SEATTLE — Amazon.com unveiled the Fire Phone smartphone Wednesday, featuring a way to differentiate the device from rivals with technology that identifies book covers, labels and barcodes to make shopping easier.
"Can we build a better phone for our most engaged customers? Can we build a better phone for our Amazon Prime member?" Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the device's launch. "I'm excited to tell you the answer is yes."
The phone is Amazon's latest bid to more deeply control the devices that run the content it sells. The company jumped into the device business in 2007, when it debuted its Kindle e-reader. Since then, it has launched the Kindle Fire tablet line and in April the Fire TV set-top box.
The Fire phone features Firefly, Amazon's new technology to facilitate easier shopping. Customers can use the camera to tap into servers to find data about items in front of them. With that information, Amazon can offer consumers the ability to buy those items or just learn more about them from the Web.
Bezos is so keen on Firefly that Amazon has included a dedicated Firefly button on the Fire Phone to make it easy for customers to use.
The device also comes with a feature called "dynamic perspective," which lets users tilt the phone to navigate websites, fly through items on Amazon's shopping site and dig out new information from a map application. For example, with a news story from a website, users can gently tilt the phone up and the story will slowly scroll on its own. On Amazon's site, users can tilt up and down to get a closeup of a particular product. When listening to a song, users can tilt the phone to see the lyrics and tilt back to see the album art.
"It's completely a very natural, easy, one-handed gesture," Bezos said.
The phone comes with 12 months of Amazon Prime membership, which is normally $99 a year.