Amazon unveils Fire smartphone

Amazon on Wednesday announced its first smartphone, dubbed the Fire Phone.

CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the device at a special event in Seattle. The phone features a 4.7-inch screen and a 13-megapixel rear camera. It costs $199 for the 32 GB model, and $299 for 64 GB with a two-year contract with AT&T, exclusively. You can pre-order the phone now, it will be available July 25.

The gadget is also closely tied to Amazon’s digital media offerings, including its Kindle books store and its Amazon Prime streaming video and music service. The Fire Phone also comes with 12 months of Prime.

Additionally, the phone will include the Mayday feature Amazon introduced with its Kindle Fire tablets last fall. That feature allows users to quickly connect online with the company’s customer support representatives at the touch of button.

However, one of the most distinctive features of the phone is a service called Firefly, which can identify movies, songs, phone numbers and physical objects by their sights, sounds, bar codes and logos. With Firefly, users could get the name of a song playing on the radio, look up information about a movie playing on their television or get information about a product they see in a store. The service can also dial a phone number that it identifies just by seeing it on a poster or scrap of paper. And it can identify works of art, taking users directly to information about particular paintings on Wikipedia.

Amazon will allow outside developers to tap into the new service, which users will be able to access by pressing a dedicated button on the side of the Fire phone. At the event, Bezos demonstrated how users of Vivino could get information about a particular bottle of wine by just taking a picture of it using Firefly. He also showed how users of MyFitnessPal could get nutrition information about particular products by simply taking pictures of them.

As rumored, the phone will also feature a virtual 3D display. Objects viewed on the screen will shift as you tilt the phone. Users will be able to get different views of pictures and maps by simply tilting the device.

The phone will make use of motion sensors for features other than the 3D display. Users can scroll through a document by tilting their phone up or down. Or they can browse a collection of products by tilting the phone left or right.

 

At top: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduces the new Amazon Fire Phone, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (279 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.