Retail giant Amazon finally unveiled its first ever smartphone, the Fire Phone, at a press conference in Seattle on Wednesday, ending months of speculation about its mobile plans.
Clearly having high hopes for the Fire Phone, Amazon has loaded it with a wealth of custom software and hardware features designed to differentiate it from existing handsets and help it carve a space for itself in the ever-competitive phone market.
However, even with Amazon's best efforts, if the Fire Phone is going to succeed in the top-end handset space it will first have to battle for attention with Apple's iPhone 5S – a feat that has proven beyond many smartphone makers.
Measurements and weight
Amazon Fire Phone: 139x67x8.9mm, 160g
Apple iPhone 5S: 124x59x7.6mm, 112g
Despite including some interesting design features, such as its four front cameras, the Fire Phone looks fairly unassuming compared with the iPhone 5S, and features a slightly chunky rubber-coated, not metal, frame.
The Apple iPhone 5S is also significantly lighter than the Fire Phone. Amazon claims the flipside of this is that the Fire Phone will be tougher than "average" smartphones. If true this could be a saving grace differentiating it from the iPhone 5S, which is prone to scratching and chipping.
Amazon Fire Phone: 4.7in, 1280x720, 315ppi HD LCD
Apple iPhone 5S: 4in, 1136x640, 326ppi Retina display
Amazon went to great lengths with the Fire Phone's display, loading it with custom Dynamic Perspective technology that it claims will offer users glasses-free 3D viewing experiences. Amazon has also worked to ensure the display is also great when it comes to picture quality, and claims the Fire Phone screen's 590 cd/m2 brightness and 1000:1 contrast ratio will let it match if not beat competing handsets, such as the iPhone 5S.
If true this will be a seriously impressive achievement as despite being slightly old, Apple's Retina displays are still among the best currently available.
Amazon Fire Phone: 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
Apple iPhone 5S: Apple A7 chipset
When Amazon unveiled the Fire Phone, one of our biggest disappointments was its use of Qualcomm's previous-generation Snapdragon 800 chip. The use of the old chip, combined with the demanding software additions made by Amazon mean the Fire Phone may not match the performance of the iPhone 5S, which remains one of the fastest phones available. Still, we won't know this for sure until we've had a chance to properly benchmark and test the Fire Phone.
Amazon Fire Phone: Fire OS 3.5.0
Apple iPhone 5S: iOS 7
The Fire Phone runs on a heavily customised version of Android, which replaces pretty much all of Google's services with Amazon's and adds a wealth of custom features and applications. One of the biggest changes is the addition of Firefly.
Firefly is an information-gathering tool designed by Amazon, which lets you use the Fire Phone's camera and microphone to pull data from Amazon's database on a number of things including books, DVDs, phone numbers, QR codes, CDs, URLs, famous artwork and barcodes. If the feature works as well as Amazon claims, it could prove a key differentiator for the Fire Phone.
But even with these perks, if the Fire OS version is anything like the previous versions seen on Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets the iPhone 5S will be significantly more user friendly.
Amazon Fire Phone: 13MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), f/2.0 five-element wide-aperture lens; 2.1MP front camera
Apple iPhone 5S: 8MP, f2.2 rear camera; 1.2MP front-facing camera
Amazon made a point to directly call out the iPhone 5S when discussing the Fire Phone's rear camera at the handset's launch event, claiming it will easily outperform Apple's flagship when it comes to imaging performance. If true this will make the Fire Phone one of the best camera options available in the Android ecosystem.
Amazon Fire Phone: 2,400mAh (11 hours of media usage)
Apple iPhone 5S: 10 hours of media usage
On paper the Fire Phone has a better battery life than the iPhone 5S. But companies' projected battery lives don't always ring true and many phones fall short of their listed times. As a result we won't know which phone has the better battery until we've had a chance to thoroughly test the Fire Phone.
Amazon Fire Phone: 32GB, 64GB
Apple iPhone 5S: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
The Apple iPhone 5S comes with more internal storage options than the Fire Phone. However, its physical storage lead is countermanded by Amazon's decision to offer Fire Phone users unlimited space on its Amazon Cloud Drive storage service.
The Amazon Fire is due for release in the US on 25 July with prices starting at $200 on a two-year contract with AT&T, and $649 SIM-free. This indicates that if Amazon does choose to release it in the UK, the 32GB Fire Phone will be at least £450 SIM-free. While steep, this means the Fire Phone could still be cheaper than the iPhone 5S; its equivalent 32GB version retails for £629.
On paper the Amazon Fire Phone does have the chops to take on the Apple iPhone 5S. While it features a less alluring design and runs using a previous-generation processor, its 3D display technology and Firefly information service make it one of 2014's most interesting handsets. Whether this will be enough to entice buyers away from its more established and ever-popular Apple competition however, remains to be seen.
By Alastair Stevenson
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