The idea that Amazon might make a smartphone is not by any means new. Almost two years ago, very early rumors began circulating that Amazon was considering the expansion of its Android-powered (and quite popular) Kindle Fire tablet line to include an Amazon smartphone. Last year, word was that the smartphone would be released or at least announced in Q2, and that the device would have a 4.7-inch display. Clearly, that did not happen as predicted, but now we have some more information about a potential release, and this time there is also some photographic evidence.
First, the rumored release date. According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon will announce its new smartphone by June of this year. Interestingly, this prediction places the announcement at the tail end of Q2 2014, a year later than the previous rumor. After the announcement, word is that the actual hardware would begin shipping by September. Though Amazon said in 2013 that it wouldn’t release a free smartphone that year, the door was still left open for the future, and perhaps now is the time.
These most recent reports perhaps hold a bit more weight than previous rumors, because in addition to the Wall Street Journal’s release information, BGR has published images that are supposedly prototypes of the Amazon smartphone. Before you get too worried about how the device looks, it is apparently pictured in a protective casing to keep it disguised. Still, from what we can see there appears to be nothing particularly stunning about the industrial design, in fact the look reminds me both of the iPhone and the latest Nokia devices.
In addition to a few images, BGR also says that the Amazon phone will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor backed by 2GB of RAM, and include a 4.7-inch 720p display. At first glance, the display specs will appear subpar compared to larger and higher resolution offerings. However, it seems that Amazon actually has a reason for the perhaps underwhelming display specifications. What is said to differentiate the Amazon phone is that it will include 3D capabilities without the need for glasses.
It is true, the HTC EVO 3D at least tried this first. Even so, Amazon’s smartphone won’t be quite the same. Instead of the parallax barrier used on the EVO 3D, the Amazon phone will have six cameras. What do 6 cameras have to do with anything? Well, the first two occupy the traditional smartphone roles, with a 13MP unit on the back and a standard front facing camera on, well, the front. The four extra units are reported to be low-powered infrared cameras, which you can see on the four corners of the pictured prototype. Apparently, these four cameras will track the user’s eyes and face, allowing the software to constantly adjust the picture and produce a 3D effect. We obviously don’t know how well this will actually work, but it is certainly an interesting approach.
Naturally, Amazon is hoping that the 3D technology will be the big a big selling point for the smartphone, and as a result has planned much of the interface around that. In addition, the company is apparently trying to work with some popular app developers in order to fully utilize the technology once the phone is released. Interestingly, though the device was first rumored to be based on Android, there has been no mention of the OS in recent reports. Could the delay be because Amazon elected to start an OS from scratch? It isn’t likely, but is possible. As far as 3D is concerned, there aren’t too many situations that I can think of where users would really think “this would be so much better in 3D,” but if implemented in a way that doesn’t detract from normal use or that can be disabled, the feature wouldn’t be bad to have.
There’s no word on pricing yet, which is interesting as earlier on one of the selling points of Amazon’s smartphone was supposedly that it would be cheap. Now that the rumors include this new implementation of 3D, one wonders how cheap the smartphone could really be. It certainly doesn’t seem likely that Amazon will be able to undercut devices like the Nexus 5, but hopefully the phone won’t be prohibitively expensive either.
As always, we won’t find out for sure until we get an official announcement, but after two years it finally seems likely that Amazon will announce a smartphone. Whether or not it will be affordable and the 3D technology useful is another question, but this will certainly be something to watch.[BGR | The Wall Street Journal via The Verge]