The smartphone, which joins Amazon's "Fire" lineup of tablets and
streaming devices, aims to stand out in a crowded field dominated by
Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Samsung Electronics <005930.KS>. It
represents an attempt to extend the company's dominance of online
commerce into mobile phones, which are increasingly being used to
buy items and view video.
But it's unclear how the phone's "Firefly" image- and
audio-recognition feature or its much-touted 3D-perspectives will
work in the real world, or how fickle consumers may respond to
Amazon's latest bid to eliminate barriers to its core online retail
Users can press a button and point the phone at an object such as a
can of soup or work of art, or direct it to listen to a song. If the
device recognizes it, the user can buy it on Amazon, if it's sold
The technology, which works by matching images of items or songs to
Amazon's database of over 100 million items, will be opened to
app-developers for use, an approach that rivals Apple and Google
have taken with their own mobile software.
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, in a rare media appearance in
Seattle, demonstrated three-dimensional display features on the
4.7-inch phone, such as greater depth perception in maps and
Four front-facing cameras track head movements and shift
perspectives depending on a user's activity. Users can scroll
through screens by tilting or swiveling the phone.
"One of the things that Amazon tried to do with this phone is reduce
the amount of activity and input that users have to do to get
results," said Dave Cotter, chief executive of SquareHub, an app
that helps families share photos and other information.
"Instead of clicking a whole bunch of stuff, you hold the phone and
it does things for you," said the former Amazon executive, who got
his first peek at the phone more than two months ago.
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Shares of Amazon climbed 2.7 percent to $334.38 on Wednesday.
Still, the smartphone represents unfamiliar territory for Amazon.
Apple and Samsung now dominate the market, having pushed names like
Motorola and Nokia to the sidelines.
Some may balk at the price. Industry insiders had expected the Fire
phone to be far cheaper than iPhones or Galaxy devices, given Amazon
sold its Fire tablets at cost.
Amazon is selling the Fire phone for $649 contract-free. From July
25, a 32-GB version will go for $199.99 with a contract on AT&T Inc
<T.N>. Those prices are comparable to the iPhone 5C's, though it has
superior displays and other features.
To sweeten the deal, Amazon offered 12 months of membership to
Prime, its two-day delivery and streaming service.
(Editing by Bernard Orr and Edwin Chan)
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