Amazon tests rivals with 3D 'Fire' smartphone
By Rob Lever, AFP
June 20, 2014, 12:08 am TWN
WASHINGTON--Amazon on Wednesday unveiled its "Fire Phone," a high-end handset boasting "breakthrough technologies" and a move aimed at challenging market leaders Apple and Samsung.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos unveiled the device, Amazon's first smartphone of its own, which has a 4.7-inch display, a high-definition camera and Amazon's free help service.
The phone also ties in to Amazon's vast array of other offerings, serving as a platform for digital content such as books, films and music and connecting users to the firm's cloud storage.
"Fire Phone puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand — instant access to Amazon's vast content ecosystem" said Bezos.
The handset has what Bezos called a "dynamic" display which shows images in three dimensions, and a scanner which recognizes products for sale and a variety of other objects such as artworks.
Amazon described these features as "two new breakthrough technologies that allow you to see and interact with the world through a whole new lens."
The so-called "dynamic perspective" uses a sensor system "to respond to the way you hold, view, and move Fire, enabling experiences not possible on other smartphones," Amazon said.
Another feature dubbed "Firefly" recognizes things in the real world such as Web and email addresses, phone numbers, bar codes, and millions of products, "and lets you take action in seconds" to buy a product or create a music playlist, for example.
Contrary to some speculation, Amazon is not shaking up the pricing model for the smartphone market — selling the device to U.S. customers through AT&T at US$200 with a contract, starting July 25.
As a financial inducement, consumers who buy the phone will get one year of "Amazon Prime," which includes free delivery of goods and access to digital offerings such as video and streaming music.
Analysts gave a mixed reaction, saying Amazon did not appear to offer a compelling reason to consumers to switch, but could appeal to its loyal customers.
"There are people who know and love all things about Amazon, and that's the low-hanging fruit," said Ramon Llamas, mobile analyst at IDC.
"This is an uphill challenge to get people to give up their current smartphones and switch to this one."