Amazon’s usually quick to stock its national sites with any new homegrown hardware, but we were reminded just how long Fire TV has been out in the States last week when the company announced its European launch. Today, we’ve learnt Amazon’s other new(ish) device, the Fire phone, will be making a much more timely appearance in the UK. From right now, you can pre-order it exclusively through O2, with September 30th set as the delivery date. The smartphone, which first landed in the US in late July, has a bunch of unique features like 3D head-tracking, one-handed gesture controls and live, on-device customer support through Mayday. There’s also Firefly, an image- and audio-based search engine that can help you find products on Amazon, translate text, extract information from business cards and similar, as well as integrate with other apps like StubHub.
When we reviewed the handset, we weren’t sold on the usefulness of all these features, especially when they can be a burden on battery life. That being said, the UK model will launch with Amazon’s latest software update, which includes various systems tweaks and other improvements, like the addition of quick app switching. Curiously, Amazon has decided to replicate the carrier exclusive model it has with AT&T in the US, just with O2 in the UK (the Fire phone is also launching in Germany soon with Deutsche Telekom). It seems the company is intent on sticking to partnerships, even if it limits the potential customer base.
Being an exclusive, O2’s current in the process of porting its Android apps to the Fire, including O2 Priority, My O2, Tu Go and O2’s WiFi hotspot finder. All these have been adapted to take advantage of the Fire phone’s Carousel UI, which pulls info from the app to serve it underneath the icon, and will be available come the end of September.
The handset will be free from £33 per month on O2’s Refresh tariff, making the total handset price £360 (for the 32GB model), and as we’ve said, it’s up for pre-order online, in-store and over the phone today. Anyone that picks up a Fire phone before the year’s out will get a little bonus, too: one free year of Prime membership, or a year extension when renewal looms.