There are two ways to view the smartphone Amazon introduced to the world on Wednesday: It's either the latest in a long line of phones with fancy features many people will never use or a magic wand for shopaholics.
The phone's most significant feature, called "Firefly," employs audio and object recognition technology to identify products and present the user with ways to purchase the items through Amazon. Users can simply snap a photo of a book, for instance, and Firefly will offer up its title and author, give more information about it and provide ways to buy it through Amazon with a single click.
Seven years after Apple's iPhone took over the category, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos believes there is room in the market for something different. Even with the dominant leads that Apple and Samsung hold, Bezos told The Associated Press in an interview, "it's still early" in the wireless device business.
People change phones all the time, he said. It's not about taking market share right away, but making a phone that is ideal for a certain customer and hoping it takes hold.
"We wanted to make a device that's great for one person," Bezos said. "It's like a certain person likes chocolate and another person likes vanilla. The customer can choose."
While the new Fire Phone comes with some features that are practically industry standard -- like a slim profile, a sturdy glass touchscreen, minimalist buttons and one camera for facing toward and away from the user -- it breaks new ground in other areas.
The phone's Firefly object recognition feature can identify items and product names captured with the device's camera. It can also pull in useful information such as phone numbers, website addresses. The company has catalogued more than a hundred million items that Firefly can recognize and has tweaked the technology to recognize words and characters in a variety of real-life situations.
Another feature, called "dynamic perspective," uses four infrared, front-facing cameras that tell the phone where the user's face and eyes are located. The feature adjusts the user interface so that tilting the screen relative to the viewer's face can toggle through screens, scroll through websites, make online video game characters fly up or down, and render buildings and other custom-made art in 3-D.
The entry-level Fire phone costs $199 with a two-year AT&T contract, which places it at the high end of smartphone pricing. But the phone comes with 32 gigabytes of memory, double the standard 16 GB. It also comes with 12 months of Amazon Prime, the company's free shipping, video, music and book subscription plan, which normally costs $99 a year. (continued...)
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