Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced his company’s first foray into the smartphone market at a special unveiling this morning in Seattle, confirming recent speculation among the technology community. Bezos will hope the new phone boosts the Amazon ecosystem, and bolster revenue in all departments.
There are enough innovative features to suggest that the Fire Phone will be able to survive as a standalone product, something Facebook was unable to do when it entered the smartphone market with the HTC First and its proprietary Facebook Home software.
The device features “Dynamic Perspective,” which uses four corner-mounted cameras to redirect the phone’s 4.7 inch, 720p display according to the user’s eye movements, creating a greater sense of three dimensions for the viewer. The phone also boasts Firefly, a Shazam-like feature that can detect phone numbers, movies, and art among over 100 million items when the phone’s camera is directed at them. The Fire Phone will run a 2.2 GHz Qualcomm quadcore processor, boasts 2GB of RAM, and has tabbed AT&T to be its exclusive U.S. provider.
Amazon’s hardware strategy reflects the company’s broader mission to make commerce as convenient as possible for the user. Firefly, for example, will make it even easier for shoppers to browse items at a brick-and-mortar store before buying them online. This type of feature keeps users glued to the Amazon infrastructure, a cause for even more anxiety among traditional retailers.
The Fire Phone, meanwhile, will complement Amazon’s other hardware offerings, particularly the FireTV, which was launched earlier this year. Videos streamed through the Fire Phone are easily projected onto a Fire TV, while the phone’s “X-Ray” feature can provide background information about what is airing on the digital TV device. “We have made video awesome on this phone,” declared an excitable Bezos at the event.
The Fire Phone, which will retail for $199 and include 12 months of Amazon Prime, is the latest manifestation of the Amazon way: low margins today, with an eye towards winning market share and the future. But, unlike other initiatives, the company is arriving late to the smartphone market, one that has seen the incumbents Samsung and Apple consolidate power in recent years.
It remains to be seen whether the enthusiasm of investors, which boosted Amazon’s share price by around 3 percent to $334.38 on the back of today’s news, will be matched by consumers. If the Fire Phone does succeed, then the ripple effects on Amazon products will be felt way beyond the smartphone market.