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Amazon unveiled its first, very-own-branded smartphone today, the Fire Phone, and, beyond telephony, it will help create a consumer and technological connection moving beyond tablets with a direct line to Amazon’s commerce platform. It’s a tech introduction that should help Amazon close any remaining gaps between consumers seeing products and buying products, and will provide a real advantage over other retail competitors and based on a first-viewing, smartphone competitors too.
You have to have been totally disconnected from the mobile and retail worlds to have missed the fact that the lines between retailer and technology have blurred over the past couple of years, a consumer trend that an Amazon phone can take more advantage of, perhaps even a little bit better than others who have tried in the past. The Nexus One, turned out to be a phone that could only be purchased directly from the Google online store and was then connected to the weakest of the U.S. mobile carriers, T-Mobile. And certainly better than Facebook’s 2013 phone introduction, where Facebook Home dominated the user experience, a smartphone paradigm variation that consumers apparently weren’t calling for.
Sure, consumers are emotionally engaged with brands like Apple and Samsung, but they’re also emotionally engaged with the Amazon brand.  Apple and Samsung have jockeyed for the #1 smartphone spot in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index for years. But Amazon has been #1 in the Online Retail category for the past 18 years, since we added the then-nascent category to the Index. OK, not apples-to-Apple’s we’ll admit, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Online Retail has many technological aspects to it and, you know what they say?  “No risk, no mind-bogglingly enormous reward,” and Jeff Bezos seems to have done it.
Here are some specs gleaned from today’s announcement:
  • A 4G LTE Fire Phone.
  • 4.7-inch HD display, optimized for one-handed use.
  • Rubberized frame, Gorilla Glass on both sides, CNC aluminum buttons, polished button chamfers, injection-molded steel connectors for a tight and precise fit.
  • 590 nits brightness, dynamic image contrast and circular polarizer.
  • Comes with a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM.
  • As phones are also our primary cameras (they noted) a 13MP rear-facing with f/2.0 lens and OIS.
  • Free unlimited photo storage.
  • Sound is important so Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.
  • No tangled headphones: Flat cables with magnetic earbuds that clasp together. 
  • People use phones more and more to watch video, so they “made video awesome on this phone with more than 200,000 videos, including exclusives all accessible through Instant Video.
  • Amazon is bringing second screen and X-Ray to the Fire Phone so you can fling your video to any Miracast device (such as the Fire TV). They’re bringing over features from Fire TV, like ASAP, so they can predict what you’re going to want to stream, and they pre-buffer it so the streaming starts right away.
  • Prime Music, which launched last week, includes a million songs right now and in case a million isn’t enough, there are other apps you can get, like Pandora, and Spotify. 
  • Also, Audible, Kindle Newsstand, and Comixology with immersion Reading and Whispersync for Voice featured.
  • Customer Service? Mayday Options: it’s 24/7, and takes 15 seconds or less. Free.
  • Firefly: uses the camera to recognize books, DVDs, phone numbers, QR codes, CDs, URLs, games, bar codes, etc. It recognizes them and finds them in its database. Firefly can not only see, but listen, so just like you can do on Shazam and related services, the phone can listen to music, and pull it up on services like iHeartRadio and Amazon Music. It can recognize TV shows and once it does you can view details, purchase it and so on.
  • Oh, Firefly can also recognize art too. It recognizes over a hundred million items. 
  • Recognizing phone numbers aren’t a problem, even if it’s on a street sign. Email addresses too even if there are complications like glare, wrinkles and curves. Semantic boosting helps improve the probability that the character recognition gets the phone number right. They did a test to show how a number 708, which features glare made it look like a 703. But since the computer can recognize that “703” isn’t a valid exchange for that area code (206), it knew that it had to be 708.
  • There’s a dedicated Firefly button, that lets you access this service anytime in 1 second.
  • There’s also an SDK, so 3rd-party developers can use the same text, audio and image recognizers, as well as the content databases, and just add a custom action like iHeartRadio and Myfitnesspal.
  • There’s 3D. The Fire Phone with Dynamic Perspective changes the view of a picture as you move the phone around. You can do this for maps as well. At the introduction, Jeff Bezos showed a 3D image of the empire state building from an aerial view that made it look like the building was sticking out of the phone.
  • The web browser also uses dynamic perspective. You can tilt the phone to scroll the browser. Same thing goes for e-books. Small tilts make it scroll slowly, bigger angles of tilting make it scroll faster and you can also lock the scroll speed into place.
  • In addition to the tablet-style carousel, you can have an Android-like app grid and if you go to email, you don’t have to launch the email app to see messages, because you can see the first few emails on the bottom of the screen. With calendar, you can see your next appointments. With the camera, you can see your latest pictures. Third-party stuff apparently works as well.
  • Music has a 3-panel design that means the left panel is navigation (playlists & artists), a central panel lets you see album art and pause or go forward or backward, and the right hand panel shows you the lyrics.
  • The Dynamic Perspective tech gives gamers a view of different levels and perspectives.
  • Mr. Bezos noted, “The key is knowing where the user’s head is at all times.” But not with headgear which would be really geeky in a bad way, but computer vision. A face-fronting camera won’t work so these cameras have a 120-degree FOV. But you also need stereo vision. So there are two cameras for that. But, because users hold their phones in a whole bunch of ways and end up obscuring the cameras, Amazon added two more. So four corner cameras, and no matter how you hold your phone, you can pick two cameras.
  • There’s infrared light — one for each camera, invisible to human eyes, but great for cameras. They’re much more efficient because they use a global shutter instead of rolling shutter.
  • But everybody’s different Mr. Bezos noted. So how do you capture all of that variety? It’s a difficult machine-learning problem but they’ve figured it out. And there’s an SDK is also available for the dynamic perspective. 
  • Small touches: like going into the calendar realizing you’ll be late to the next meeting so you can go to the right panel and there’s a list of quick messages, like “go ahead and start without me.” There’s an option to keep the ringer silent for 3 hours and then it goes back on automatically. When you’re messaging, you can pull up pictures by swiping from the right.


The Fire Phone is an AT&T exclusive. AT&T Mobility CEO, Ralph de la Vega, noted for the record “It’s addictive and an absolute breakthrough. I’m going to buy a whole lot more things now!”  

Even with all the technology, the Amazon Fire phone is something the brand couldn’t really avoid for long, particularly given the growth in the mobile sector. Consumers usually spend more time on smartphones than tablets and pretty much have their phones always on and within easy reach, and Amazon knows a little something about technology and selling technology, à la their Kindle eReaders and their Kindle Fire tablets. They priced them to sell and then provided customers a platform for books and videos and content. As to additional content, how better to leverage Amazon’s newest service, Prime Music, streaming music, free to customers who are members of Amazon Prime. So it seems as if Amazon’s got your number, well, they do.
Oh, and speaking of numbers, keep in mind Amazon already has close to 260 million customers already buying a lot of stuff a lot of the time, much of it online. Want to guess how many like the idea of smartphones and are already highly engaged with the Amazon brand, so the Amazon phone is sounding pretty good to them about now? It looks to cost $199 with a 2-year contract or $299 for the 64GB version. And it comes with a free year of Amazon Prime, and current Prime Members will get the 12 months for free too. Fire Phone is due to ship July 25th.
And given all those possibilities, Amazon’s entry could actually end up being the industry’s very, very, first sell-phone. 

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