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Is Amazon's first smartphone going to blow away the competition?

Is Amazon's first smartphone going to blow away the competition?

Amazon's much-anticipated reveal of its first-ever smartphone just wrapped up. In keeping with Amazon's trend of incendiary gadget names, it's called the Fire Phone.

On the outside, it looks a lot like an iPhone 5, but underneath the hood, it's all Amazon. The Fire Phone includes some hardware and software features never before seen in commercial phones.

Software features

The first things you'll notice are the four front-facing cameras at the corners of the screen. You're going to need them for the marquee feature of the phone: Dynamic Perspective.

Dynamic Perspective uses the four cameras to identify and track the location of your eyes. It uses this information to give everything on the screen a 3-D perspective much more advanced than the iPhone's Parallax View.

It also makes gesture controls like tilt, swivel and autoscroll possible - just move your phone to move around webpages and more.

We've seen gesture control on other phones such as Samsung's Galaxy smartphones, but it never worked very well. However, the four cameras will allow the Fire Phone to pinpoint your face and the phone's location with regards to it in three dimensions. In theory, this feature will be one of the most amazing and cool tricks in the Fire Phone's arsenal.

Firefly is a software feature that really plays to Amazon's strengths. It's a lot like Google Goggles, which is Google's real-world search engine.

Firefly uses the phone's camera to look at real-life objects and find relevant information about them online. As you can probably guess, that relevant information will almost always include a link to purchase that object on Amazon.

Firefly doesn't just include books, toys, groceries and other physical items. It can listen and identify songs and it can even decode written language.

The third feature Amazon is touting is called MayDay. It's basically a 24/7 panic button. It gives you instant tech support on video chat with just the push of a button. On the Kindle Fire tablet, response time is less than 10 seconds.

Hardware features

A lot of the most interesting features on the phone are compelling because they're supported by hardware that's unique to the Fire Phone. For example, the Fire has a dedicated Firefly/Camera button that also acts as a shutter.

Just press the button and you instantly open the camera/Firefly app. Then press it again to snap a photo.

The rear camera has a 13 MP sensor and a wide aperture f/2.0 lens. It's a beast compared to most smartphone cameras.

The Fire's camera also has optical stabilization for steady shots, but the best camera feature isn't the camera. You automatically get unlimited cloud photo storage on Amazon's servers for free.

We should probably talk about the scary downside of this phone. Those four front facing cameras are always on. They're always watching and they are exceptionally good at recognizing faces.

They can tell the difference between a photo of your face and your real one because of the three dimensional perspective. In his press conference, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos admitted "yes, I agree this is a little creepy."

Moreover, many of the features and apps are designed to deeply integrate you into Amazon's ecosystem including the Fire TV, Kindle, Amazon Prime and more. To put it succinctly, this phone is built to make you buy more stuff from Amazon.

Cost

The Fire Phone is available for pre-order right now, and will ship on July 25th. As the rumors said, it's exclusive to AT&T, so if you're on another carrier you'll need to switch.

With a two-year contract, it will set you back $199. However, included in that price is a 12 months of Amazon Prime, which is currently valued at $99. If you already have Prime, you'll get an extra 12 months free.

I should remind you that Prime includes free two-day shipping and Amazon's video streaming, music streaming and Kindle Lending Library.

See how the Fire Phone stacks up against its competition on my Smartphone Comparison Chart.

Update: Watch the entire press conference below.

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Source: Amazon
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