If at first you don't succeed ... Fire, FIRE again: Amazon mulls smartphone sequel

Mobe software tweak released amid Fire Mark II rumor

Amazon hasn't learned its lesson from the thundering belly flop of its Fire Phone, and according to some accounts it's apparently beavering away at a second version.

The giant retailer launched the Fire Phone in June to much fanfare after a hush-hush development cycle. But despite the handset's novel "3D" display and baked-in links to Amazon's online content stores, customers weren't swayed and Amazon has hardly been able to give the things away.

With thousands of unsold Fire Phones still sitting in warehouses, Amazon was forced to take a $170m charge in its most recent financial quarter to account for "inventory valuation and supplier commitment costs."

Yet Bezos & Co aren't ready to give up yet. On Friday, Amazon released a new software update for the Fire Phone that adds new features, and sources familiar with the online giant's plans say it's even planning to release a second phone, although not straight away.

Among the new features in the Friday update is text translation for the Fire Phone's Firefly app, where you can scan text and have it converted to or from English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Firefly has also been trained to identify 2,000 famous paintings, for those of you who like to walk around art museums with your mobile in your hand.

A new camera feature called Best Shot snaps three photos in quick succession and lets you choose the best-looking one of the three, which Amazon says is useful for group photos or action shots of children or pets.

There are also a number of other, minor UI changes, such as adjustable SMS messaging settings and blocking calls by phone number. Amazon has also added a preloaded office-document editing app, VPN support, and more. A full list of the changes in the update is available here.

As for when Amazon will make a phone that customers actually want, however, VentureBeat reports that multiple sources agree that the online megastore is definitely planning to give it another shot, but it's not in any hurry.

It has "gone back to the drawing board," one source claimed, and is currently pondering which features to put into the new device that would make it appealing, with an eye to ship it sometime in 2016.

And we may even see more phones from Amazon after that. One source said the Fire Phone line had the full support of CEO Jeff Bezos, who considers the product a very young one that the company will need to "iterate" upon before it becomes a success. ®

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