June 18--More than seven years after Apple introduced the iPhone, Amazon unveiled the Fire Phone, its first foray into the smartphone market Wednesday at an event in Seattle hosted by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Bezos pulled the phone out his pocket before a crowd of 300 gathered near Seattle.
The $200 Fire Phone is equipped with a 3D-capable screen and an ability to recognize music and TV shows. It has 4.7-inch HD display, a quad-core 2.2GHz processor and 2GB RAM. The phone will be available on July 25 through its exclusive carrier, AT&T. Without a contract, it's available for $649.
Fire Phone has a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera with f/2.0 lens. And Amazon's is includeing free, unlimited photo storage, jumping into a crowded field dominated by Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics.
The Fire Phone also featuers a rubberized frame, Gorilla Glass on both sides and CNC aluminum buttons.
"This phone is gorgeous. We put a huge amount of effort into the industrial design," Bezos told the crowd, according to a live report by Engadget.
Emphasizing music and video, closely linked with Amazon's Prime membership that includes streaming, the phone is also trying to make its mark with flattened earbud cords to prevent tangling.
A "Firefly" feature allows users to point the phone at an object, such as a product, or direct it to listen to a song. If the device recognizes it, the user can buy it on Amazon.com if it is sold there.
And, Amazon is adding the Mayday immediate help feature it added to its newer Kindles.
The online retailer was initially coy about identifying its new product. It announced the 12:30 p.m. CST event through a tweet along with a YouTube video teaser that shows users reacting to something being held at lap level, but doesn't show what's in their hands.
The company is jumping into a crowded and hyper-competitive arena dominated by deep-pocketed rivals such as Samsung Electronics and Apple, as well as lower-cost rivals from Asia, even as sales growth slows in some markets that are saturated.
By introducing a handset, Amazon can more directly push access to its online store, or digital content like music, movies and games, to consumers.
A smartphone also adds to the growing lineup of tablet, e-reader and other hardware that can help Amazon circumvent Apple, Google and Samsung, which serve as digital gatekeepers by controlling how applications and media reach customers on mobile gadgets.
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