Amazon unveils the Fire Phone

Amazon.com stepped into the smartphone ring Tuesday, with the Fire Phone. Playing up Amazon’s devotion to the individual customer and the media ecosystem it has built with its Prime subscription service, chief executive Jeff Bezos said that Amazon’s growing universe of services set the phone apart.

The phone is available only to AT&T customers. According to a product page from AT&T, the phone starts at $199.99 with a 2-year contract for a 32 GB model. A 64 GB model costs $299.99. Amazon’s own product listing for the phone indicates that it is $649.99 off-contract and will be released on July 25. Pre-orders for the phone open Tuesday.

Amazon is offering a free year of Amazon Prime membership, a $99 value, for those that buy the phone; current Prime subscribers will be able to add 12 months to their current membership at no cost. That is a limited time offer, though Amazon did not specify how long the promotion will run.

The Fire Phone is a 4.7 inch device that plugs directly into Amazon’s Prime Video, Prime Music and cloud storage services. It also is closely integrated with the company’s Kindle reading apps and Audible audiobooks services. Users can control the phone by tilting it, adding a three-dimensional element to its screen. Users can, for example, navigate through menus or maps just by moving the phone from side to side. The Fire Phone also employs eye-tracking technology, so that the image on the screen changes as the users moves his or her head.

The phone also lets you scan products in stores, so that you can buy things directly from Amazon, using a new service called “Firefly.” Users can even use the phone to “listen” to songs or videos, and link users to places to buy them. It can also recognize art, and scan text such as phone numbers and then immediately place a call.

The phone has a quad-core 2.2 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM and a screen meant to reduce the amount of glare from sunlight. It also sports a 13 MP camera, has advanced image-stabilization software, and includes unlimited photo storage through Amazon’s Cloud Drive service. The company also introduced “tangle-proof” earbuds, according to a report from Re/Code.

There have been rumors for years that Amazon was looking at jumping into the smartphone market. The anticipation behind this event wasn’t lost on Amazon. The company opened up invitations to all of its customers, 60,000 of whom applied. (300 customers made it in to the event.) It also sent a rather enigmatic gift to reporters set to cover the event: a copy of chief executive Jeff Bezos’s favorite childhood book, “Mr. Pine’s Purple House,” which focused on the importance of standing out from the crowd.

The tech giant has already released a line of tablets to accompany its Kindle e-readers, and even tried its hand at a set-top box. And its growing suite of entertainment options, marked most recently by the release of a streaming music service for its most loyal customers, can make its devices more appealing.

But smartphones are a whole different animal. While the markets for other consumer electronics are a little more fluid, the smartphone industry is more or less dominated by Apple and Samsung, which control around 50 percent of the world’s smartphone market between them.

Amazon appears to relying heavily on the goodwill its built with consumers to differentiate itself in that tight market.

“The most important thing we’ve done is to earn trust with customers,” Bezos said, according to a report from Mashable.

(Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

More in Herald Business Journal

Stan Jones (left) father of Vice Chairwoman Teri Gobin, gets a handshake from Jared Parks while Herman Williams Sr. hugs Bonnie Juneau (right) after the Tulalip Tribes and Quil Ceda Creek Casino held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel on Tuesday at the Tulalip Reservation. The casino hotel will be built on 16 acres of ancestral tribal land and will feature a main casino that will showcase as many as 1,500 slot machines. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Tulalips break ground on new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel

A 150-room hotel was added to what is now a $140 million project in Tulalip.

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Trudeau snubs Boeing, unveils plan to buy used Aussie jets

Trudeau will be assessing the impact fighter jet contracts have on his country’s economy.

Boeing raises dividend 20%, continues stock buyback program

The manufacturer said it has repurchased $9.2 billion worth of its shares this year.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

Hospital companies merge as insurers encroach on their turf

An anticipated deal between Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension is only the latest.

DaVita to sell off medical groups including The Everett Clinic

Another round of health care consolidation means The Everett Clinic could soon get new ownership.

Engine trouble hits Air New Zealand’s 787 Dreamliners

A Rolls-Royce engine was shut down and was afterward found to be seriously damaged.

Most Read