A closer look at the new technologies in Amazon's Fire smartphone

Firefly, Dynamic Perspective could be the next steps in the evolution of online shopping

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For example, iHeartRadio used the Firefly SDK, with its built-in music recognizer and music database, to help people identify songs that are playing via the streaming music service. Then, iHeartRadio built a specific Firefly app to quickly let a user create a custom station based on the song just recognized.

Llamas said he has tried Windows Phones that allow users to scan an object's bar code to connect to a Bing search for more information. But in that Windows Phone technology, "what's missing is the final step to click here and send me the product in the mail," Llamas said.

Amazon already supports something similar to Firefly in Flow, a free iPhone app. Flow users can point their iPhone cameras at books, DVDs, video games or bar codes and the app will find the items on Amazon and save them in a list. Users can then decide whether they want to buy the items from Amazon.

Llamas said one feature of the new Fire phone that may prove particularly useful, even to savvy smartphone users, is the Mayday button, which provides 24/7 access to tech support within 15 seconds.

"I think the Mayday button on the Fire phone should and will be used rather often, even by sophisticated users," he said. "There's a lot of things that are new on the phone and it's untested in the mass market. Some learning has to take place."

In its online content, Amazon makes a strong pitch for how easy it will be for developers of iOS and Android apps to port their software to Fire. Indeed, the company claims that most Android apps will already work on Fire. It remains to be seen whether any of new apps created for Fire, or even the Firefly and Dynamic Perspective technologies, will attract dedicated iOS and Android users to Amazon's phone.

Llamas said that if even 5% of Amazon's estimated 20 million Prime customers buy a Fire phone, Amazon would reach a "reasonable" starting number of 1 million sales.

But Ask is unconvinced that the new features will attract that many buyers.

The new Fire goes on sale exclusively through AT&T on July 25, starting at $200 for the 32GB version with a two-year contract. Amazon is also advertising an unlocked version for $649.

For a limited time, people who buy Fire phones will get a one-year $99 Amazon Prime membership at no charge.

The Fire has a 4.7-in. HD display and a quad-core Snapdragon 2.2 GHz processor. It runs on the Fire 3.5 mobile operating system. According to an Amazon spokeswoman, the operating system is a "version of Android." Amazon's Kindle tablets have also run on Android variants.

Amazon has unveiled its first smartphone, the Fire, with some interesting new features. Do you think the Fire will be a hit or a miss?

This article, "A Closer Look at the New Technologies in Amazon's Fire Smartphone," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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