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What you need to know about Amazon's Fire Phone

TechHive staff | June 23, 2014
We spent some time with the new smartphone from Amazon and can answer any questions you might have.

As for third-party apps, you'll find that many favorites are already in the Amazon Appstore, including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Candy Crush, Yelp, and Mint. Notably missing are Instagram, Pinterest, Uber, and Whatsapp. You also won't find many of the Google apps that both Android and iOS users have come to depend on: No Gmail, Chrome, Maps, or Drive.

Amazon promises that more third-party apps are in development for Fire OS and will be ready come July 25 for the Fire Phone's launch.

You mentioned Maps. Who's supplying the data?

That sounds like the kind of question from someone still scarred by Apple's iOS 6 Maps rollout. In the case of the Fire Phone, the map data comes from Nokia's Here map program, but there's an Amazon flare. The Maps layout plays nicely with Dynamic Perspective, showing landmarks, buildings, and other points of interest in its faux-3D illustrations. It will include turn-by-turn directions and public transit data at launch, but there's no word on if it will show traffic or walking directions.

What about the phone's screen? Is it really 3D?

Amazon is calling the 3D effect "Dynamic Perspective," which describes it quite well. Flat images have a fixed perspective and single vanishing point, so they look the same no matter where you head is. As we mentioned when talking about specs, the Fire Phone has four cameras in the corners of its face that track the position of your head (even using infrared to see you in the dark), and once they determine the X, Y, and Z axes of your head, the phone can adjust the image's perspective dynamically as your move your head or tilt the phone.

This gives items on screen a fuller, rounder, 3D feel--if you want to see the side of the Firefly icon, you can just peek your head to the left, and the icon rotates to give you a better look. On any other phone's screen that would be a static icon, of course. It's a cool, almost spooky effect, both in the Carousel and especially in the special lock screens Amazon designed to really show it off. (But don't take our word for it--we made some Vines of the Fire Phone in action so you could see for yourself.

Is there any practical use to the 3D effect?

Yes, as a matter of fact. One example Bezos gave in his demo was the Fire Phone's built-in Maps app. The map app's buttons are on a different layer than the actual map image beneath them, so if a button is obscuring the name of a street, you can move your head or tilt the phone to shift the perspective a little bit, which will show you what you're missing. Tilting the phone also lets you see more layers of information, like Yelp results in floating windows that would clutter up the display if they were visible all the time.


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