In Seattle, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the e-commerce giant's further foray into mobile, with the launch of the Fire Phone. For those following Amazon, this shouldn't be a huge surprise.
Earlier this month, the online retailer rolled out a 50-second teaser video that had customers looking at the hidden-from-view device and remarking on it with variations of "Whoa," and "I don't think I've seen anything like that." It wasn't too much of a stretch to assume the gadget they were examining was indeed a smartphone.
Leading up to the launch event, attendees received a copy of the CEO's favorite childhood book, Mr. Pine's Purple House by Leonard P. Kessler and note from Bezos that said "I think you'll agree the world is a better place when things are a little bit different."
To that end, the phone has a 4.7-inch screen, a durable Gorilla Glass 3 and rubber frame and aluminum buttons. It comes with 2GB of RAM, a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, 13 megapixel rear-facing camera with optical image stabilization to combat shaky handling and four front facing cameras (complete with infrared lights) that create a 3-D "dynamic perspective."
That "dynamic perspective" changes the images users see as the device is tiled and moved around. You can angle the phone to scroll through an article or gallery of photos. For example, when playing a game, you can do so without touching the screen -- the phone will track your head and face at all times to adjust to your movements.
Also included is free unlimited photo storage on the Amazon cloud drive and magnetized ear buds with a flat cable (in an attempt to cut down on tangling). Plus, you can "fling" videos from your phone to Amazon TV and with their Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP) technology the phone can predict what you want to watch and pre-buffer it. The phone also comes with free "Mayday" customer support like with the Kindle Fire.
At the event Bezos also demonstrated a new app called Firefly. With Firefly, the phone can recognize images of books, DVDs, URLs, bar codes and QR Codes and search for them in the database for users to be able to purchase. Bezos says it can identify more than 100 million items -- from a song to a work of art to an episode of Game of Thrones. There is a Firefly button on the phone and third-party developers like myfitnesspal, iHeartRadio and Vivino, have already utilized Firefly SDK.
The phone starts at $199 and AT&T will be the exclusive carrier with a two-year contract. Customers can pre-order it now and it will ship on July 25th. Twelve months of Amazon Prime are included and existing Prime members get an additional 12 months free with the purchase. Another mobile partnership was also announced this week. Starting in the fall, Blackberry 10 devices will offer users 240,000 Android apps from the Amazon store like Candy Crush Saga, Netflix and Pinterest.