Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Amazon Fire Phone

It seems inevitable that Amazon would jump into the smartphone space, and they did just that today. As rumoured, it has four front-facing cameras to track face position to assist its parallax and 3D UI features, which is unique if not necessarily a blockbuster feature. What is? Well, probably the “Firefly” feature, which allows you to scan objects in the real world to buy them from Amazon. That, combined with a free year of Amazon Prime included in the price of the phone, could be a pretty hot feature.

Then again, Amazon’s business model is such that their phone essentially a box from which you can buy other things on Amazon. Even their famously low margins couldn’t revolutionize the pricing of the phone: the base 32 GB model is $199 on a two-year AT&T contract, or $649 without a contract (but still locked to AT&T).

Maybe this intrigues you. (It certainly intrigues me.) If you live the United States, there’s good news: they’re shipping on July 25. But if you live anywhere else, you’re out of luck. As has become par for the course for Amazon, virtually none of the great stuff they offer in the US is available internationally, including Prime, their MP3 store, and a large selection of electronics.

The always-on front-facing cameras are a little creepy, too.

Update: The unlimited free cloud photo storage is pretty spectacular, though. Makes the free 5 GB included with iCloud feel even more stingy.

Update 2: Matt Sephton has informed me that both Prime and the MP3 store are available in the UK.