Watch this: Amazon introduces the Fire Phone, its first smartphone
Amazon unveiled its first smartphone -- the Fire Phone -- on Wednesday, plunging into the highly competitive world of smartphones dominated by Apple and Samsung as part of its plan to convince consumers to buy more from its online megastore.
The phone, which includes a limited-time offer for a free year of Amazon's $99 Prime shipping and content services, goes on sale on July 25, exclusively through AT&T, according to listings on AT&T's and Amazon's websites. The Fire Phone starts at $199.
"Can we build a better phone for our most engaged customers? Can we build a better phone for Amazon Prime members? The answer is yes," CEO Jeff Bezos told a crowd of 300 journalists, developers and members of the public, all of whom had to apply for their seats at the event in Amazon's hometown of Seattle. Bezos said a total of 60,000 people had asked for an invitation.
The Fire Phone can display 3D images and 3D maps, supports 3D gaming, and features a way to scroll through Web pages simply by tilting the phone. As for the design, it sports a 4.7-inch display with Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 technology, a rubber body, and aluminum buttons. It has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera with image stabilization, and comes with unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive. Check out CNET's first take on the Amazon Fire Phone .
The phone will cost $199 for a model with 32 gigabytes of storage and $299 for a version with 64GB. Both are sold exclusively with wireless service from AT&T, according to the carrier's site. By comparison, both Apple and Samsung offer 16GB versions of their popular smartphones, the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5, for $199. Higher storage capacities cost more, as in the case of the 32GB iPhone 5S, priced at $299. Essentially, the Amazon phone offers double the storage for the same price.
'Amazon in the palm of your hand'
Amazon's move into hardware beyond e-readers and tablets fits into an overall strategy of selling customers devices that make it easy to shop from Amazon. It further pits the e-commerce giant against its rival tech titans and gives Bezos another way to lock customers into Amazon's massive retail ecosystem. As with Amazon's other devices, the Fire Phone will run on a modified, or forked, version of Google's Android operating system.
"Fire is the only smartphone to put everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand," Bezos wrote in a note on Amazon's home page.
Investors seemed happy with the news. Amazon's shares were up 2.7 percent, or $8.76, to $334.39 at the close of the market.
The Fire Phone offers a new feature called Firefly , a program that can scan and recognize objects, images and music, allowing users to pull up information on the products or buy them from Amazon. Firefly, which is accessible with a dedicated button, can even scan a number and call it.
"Firefly recognizes a hundred million different items in real-world situations," Bezos said. Some of Firefly's features sound like an extension of the Amazon Dash, a barcode-scanning wand that Amazon is testing with its AmazonFresh grocery delivery customers.