Everyone always seems to be holding their breath for the next iPhone or Samsung Galaxy release. You could probably spend your entire life reading the hype just one of these new releases generates on the internet and not come close to finishing every article about it (and of course by then you’d have a million other new smartphones to catch up on). In our smartphone-obsessed, constantly plugged-in culture, the newest technology is always going to be the most exciting – and most polarizing (take iOS 7, for example). No doubt we’ll continue to look at the big players in the market, but what else is out there?

Coming up in late July, there will be a new contender in the market: none other than Amazon (surprise!). As if being the world’s largest online retailer, manufacturer of various electronic devices like the Kindle e-reader, offering music and video streaming services, providing cloud services, and planning to use air drones to deliver packages to customers (and this is just the short list!) wasn’t enough, Amazon is releasing its first smartphone ever: the Amazon Fire. And even in the midst of doing all those other things, it actually does look really cool. The phone will operate on Fire OS 3.5, which is based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

The new phone is being marketed to showcase many features that haven’t been seen yet on other smartphones. Some of these include:

Dynamic Perspective – Includes new viewing features and plenty of one-handed shortcuts (because apparently two-handed smartphone use is already outdated)  
Firefly – Identifies information on print materials (phone numbers, names, etc.), recognizes movies and TV shows, music, and even household products! So it’s like a visual Shazam… while also doing what Shazam already does.
Mayday – On-device tech support… basically FaceTiming with a tech support person to help you if you don’t know how to do something on the phone, except they can’t see you. They can just smile while they take over your phone and show you how to do things. Amazon says waiting for tech support should be no longer than 15 seconds.  

In addition to these features, the phone appears to be up-to-date in other areas as well:

Camera features

  • Unlimited cloud storage for photos on Amazon Cloud Drive
  • HD 1080p Video
  • Camera/Firefly button, which launches the camera in “about a second, even when the screen is off”
  • 13MP camera with optical image stabilization

Music storage in the cloud, with option to download for offline playback (also comes with fancy pair of headphones)
High performance measures: data, graphics, battery life, load time, etc.
Includes a full year of Amazon Prime (limited time)  

You can read the full product page and watch the video here.

This product seems pretty ambitious for Amazon’s first reach into the smartphone market, although it truly has to be in order to compete with what’s already out there and what’s on the horizon. With new smartphone releases always around the corner it’s hard to predict how popular the Fire Phone will be. Several bloggers and news sites have already pointed out some of the challenges Amazon will face, such as consumer loyalty with Apple and Android, resistance to 3-D technology, and exclusivity with AT&T just to name a few. Although the phone looks great and is accompanied by a polished product video, how many people will actually take an initiative to pre-order it or sign contracts with AT&T? It will be interesting to see if this phone is successful and/or what impacts it may have on other smartphone technologies.

Nitie Atamenwan