedicated button for Firefly
  • I really like my Samsung Galaxy S4, but wOOt! (Want One Of Those)
  • They are making an SDK (Developer’s Kit) available, so other companies can work with the recognition
  • Hey, there’s MyFitnessPal…I’ve lost something like forty pounds using that!
  • The SDK is available immediately
  • Firefly is a game changer!
  • Nothing on Amazon’s homepage yet
  • Doing sort of an art theory lesson 3D (perspectives and such)
  • I do suggest you go to the Engadget site to see their great pictures!
  • There’s something about 3D images, and specifically using it in maps. They are using what may be the Empire State Building…maybe we’ll see Doc Savage walking around? 😉
  • If we are finishing in an hour, should see the price and dataplans (?) soon
  • Interesting approach to multi-tasking! You can look under one image to see another one (since they are in three dimensions)
  • You can tilt the phone to make it scroll
  • Looks like you can continuously scroll a book…some people have really wanted that, especially on a smaller screen. In other words, no page flips…just tilt the phone a bit to bring up the next “page”, and keep going
  • The basic interface looks pretty easy to use
  • About to demo a game called “tofu fury”. I eat tofu a lot…hopefully, this will mean that the speech recognition in Firefly will be able to spell “tofu” 😉
  • A term we’ll all learn and use “dynamic perspective”…you tilt your head, you see different things…hm, maybe “dy-per” for short? 😉
  • Lots of technical stuff about how the dyper works…requires four cameras, infrared so that it works in the dark…and the ability to tell the difference between a picture of a head and a head (so it doesn’t get distracted by Nic Cage’s t-shirt that has Nic Cage’s head on it). They used millions of images of faces to train it
  • Dyper is available for developers:
  • Many little interface touches, like canned messages you can send easily
  • AT&T exclusive (I’m happy we are already on AT&T)
  • AT&T rep is talking: four killer features…dyper, Firefly, Fire TV with Fire Phone, and Mayday (there will be a “hand-off” for Mayday to get AT&T help)
  • The phone can be pre-ordered today
  • It’s not on the homescreen yet, but here it is: Fire Phone at Amazon (at AmazonSmile)
  • They are showing $199, or $27 a month (with a two year contract)
  • Ships July 25
  • You get a year of Prime included!
  • Existing Prime members will also get a year free

I’m going to get one!

What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: well, this is disappointing! I tried to pre-order it through Amazon, and it says I’m not eligible to do an upgrade until September…of 2015! =:o I called AT&T, and they said that they have the “Next” program which would allow me to get it…but we couldn’t get the Fire Phone to show up at the AT&T site, even though the rep could see it on the website. The AT&T rep, who was great, by the way, even texted me a link…it just showed up as a blank page. They thought Amazon might be able to switch it to the Next (monthly) plan…which they had mentioned during the launch events (that’s the “per month” plan). So, I Maydayed it…and they couldn’t do it either.

I’ll have to try the AT&T site again later, I guess, or go to one of their stores.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


29 Responses to “Amazon announcement: it’s a…phone!”

  1. George Evans Says:

    Hey, I just tried to pre-order one as well. I do not have a current AT & T account and it still gives me an error. Maybe the system is overloaded?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, George!

      I didn’t really get an error…I just didn’t have the option I wanted. What error did you see?

  2. Tom Semple Says:

    If I get one, it will be off-contract. In the end I think I’ll get a more appropriate plan and flexibility.

    I might have wished for a full-HD screen (like Samsung 5s) and BT 4.0 instead of 3.0 (power savings and better security), which both Samsung and Apple have.

    Also I still find it very annoying that Amazon restricts Fire’s app selection in Appstore (no Dropbox, OneDrive, Dolphin browser, etc.). Will one be able to get MS Office for Android there when it ships (assuming MS submits it there)?

    So I have to mull it over.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      When you say “Fire’s app selection”, are you referring to the Fire phone? The Kindle Fire isn’t restricted…I have had Dolphin on a Kindle Fire. Amazon has a setting that lets you install apps which they haven’t verified, and there are some good legal sources, like 1Mobile (which has all three of the apps you mentioned).

      If someone submits a safe, working app to the Kindle Fire store, my sense is that Amazon doesn’t reject it. I think it would be largely up to Microsoft on the Office question…and I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

      • Tom Semple Says:

        Amazon does not reject the app, they simply blacklist the app from Fire users.

        The three apps I mentioned are in the Amazon Appstore but cannot be downloaded to a Fire. Why not?! because of some arbitrary and unstated policy of Amazon’s. It exposes Fire users to unnecessary risks, not to mention inconvenience. A would be Fire owner cannot discover which apps are affected without actually having a Fire. They blacklist browsers, ePub reading apps (except for Overdrive), and cloud storage apps, and there may be other cases that I’m not aware of. Moreover, it is contrary to their promotion of other mainstream and even ‘competitive’ apps like Netflix, Hulu, Flixster, Pandora. I really don’t understand why they choose to blacklist something as ubiquitous and useful as Dropbox.

        If a developer has gone to the trouble of submitting their apps to the Appstore, and testing their app on Fires, should they not expect their apps to be available to Fire users (probably 95% of the customers of Appstore)?

        I am not particularly paranoid, but 1Mobile/GetJar and their ilk make me nervous. There’s no curation, so there is no way to tell if an app will work, short of trial and error. Paid versions aren’t available. I don’t trust these distribution channels and would never recommend them to others. There aren’t enough barriers to would be developers to publish there. Nobody assumes liability for anything, and while I’ve never heard of any issues (such as malware), it seems to me the potential for abuse is there.

        To the extent I side load apps on my Fire, I get them from Google Play, back them up on an Android device, then open the .apk on the Fire. At least then I know Google has checked for problems with their scanning, though the app still may not work properly on Fire. Or I get them directly from the developer’s site (Bluefire, Dropbox).

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Tom!

        So, I’m curious: how do you know those developers/studios have submitted the apps? I know that Zinio said that Amazon rejected their app for the Fire in the beginning, but I don’t know that that is true.

        Maxthon (my browser of choice) was (and actually still is) available in the Amazon Appstore for the first generation Fire.

        I also tend to get apps directly from the developer’s sites, although I have used 1Mobile (for Chrome, for example).

        I wonder to what extent the unavailability is because of people not developing a version for the forked Android Amazon uses…I really don’t know.

        I also wish you could tell compatibility without having to have a device of that type registered…but might not an app be compatible with 100 models of SmartPhone, for example? That might make for a long list every time you checked, unless they could group them by manufacturer.

      • Tom Semple Says:

        Appstore has a category called Web Browsers, it returns 22 results, including Opera (2 flavors) and Dolphin. Of these, Maxthon is the only one ‘compatible’ with either of my Fires, and that only with the first gen Kindle Fire. So the apps have been submitted, and are regularly updated. But the only people who can get them are those who are using some other Android device.

        There are at least 4 or 5 reading apps (Bluefire, Aldiko, Mantano, Scribd, 3M Cloud reader, Moon+ are the ones I’m aware of) that get the same treatment (Kobo used to be listed but has disappeared), and then Dropbox and OneDrive.

        Zinio was available in the Appstore very early, probably predating the Fire launch. There may have been some early compatibility issues but I’m pretty sure I had it on my 1st gen Fire soon after I got it, direct from the Appstore.

        But there’s been no change in availability to the above-mentioned apps, and of these, the ones I’ve side-loaded have all worked fine. And for all I can tell, there may be no more than these few dozen apps affected, and it is even possible that the inferred ‘policy’ is actually a decision made long ago and nobody at Amazon has any awareness or direct authority to reverse it. All I know is that this would be the subject of one of my first Mayday calls (“Why can’t I get Dropbox?”).

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Tom!

        My understanding is that the studio would have to submit the app for the Fire (and for each Fire line separately…generations separate, HDX vs HD separate, that sort of thing)…they can’t just release one which is compatible with, say, the Fire and my S4 and have it approved for the Fire.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    If it wasn’t clear before, phones are no longer about telephony, but something else (a personal assistant???). I watched the ArsTechnica live blog while listening to a special Podcast on The 3 talking heads on twit started out kind of neutral but got more and more positive as the event went on.

    I’ve read about 10 reviews of it as this point: not one outright negative review. Most neutral to mildly positive. This takes the smartphone in some new directions — will have to see how much traction those garner. I’m not sure it’s targeted at the broader smartphone market so much as the Amazon customer base — it’s another nicely integrated platform (with some nice fit and finish details like unlimited free photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive) to get access to Amazon stuff and services (surprise surprise surprise :grin).

    Some grousing about the pricing — this is definitely NOT a sell it at cost and make it up on usage (probably driven more by ATT than Amazon) model.

    My 2 year contract on my Lumia 920 is up on Black Friday — I’m planning on upgrading to whatever new MS windows phone comes out for 2014 holidays. I’d like to get this also — I’ll have to visit the ATT store to see if I can have 2 phones on 1 account, and what that might cost. I currently have a 3 GB data plan which I’ve never gone over 300 MB in a month — so some adjustments there — WiFi is getting to be more and more pervasive.

    I have Dolphin on both my Fire and Fire HD 8.9 — works well on both. Some app restrictions aren’t Amazon’s fault, but Google’s services stack requirements which Amazon won’t abide because they require a login to Google giving them access to Amazon’s customers — this is a business model problem. I have Zinio on my Fire HD 8.9 — works great.

    I use 1Mobile (but not Getjar) as long as the app does not require a login to Google (most Google apps do) you can get get Google playstore apps on Fires (1Mobile will refuse to install if there’s an incompatibility like the login requirement). I’ve had no problems in using 1Mobile over the last 2 years (I’ve only needed to go that route for a handful of apps) — the Amazon store satisfies most of my needs. I don’t sideload apps at all.

    MS has been pursuing a more agnostic track lately. There are no Windows 8, or Windows Phone 8 apps in the Amazon store, but over on the forums several customers have talked to Amazon CS, and they said that Amazon is working with MS devs to bring a full suite of W8 and Wphone apps to the Amazon app store — no timeline — FWIW. Given Amazon’s desire to build out the Amazon shopping platform everywhere, it would make sense to get Amazon apps deployed as widely as possible.

    How does chrome from 1Mobile do? Is it current with latest revisions? Do chrome extensions (and Google extension store) work with it?

    At the event today several 3rd party devs were quoted as saying: if you’ve got an app developed for Google’s appstore, it’s easy to make it work with the Amazon store. Some devs even said using the new SDK’s coming with Fire OS 3.5 is also relatively straight forward.

    Back to the personal assistant: using Cortana to shop Amazon??! Hmmm…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Well, here’s a telling point: was there ever mention, once, of making a phone call during the launch event? 😉 I didn’t notice one with the liveblogging I was watching, although I could have missed it. Anything about reception, “crystal clear calling”…even videocalls? Skype does show as available for the Fire Phone…does it use the four cameras mentioned for dyper (dynamic perspective)?

      If we are talking about actual voice phone calls, I doubt that is five percent of the time I spend on my Galaxy S4.

      During a break in the trial, I noticed that…almost everybody was staring down at phones. Even ten years ago, that would have been confusing for someone…somebody from 2004 would certainly understand making cellphone calls, but the iPhone was still years in the future.

      Still, at this point, SmartPhone penetration is something like 50%, I think. That’s part of the market for the Fire Phone, and something that I think has been misunderstood (again) by much of the coverage. While people may ditch their existing Smartphones for the Fire Phone (I will if I can…have to go to an AT&T store to see what I can do), it will probably get lots of people to make that first buy. Those would be people who see Amazon as geared towards “normal people”, not supertechies.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        This NY Times review mentions at the end a comment Mr. Bezos made about how often he uses it as a phone.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Great article, although I don’t agree with all of what it says about what Amazon should have done. I do think people are underestimating what the article calls “late adopters”.

        Here’s a short excerpt from the article with the part you mentioned:

        “Although he did not show the feature onstage, Mr. Bezos confirmed that his expensive new phone does makes calls. “I haven’t made a phone call on my phone in a long time,” he said. “But I know people still make phone calls.””

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        I loved that quote. If I ever do get a “mobile” as the Brits call them, I’ll be a late adopter. I’ve yet to go wireless.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        That’s impressive! When you do get one, be careful about the ringtone you pick, though…it might scare your horse. 😉

        At home, we’ve gone “wired-less”…no landline, just our cellphones.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        LOL! I’d probably be better off with a horse. My car just got recalled and all they’re going to give me is a plug for the slot in my key! I’ve already decided when I do get a smart phone, I’m going to try to find an old time ring tone of a “long and a short”, which was my family’s “ring tone” on the old party line we shared with half the neighborhood when I was a kid. Talk about the original friends and family plan!

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        You can make your own ringtones, so you should be able to do that. I love the line about “friends and family”…and in a small enough town, that would cover everybody. 😉

  4. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Sorry, made a mistake the MS/Amazon dev effort is for apps for the MS app stores — so that Amazon apps can run on Windows and Windows Phone devices.

  5. Joseph Holmberg Says:


    I would love to have that Phone Fire thing but the thing is I just recently got my own Samsung Galaxy 5s as of a week ago because my old phone got damaged during a recent heavy rain day. I did think about holding off for a Kindle Fire phone but it is not exactly deaf-friendly.

    For example, the Amazon appstore do not have the apps from the likes of Sorenson VRS, PurpleVRS, and others (VRS= Video Relay Services which are the services that allow deaf people to communicate over the phone using American Sign Language). With the ATT plans that come with the Phone FIre, you would see that they include voice plans. That is a deal-breaker for me. No sense in spending my hard-earned dollars on something I have no ability of using. I would try and talk to the ATT service representatives about that later to see if I could reach a deal with them to opt for all-data plans but I don’t see any justification in this since I have my phone aligned with Sprint for two years.

    I do know that I could watch Amazon Videos with closed captioning and read ebooks among many uses I could find for the Kindle Fire phone and would love one! Only if they sell wifi-only Fire phones??

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Joseph!

      I’ll have to look into that more, although as you say, it may not make sense for you.

      We use video interpreter stations at work for Ameslan, but as you know, it’s tricky. You need to be able to see people’s facial expressions clearly, but also allow enough screen space for expansive gesturing. How does VRS work? Does it recognize the sign language and convert it into text?

  6. Lady Galaxy Says:

    AT&T is a turn off for me. I live in a living dead zone for their network. I can be connected at 5 bars only to have the connection drop. When I’m using my K3, which connects through AT&T I can count on losing the connecting roughly every 90 seconds or so.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      We used to not get AT&T pretty much at all in the house…until we went to them, explained the situation, and they gave us (for free) a microcell tower. Yep, I have a cell tower in my house…and it works great!

  7. Bob Anderson Says:

    Battery life not mentioned, lots of features to quickly drain the battery. Watching for battery tests.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Bob!

      That was a concern of mine as well. While you can adjust the motion detection, it would seem like running four cameras as much as it will would require significant energy (among other features).

      I haven’t seen battery tests yet, but they say this on the product page:

      “Battery size: 2400mAh. Talk time: up to 22 hours; standby time: up to 285 hours. Video playback: up to 11 hours; audio playback: up to 65 hours.”

      Amazon was able to make a big difference with battery management on its EBRs (E-Book Readers)…they started lasting much longer than they did in the beginning. Even the Paperwhite with a front light shining all the time does quite well.

  8. Angelo B. Says:

    Hi Bufo,

    I am an Amazon fan who owns a Kindle Keyboard, Kindle Paperwhite, 2nd Gen. Fire tablet, and Fire TV (launch day purchase).

    Wondering if there’s a shift in pricing philosophy at Amazon. After years of selling Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets at extremely competitive prices (read: undercut the competition), the last two launches — Fire TV at $99 and now Fire Phone at $199 — are priced exactly the same as the competition. Considering how much more you get from Roku for the same $99, and how much, much, much more from the iPhone for the same $199, I can’t find a legitimate reason to buy a Fire TV or Fire Phone.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Angelo!

      It’s an interesting question and a reasonable observation.

      I’d question that I get a lot more with my Roku than my Fire TV, though. I have both, and have been using Roku for quite a while. I should say, “had” been using…I really haven’t used it much on the TV that has the Fire TV on it, since getting the latter. I find the Fire TV interface easier, and I do like ASAP. The mirroring to my Kindle Fire is a huge point as well. That’s an older TV with one HDMI port, so it’s really one or the other…and the mirroring definitely pushes me to the Fire TV over the Roku.

      I think with the Fire Phone, part of it will be what you get with it that you don’t get with the iPhone…even though there will be other things you get with the iPhone you don’t get with the Fire.

      Mayday is a huge advantage! Again, I don’t think the Fire Phone is especially for people who are already super phone experts…it’s for people who have been casual to no SmartPhone users. They want help, and Mayday is the best way to get it.

      I have an iPhone now (having gotten one for work), and my Galaxy S4. Techie as I am, a lot of the iPhone isn’t intuitive for me…and some of the elements are just…clunky is probably too strong a word. For example, as far as I can tell, I have to tap it to get it to stop listening to me when I’m doing speech to text (which I use a lot). My S4 just stops itself after a second or so.

      I still can’t figure out why it makes a “shutter” sound when I’m trying to force it to sleep by hitting the power button. It does seem to go to sleep, which my S4 does…but why sound like you are taking a picture?

      Unlimited free photo storage? Yes, please. 🙂

      While the Fire Phone is priced at $199 (at the low end), you do get a year of Prime with it, even if you are already a Prime member. Since I would have paid for Prime otherwise, it effectively cuts it down to $100.

      That’s if I’ll be allowed to buy it, though. I’m hoping to get to an AT&T store at lunch to see what we can do about not “being eligible” for an upgrade.

  9. Stephen Says:

    Ok, it’s a phone. What about an i-pod killer. Same device no cell phone? And of course not $649.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Stephen!

      Are you suggesting that Amazon should introduce something to compete with the iPod? Not sure that’s necessary…although they could use a tiny audio device for text-to-speech and audiobooks (with no onboard speakers).

  10. Joseph Holmberg Says:

    Hello again,

    To explain how the video relay services work…..I could say it is a service that includes real-;live (human beings, of course) interpreters that the ASL users (or in your case, Ameslan users) use to call to utilize the service in order to be able to carry on the live conversations. For example, if I want to call a pizza restaurant for a delivery, I would just dial the pizza company directly (not like in old days where you have to call at least two numbers to get there) and it connects me to an interpreter very promptly and he/she would do the job when the pizza worker answers the phone.

    It can be also used when a person that do not know sign language can call me directly. Same service but the other way when my number is being dialed. It can be also used when I call other person that knows sign language directly without an interpreter. I hope it clears things up. I know its confusing but I guess one would experience it in order to understand it better.

    On other hands, I do use apps to order pizzas. 🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Joseph!

      That helps. 🙂 The key reason for the app is to make the connection, right?

      It also seems like sign language interpretation could, eventually, be done by software. It might have to combine gesture recognition and facial emotion recognition, but I suspect it will happen.

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