How the Amazon Fire Phone Works

Operating System and Development Tools

As of mid-2014, the Amazon Fire Phone runs Fire OS 3.5, which is a customized version of Android Jelly Bean with some Android 4.4 KitKat features built in. It's close to, but slightly different from, the Fire OS versions running on Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets and Fire TV.

The Fire Phone comes preloaded with a variety of apps, including Messaging, Email, Calendar, Maps, Weather, Silk Browser, Clock, Calculator, Books (Kindle), Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Music, Audiobooks, Shop, Amazon Appstore and Games. You can also purchase or download lots more from the Amazon Appstore.

Amazon also provides tools for developers so that they can make their apps Fire Phone compatible. Many Android apps will already be compatible with the Fire OS, and others should only require a little tweaking. HTML5 apps should also be easy to port to the Fire.

Developers might want to make changes to existing apps to take advantage of the Fire's Dynamic Perspective and Firefly features. To aid in this, Amazon released two free software development kits (SDKs) for the two major Fire features: Dynamic Perspective SDK and Firefly SDK.

The Dynamic Perspective SDK includes the following APIs (Application Programming Interfaces):

  • Head tracking API
  • Motion gestures API
  • Home API
  • Side panels (Foundation Controls)
  • Euclid controls and UI framework

The Firefly SDK includes just one API:

  • Firefly plugin API

All of the APIs are available in Java, and some are also available in C++, HTML5 or Unity. Custom side panels can be built in Javascript.

In 2014, Amazon had some promotions to encourage developers to build the new functionality (and place ads) into their apps. Developers who build apps that meet certain qualifications will be given 500,000 Amazon coins (the equivalent of $5,000) on up to three apps to give away as promotions to users. Qualified apps are paid or include paid in-app items, implement a widget that brings up contextual information when the app is displayed on the device carousel, and implement left or right panel or both (for non-game apps), or implement head tracking and phone motion to provide in-game experiences relative to the user's perspective (for game apps).

Amazon is also offering developers an above-average guaranteed $6 per thousand impressions for in-app interstitial advertisements on any apps that are new to its mobile ad network during the months of August and September, with a cap of 1 million impressions per app per month.

Developers can also become Mobile Associates and get up to a 6 percent cut (as of this writing) of any items (physical or digital) that they sell via Amazon through their apps.