Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In Amazon’s case, a long rumored Kindle Fire-style smartphone that finally looks like it’s ready to see the light of day. As we get closer to the device’s reported June launch, more and more clues have dropped as to what we can expect from Amazon. From a glasses-free 3D screen and face-tracking cameras to potential price and availability, here’s what we think we know about Amazon’s smartphone.
Your content and shopping experience could literally stand out on Amazon’s smartphone. The most intriguing aspect of Amazon’s offering is a 3D screen that lets you see 3D (almost holographic) on your screen without having to don glasses. Sources have told the Wall Street Journal and BGR.com that the phone will use four built-in face-tracking cameras to create the 3D effect.
According to BGR’s sources, these low-power infrared cameras are located on each of the four corners of the phone’s face and track the position of your eyes relative to the screen. This way, the handset can use your point of view and adjust the layout of page elements to give the impression of 3D.
You’ll be able to see this effect in almost every part of the phone’s interface, from lock screen wallpapers that move based on your perspective to pop-up application icons. Sources also told BGR.com that the maps app will change views as the phone moves, while shifting the phone in Amazon’s stores will provide a fuller, three-dimensional view of product images.
Amazon is reportedly working with third-party developers to create apps and content that will make use of its 3D interface so that the feature doesn’t come off as a gimmick. The company will also make APIs available to encourage more widespread use of its technology.
Using the same infrared cameras and onboard sensors that it employs for the 3D interface, the smartphone may eschew traditional buttons for navigation in favor of tilt gestures. BGR’s sources say that instead of hitting menu buttons, you’ll just have to tilt the phone left or right to bring up panels of options.
In the messaging app, for instance, a tilt could open the phone’s camera roll to let you quickly insert a picture. While searching for a restaurant in the maps app, you’ll reveal Yelp ratings for each location just by moving your phone around.
This interface could help differentiate Amazon’s product by keeping your fingers (and their prints/smudges) off the screen, and make for a more one hand friendly experience.
Amazon’s rumored smartphone may come with a unique package called Prime Data that could offer free web browsing over LTE via Amazon-specific apps. Whether it rides on AT&T’s Sponsored Data plan or takes a similar form, the service could let you shop, download movies, TV Shows and e-books without the traffic counting towards your monthly data allotment. Details on Prime Data are sparse at the moment, as BGR.com says Amazon is keeping the specifics under wraps, but this could be a great differentiating factor for the retail giant’s smartphone.
Most rumors indicate that Amazon is working on both a high-end smartphone and a second lower-end device to retail at a competitive price at a later date. Not much is known on how Amazon intends to compensate for the lower price, whether it be offering ads on the device or removing the 3D feature.
Based on pictures obtained by BGR.com, the device (encased in a protective black shell) will sport three hardware buttons on its side and one on its top that should be a power switch.
BGR’s sources say the phone will carry a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM and run a heavily skinned version of Android in line with Amazon’s FireOS on its Kindle tablets. The smartphone should also sport a 4.7-inch 720p display. That’s the same size as the Moto X and rumored iPhone 6 but smaller than the 5.1-inch Galaxy S5 and 5-inch HTC One.
In addition to the four face-tracking cameras, Amazon’s smartphone may also carry a 13-megapixel rear shooter and a front-facing one for video chatting and its MayDay tech support feature. The device may also boast software that recognizes objects in your pictures and searches Amazon for them to make shopping easier.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Amazon phones will hit shelves by the end of September, with an announcement potentially set for June. This summer launch could lead to a heated showdown between Amazon and Apple, which is expected to release its next iPhone in a similar window.
According to The Information, Amazon has already begun talks with the Big Four U.S. carriers to stock its handset, and is also looking into bringing its product to Europe, China and Latin America.
Several codenames have been tossed around since the first Amazon phone rumors surfaced. Project Duke, later renamed Project Smith, appear to be specific labels for the 3D development teams, while Project Aria appears to have been used as a product name when Amazon was reportedly talking to U.S. carriers. We expect Amazon will not depart from its tradition of using a fire-related word for its device, and it is possible the company will stick to the Kindle brand for its smartphones.