Amazon is bringing its first ever smartphone, the Fire Phone, to the UK. The news comes over a month after it launched in the US. The Amazon designed and branded smartphone will be launched exclusively on carrier O2 in the UK, reports The Guardian.
A product recognition app called up by the 'Firefly button' is a major unique selling point of the device and allows users to find items on Amazon by using the camera on the handset or recognition of A/V media content. It can also identify QR codes, bar codes, paintings, restaurant signs and even wine labels, in order to provide the user more information about the item, product or place. Another gimmick offered by the Amazon Fire Phone is its application of 3D Dynamic Perspective in the UI and apps, using multiple front-facing cameras.
The Fire Phone runs Amazon's forked version of the Android OS and lacks Google's apps and services, relying upon Amazon's own app store. It also includes many apps aimed especially at Amazon customers and integration with its Amazon Prime Instant Video service and music store, turning the device into a gateway Amazon e-commerce and media services.
However the Guardian report highlights that Amazon's app store still lags behind Google when it comes to content and services, with 240,000 apps existing, equivalent to less than a fifth of the 1.3 million apps available through Google's Play Store.
Talking about these figures, Cameron Janes, Amazon's director of the Fire phone expressed that rather than focusing on the number of apps, the company is focusing on having the right apps that customers will really want.
"Since we launched the Fire phone in the US, we’ve seen the volume of app submissions to the Amazon app store double," claimed Janes. "We’re very focused on bringing more apps to the platform, and for the UK we’ve got apps like BBC Sport, the Met Office, Just Eat, Time Out and Yplan, so we’re making sure we deliver relevant local apps too,"
The UK version of the Fire Phone will come packed with Amazon's second major update to its software which has improved performance, battery life, and voice recognition tweaks to handle different British accents. The device will be available for free on a £33 month contract from O2. Pre-orders are available from today and actual product availability from 30th of this month.
Despite a disappointing reception and sub-standard sales figures, with reportedly less than 35,000 units sold in the US, the device is hoped to make a splash in the UK.
Over the pond Amazon has announced a price cut for the device, probably due to its poor sales performance, just weeks after its release. The price for the handset in the US has been slashed from $200 to 99 cents on a two year contract, for the 32GB version. The 64GB version of the device will cost $99, down from $299 previously, on a two year contract as well. Both versions will still come bundled with a year of free Amazon Prime membership, but the company has stated that this will be a limited-time offer.