Amazon Intros SDKs Alongside Fire Phone

Eric Zeman
Jun. 18 2014, 06:48PM EDT

Amazon today revealed the Fire Phone at a media event in Seattle. The device, according to CEO Jeff Bezos, "puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand—instant access to Amazon's vast content ecosystem and exclusive features." Amazon may be late to the smartphone market, but it is hitting the ground running not only with the new device, but with new developer tools, too. It announced two SDKs developers can use to hook their apps into the Fire Phone.

The two most significant features of the Fire Phone are Dynamic Perspective and Firefly. Each of these functions has its own SDK, complete with APIs.

Dynamic Perspective lets the Fire Phone respond to the way a customer holds, views, and moves the device around in their hands. It does this through the use of four wide-angle cameras placed on the front of the phone. The cameras are assisted by infrared light, so it can even see the user's face in the dark. It creates 3D-like effects on the Fire Phone's screen with select content and apps.

The SDK for Dynamic Perspective includes APIs for head tracking, motion gestures, and home. Additional tools let apps access the Fire Phone's physical buttons as well. The APIs are all available in Java, while some are available in C++, Unity, and HTML5. Amazon says these APIs will help developers install peek, tilt, and zoom capabilities in their apps, as well as do fun things such as create immersive game play or provide quick navigation menus by allowing customers to tilt the device left or right.

Firefly is an object recognition tool. It uses the smartphone's camera to take pictures of objects, which are then compressed, sent to Amazon's servers to be defined, and then returned to the Fire Phone as links to the item on Amazon.com. Firefly has its own button on the side of the phone and can be launched when the phone is asleep. The FireFly Plugin API is only available in Java. Amazon says Firefly will let developers build apps that recognize real world objects--QR and bar codes, artwork, songs, movies--and let customers interact with them.

Amazon says both sets of APIs integrate with its existing mobile APIs. Fire Phone OS may run a version of Android, but it isn't the Android you know and love from Google. It has been forked and does not include Google Services, such as the Play Store. Amazon is pitching developers with in-app purchasing, mobile ads, and other revenue-generating tools. Amazon contends that any app or game submitted by July 18 will be published in the Amazon Appstore in time for the Fire Phone's July 25th launch.

The Fire Phone features a 4.7-inch 720p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, 32/64GB of storage, and a 13-megapixel camera. It comes with unlimited online photo storage, and of course access to all of Amazon's Prime content, which includes Prime Instant Video, Prime Music, and discounts on shipping. The phone costs $200 when purchased with a new contract from AT&T.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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