Amazon launches smartphone with 3D gimmickry and retail sales leanings

By Peter Gothard
19 Jun 2014 View Comments
Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon last night unveiled its Fire Phone smartphone, which includes pseudo-3D imagery and the ability to recommend shopping opportunities through its cameras.

The Fire – whose moniker is presumably a nod to Amazon's Kindle and Kindle Fire e-readers – is based on a forked version of Google's Android platform (Fire OS 3.5), but with a three-panel display concept that comprises a navigation screen, a primary content screen and a third panel that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called "a delighter", for displaying content such as song lyrics.

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The price of the 4.7-inch, 720p Qualcomm-equipped phone is being quoted as $199 with a 24-month mobile contract, so it's not going to be the cheapest option for consumers or business.

The Fire Phone's 3D effect is created by four front-mounted head-tracking cameras, which change the apparent angle of an image depending on the user's head position. A map app was also shown, allowing the effect of 3D buildings towering over the street grids below.

But it's Firefly – the in-built tool that promises to recognise everything the phone ‘looks at' or (scarier still) ‘hears' – that's already caused controversy.

Similar to Google's all-but-dead "Goggles" project – which just this morning interpreted a hot beverage on the Computing news desk as being purchased from "'Nerd' the Italian Coffee Company" – Firefly's connection to Amazon's wider networks will undoubtedly prove useful to companies looking for new ways to peddle their wares, but it might also cause a fair degree of concern over security and privacy.

Research from private communications firm Silent Circle – which itself is producing the security-focused Blackphone, due to be released in a few weeks' time – said only 12 per cent of people in the UK now consider their mobile calls and texts to be private, with 24 per cent of people actively avoiding making sensitive calls on a mobile phone.

Co-found of Silent Circle, Vic Hyder, said: "Privacy is a commodity that is more and more difficult to find. In today's world of forced exposure, you are the product and your information is the currency. Everyone feels the need for privacy at some time or another, practically each and every day.

"Whether it's closing the door to your office while negotiating contract details or turning your head in the coffee shop while discussing a family matter. Privacy is appreciated by all, and all should have a place to go to be private – even in a digital smartphone world with eyes and ears nearly everywhere."

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