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June 18, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Amazon dials up customers with Fire Phone

Alexander Teebagy got the call from last Thursday.

The Boston game developer had submitted a one-sentence reason why he should be invited to today’s launch of Amazon’s phone. He basically said “I love all of their products,” he said.



Amazon invited customers and game developers to join reporters at the company’s press event today in Fremont, where it’s expected to announce a smartphone with a 3-D display.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said 60,000 customers applied and 300 were selected.

Teebagy, 24, was available to fly to Seattle on short notice after losing his job at Irrational Games, a studio that shut down in April.

Amazon paid for his flight to Seattle, a hotel stay and a car that picked him up at the airport.

“It’s pretty crazy. I feel like a VIP,” he said while sitting in Fremont Studios, where Amazon set up a stage and pumped in music ahead of Bezos’ appearance.

It may have been worth the trip.

Bezos announced the Fire Phone, with a 4.7-inch display, quad-core processor and 13 megapixel camera.


Bezos showed images taken with the camera and compared them to the Samsung Galaxy 5 and iPhone 5S, suggesting that’s the competition.

Amazon will provide unlimited photo storage online to users of the phone, which also has a dedicated shutter button on the case similar to Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

Earbuds that come with the phone include magnets that hold the left and right pieces together and aren’t as tangle-prone as the competition, Bezos said.

Bezos emphasized the phone’s video capabilities, include a nice display and interoperability with Amazon’s Fire TV streaming device.

Amazon “lavished attention” on the phone’s ability to work as an e-reader, Bezos said.

Gee-whiz features include “Firefly,” a scanning system that quickly recognizes products, phone numbers, URLs, barcodes and even art using the phone’s camera. It also recognizes music the phone hears.

Firefly generates a list of items it recognizes, which can then be ordered from Amazon. The list and scanning capability can also be used by apps on the phone, such as a music service that can create a playlist after a song identified by Firefly.

Firefly is a boosted, integrated version of Amazon’s shopping app that can be used to scan barcodes and create shopping lists.

Firefly also has a dedicated button that can be used to override whatever you’re doing to scan stuff

Bezos said it recognizes more than 100 million items and recognizes them in 1 second or less.

As expected, the phone has a 3D interface that Amazon calls “dynamic perspective.” By blending images and controlling them with the phone’s motion sensors, the display can present the illusion of depth with images.

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Bezos also showed how the capability works with maps – which tilt and add depth when the phone is held at an angle – and on a web site displaying dresses. When the phone is tilted, the phone scrolls back into the selection of dresses or rotates the dress in the foreground.

Tilting the phone also scrolls through reading material such as books or newspapers.

Less innovative is the phone’s pricing plan. Amazon declined to shake up the wireless plan and is offering the Fire Phone with standard AT&T contracts – $199 with a two-year contract or $27 per month for two years ($650) with a month to month plan. Buyers also get a 12-month trial of Amazon’s Prime shipping and media services bundle, which otherwise costs $99 per year.

Teebagy said he was impressed.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said when the event ended. “I’m definitely going to get one.”



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