Beyond 3D: Inside Amazon’s smartphone

An exclusive in-depth look at the unique software that will power Amazon's upcoming smartphones

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Amazon Smartphone Specs

Amazon doesn’t plan to unveil its first smartphone until later this spring, but the world got an early look at the handset last week when BGR posted exclusive photos of the unannounced device. We also shared several key details about the phone’s software, which features unique hardware-assisted 3D effects that will help differentiate Amazon’s smartphone lineup from rival devices.

But Amazon’s 3D effects are just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t miss our earlier coverage, which included several exclusive photos of Amazon’s first smartphone

BGR has exclusively learned several additional details about the heavily customized Android software that powers Amazon’s smartphone.

Multiple trusted sources tell us that Amazon’s upcoming handset will utilize a unique combination of cameras, sensors and software to dramatically change the way users interact with a smartphone. As we detailed in an earlier report, the company’s first smartphone will feature four low-power infrared cameras on the face of the device that track the position of the user’s head in relation to the phone’s display.

This unique hardware combination of tracking cameras and sensors will facilitate a variety of 3D effects on Amazon’s smartphone, as we reported. These effects will be present in several stock Amazon apps as well as some third-party apps available for download from the Amazon Appstore.

Beyond 3D effects, however, Amazon’s new technology will also enable an entirely new way for users to navigate apps and menus on the phone.

With its first handset, Amazon will introduce a variety of unique gesture controls.

By tilting the handset in different directions while the device is in use, Amazon’s interface will display additional information on the screen without the user having to touch or tap anything. This will not only be a point of differentiation for the company’s phone lineup, but also a way for larger devices such as Amazon’s upcoming 4.7-inch flagship phone to be operated more comfortably with one hand.

Our sources gave us several examples of areas where these new gestures will be utilized.

In the phone’s email and calendar apps where small icons are displayed with no labels, a slight tilt will reveal labels beneath each icon, informing the user of its function. If the user performs a tilt gesture after searching for a restaurant in the maps app, Yelp ratings will appear on top of the various results plotted on the map.

In Amazon’s video store, a tilt gesture displays IMDb ratings on top of movie thumbnails. And when viewing products on Amazon.com, gestures might cycle through images to reveal different product views.

Amazon’s motion sensing and head tracking technology also changes the way users access menus and other features in apps. In fact, we’re told that Amazon’s smartphone apps don’t even have traditional menu buttons. Instead, menus and other functions are accessed by tilting the phone to the right or left. These tilts cause new panels to slide in over the current screen.

So for example, if the user tilts the phone to one side while reading a book in the Kindle app, the phone will open the X-Ray menu, which is a reference tool that provides contextual information relevant to whatever the user might be reading at the time.

A tilt in the messaging app while composing a new message will open up a panel with the phone’s camera roll, allowing users to quickly and easily insert a photo. Tilting the phone to one side while using the weather app reveals the extended forecast.

Amazon has also created several zero-touch controls that are triggered by tilt gestures, our sources said. For example, tilting the phone up or down while reading a book in the Kindle app or while viewing a page in the web browser will scroll the page in the appropriate direction.

Moving beyond the device’s sensors, our sources say there is one additional interesting software feature worth noting.

Amazon’s phone includes a feature that will allow users to capture images of signs and other real-life objects with printed text using the device’s primary rear camera. The software will then automatically recognize the text and convert it into a note using optical character recognition (OCR) and other technology.

We’re told the software can also perform certain functions with the captured text, such as saving information on a business card to a new contact entry, or translating text from a foreign language into English.

Click here for more on Amazon’s first smartphone, including specs, photos and more exclusive details.

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