Weatherford Democrat

Online Only

June 19, 2014

Amazon enters smartphone wars with 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.

1
Text Only
Online Only
  • 20140727-AMX-GUNS271.jpg Beretta, other gun makers heading to friendlier states

    In moving south and taking 160 jobs with it, Beretta joins several other prominent gunmakers abandoning liberal states that passed tough gun laws after the Newtown shooting.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brother sues W.Va. senator over business loan

    U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's brother claims he's owed $1.7 million that he loaned to keep a family carpet out of bankruptcy in the 1980s.

    July 28, 2014

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 28, 2014

  • HallofFameBraves.jpg Hall of Fame adds businesslike Braves, Frank Thomas, managers La Russa and Torre

    Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and their manager, Bobby Cox, dominated much of baseball during the 1990s. This weekend they went into the Hall of Fame together.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 26, 2014