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Amazon hopes the little touches will help Fire Phone ignite

Susie Ochs | July 11, 2014
When the Fire Phone launches July 25, the world will get to decide if its flashier features like Dynamic Perspective and Firefly are enough to make up for a smaller selection of apps and no familiar Google apps like Gmail and Google Maps.

In the Fire Phone's Settings app, the right panel will hold the settings you've used most recently, something I think iOS and Android proper should steal pronto. When listening to a book in the Audiobooks app, the right panel will show stats like your listening time per day, which seems less useful than the contextual panel in the Music app that shows the lyrics of the currently playing song, synced up to its progress.

Firefly extensions

Firefly is the feature that can scan products, but that's not all it does: It also can pick up email addresses, URLs, and phone numbers from fliers or business cards. It can recognize music or works of fine art. It can recognize the show or movie playing on your TV and tell you which actors are in the scene. The list of results you get when you Firefly something includes links to buy it on Amazon — as you would expect from a phone built by a giant retailer — but thanks to a Firefly SDK, developers can add deep links into their own apps, too, making Firefly useful even if you never buy a thing.

At last month's Fire Phone announcement, examples shown of Firefly extensions included creating an iHeartRadio station based on the identified song or searching StubHub for tickets to upcoming concerts by the song's artist. If you scan some food packaging, a deep link in the Firefly results will let you look up that food on MyFitnessPal, where you can find out its nutritional value and add it to your daily log.

Another Firefly integration that's likely to get a lot of use (by me!) is Vivino, an app that lets you take a photo of a wine label and find out its average price, rating, and reviews from your fellow oenophiles. Using Firefly to scan the labels should be faster thanks to the Fire Phone's dedicated Firefly button — just press and hold it from any app (or even if the phone is locked), and you're ready to scan. And then when you tap the result that launches the Vivino app, it opens right to the wine you're looking for.

Second screen

If you pull up a movie or TV show on your Fire Phone, you can fling it over to your Fire TV, which turns your phone into the remote, while also giving you second screen content from IMDb and Amazon's own X-Ray data. X-Ray is a syncronized display that identifies the actors in each scene, so when you have those "Hey it's that guy!" moments it'll take very little effort to find out who that guy actually is.


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