Liveblog highlights

  • Amazon debuted the Fire Phone, a smartphone with 4.7-inch screen, 2.2GHz quad-core processor and two gigabytes of RAM. It’s available for preorder today and ships on July 25.
  • The Fire Phone is available in 32GB and 64GB models. The first costs $199.99 with a two-year contract from AT&T. The second runs $299, also with contract.
  • Amazon is offering a year of complimentary Prime service with each Fire Phone purchase.
  • The Fire Phone is designed to work with Amazon services like Kindle, Prime Music, Prime Video and Mayday.
  • Amazon introduced “Firefly,” a new service that can identify products using the Fire Phone’s camera, and then add them to your shopping cart. It can also recognize music, TV shows and art.
  • The Fire Phone features Dynamic Perspective, which makes images appear to pop off its display.
  • Firefly and Dynamic Perspective are open to third-party apps, and Amazon is releasing SDKs for them both.

Amazon on Wednesday made its entry into the smartphone arena, announcing the $199 Fire, an Android-based device with a 3-D-like user interface and other features designed to stand out in a crowded market.

Another unique feature, dubbed Firefly, allows the phone to quickly recognize objects, barcodes, music and TV shows — making it all the easier, of course, for Amazon to sell those things. Firefly, though, also recognizes art, phone numbers and other useful information.

The device, which is exclusive to AT&T and will ship July 25, packs the usual high-resolution rear camera and speedy quad-core chip. In addition, it has four extra front-facing cameras used to provide the depth information needed for the “dynamic perspective” feature.

Dynamic perspective — the signature feature of the device — allows users to scroll and pull up menus without touching the screen, using just a flick of the wrist.

The Fire also includes the Mayday customer support feature that debuted with last year’s Kindle Fire tablets.

The 32GB model is $199 with a two-year contract, though AT&T will also sell it contract-free for $27 per month on one of its AT&T Next plans. For a limited time, Amazon is giving all Fire phone buyers 12 months of Amazon Prime service.

More on Amazon’s Fire Smartphone

Here’s a recap of Re/code’s live coverage from the event:

Ina Fried June 18, 20149:54 am

We’re waiting outside the Fremont Theatre where the event is due to start in half an hour or so. 

John Paczkowski June 18, 201410:10 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:18 am

And we’re in. Not much to see yet. A dark theatre with Amazon logo on a screen and an Amazon podium. 

John Paczkowski June 18, 201410:21 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:24 am

Five minute warning. Last chance to use the facilities (or place a Prime order for same-day drone delivery).

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:32 am

Game time. (Kara likes me to work in as many sports references as possible.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:33 am

Hmm, nothing onstage yet. (Opens tab to ESPN to check on World Cup Action). Netherlands still up 3-2 on Australia in the 75th minute. Because I know that’s why you are tuned into a tech blog.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:36 am

Music getting louder. Annoyingly so.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:38 am

Still a scoreless match in Seattle.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:39 am

Event starts with video of a customer who really, really wanted to come to the unveiling today.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:40 am

Make that multiple customers saying why they wanted to come. 

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:41 am

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos takes stage, telling crowd that 60,000 people applied to come to the event. 300 people here, including customers, media and developers.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:42 am

Bezos says Amazon has tens of millions of Amazon Prime subscribers with growth accelerating over the last couple of years following the launch of Kindle Fire, Prime Video and Kindle Lending Library.

John Paczkowski June 18, 201410:44 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:44 am

Key to success?

“It’s patience, persistence and attention to the smallest of details,” Bezos said.
Prime video catalog up to 40,000 titles from 5,000 at launch. Kindle lending library now has half a million titles. “We keep at it.”

You can fill a bucket with an eye dropper if it doesn’t leak. You can fail with a firehose if bucket leaks. Prime doesn’t leak (Amazon smartphones do, though).

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:45 am

Now we are seeing glowing tweets including one from someone who said “the only decent life choice I’ve ever made is Amazon Prime” and another claiming to be in a monogamous relationship with Prime.

John Paczkowski June 18, 201410:46 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:46 am

Bezos notes Amazon has been in the hardware business for 10 years. Kindle launched 7 years ago, but was three years in development.
He says initial reviews weren’t so hot, but these days they are a lot better. 

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:46 am

Cue glowing reviews.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:47 am

Tens of millions of Kindle Fire owners as well, Bezos says. 

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:48 am

What’s the most important thing Amazon has done in last 20 years, Bezos asks? Answers his own question, saying it is to “earn trust with customers. … We’ve worked hard to do that.”

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:48 am

You don’t ask for trust, Bezos says. It’s a simple recipe, but hard to execute. Step 1. Do hard things well. Step 2. Repeat.
“You have to do this thousands of times, over and over.”
But if you do it, customers notice. Bezos says Amazon tops the American Customer Satisfaction Index last four years.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:50 am

He’s showing more polls, surveys and stats. (shorter Bezos: Customers like us.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:51 am

Amazon also invents, Bezos says, makes reference to the kids’ book he sent all those attending the event.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:52 am

Bezos says most-asked question in interviews has been when is Amazon going to build a phone.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:53 am

Intro: Fire phone

John Paczkowski June 18, 201410:54 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:54 am

Gorilla glass on both sides, aluminum buttons he says are three times as precise as plastic buttons. (uh, okay.)
Amazon built models 4.3 to 5.5 inches and picked a 4.7 inch screen. “We obsessed over outdoor viewing.”

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:55 am

Quad-core 2.2 gHZ processor, 2GB of ram to make sure it is “fast and fluid.”

John Paczkowski June 18, 201410:55 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:55 am

13MP rear-facing camera, optical image stabilization and an F2.0 aperture lens.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:55 am

He shows a blurry photo and explains how optical image stabilization works.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:56 am

Lots of pretty pictures, including comparison of Fire, iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5 taking a nighttime shot.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:57 am

The combination of faster lens and optical image stabilization is key, he says. (Nokia Lumia would have been an interesting compare.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:57 am

Like Windows phones, Fire phone has a dedicated camera button, Bezos says. Unlimited photo storage on Amazon’s cloud drive (first example of Amazon services; more to come, surely.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:58 am

On the sound side, it has Dolby dual surround. He shows a picture of tangled iPhone earbuds. “We decided to fix that.” Tangle-free design with flat cables and magnetic earbuds included in the box.

Ina Fried June 18, 201410:59 am

“Services matter too,” he says. “It’s not just the hardware.”
Video matters, Bezos says. “We have made video awesome on this phone.”

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:01 am

Will have some features from Kindle Fire, including Second Screen, which lets you watch a video and get more information or fling to a TV with Fire TV or Miracast devices. Also X-Ray with IMDB and other data …
HBO Go, ESPN, Netflix, YouTube all supported in addition to Amazon’s video services.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:02 am

On music side, Bezos notes Prime music service launched last week, but rivals Spotify, Pandora, iHeartMusic all supported.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:02 am

Reading: Of course, there is Kindle support and Amazon spent time on the reading experience. Audible audiobooks, etc.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:04 am

What about customer support? “Amazon customers care deeply about customer support.”

Also important on phone for turning off international roaming, setting up a bluetooth, synching work email for example …

Shows video of customers struggling to do these things on their iPhone.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:04 am

Android owners complaining they have to look to forums or go to carrier stores to answer their questions.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:04 am

Mayday button coming, I’m sure.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:05 am

Yep. “We launched this on our tablets,” Bezos said. More than 75 percent of customer contacts come through Mayday on tablet. On the phone it works with Wi-Fi or 4G. Calls answered in less than 10 seconds. “It’s free. You don’t have to make an appointment, drive to the store.”

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:06 am

How about something a little bit different?

Demo of something called Firefly.
Stagehands bring out a table with various products.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:06 am

Press and hold a button and Firefly can recognize phone number, book, DVD, QR code, CD.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:07 am

Press and hold a button and firefly can recognize phone number, book, DVD, QR code, CD or bar code. It can recognize Nutella just form the label.
Yep, this phone makes it easier to buy stuff. Amazon likes to sell stuff, remember.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:09 am

Firefly can recognize songs and, from that, buy the song, start an iHeartRadio station or take other actions. Can also recognize TV shows. Bezos demos it recognizing episode 2 of Game of Thrones and offering it on the video store or DVD. Even the specific scene is recognized and actors identified.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:10 am

Firefly can recognize art. Pulls up Wikipedia entry to learn about artist.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:10 am

Works from a distance — can grab a phone number from a sign, for example. Can recognize over 100 million items despite real-world issues like wrinkles, glare, curves. 

John Paczkowski June 18, 201411:11 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:12 am

Bezos talking about the lab work that Amazon did to improve recognition, such as knowing which prefixes are used with which area codes.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:14 am

To make it fast, Amazon takes only the info from a photo it is trying to read and just sends that for recognition. (Also cuts down on data use.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:14 am

FIrefly also has a dedicated button because, again, Amazon wants you to be able to recognize (and therefore buy) stuff.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:16 am

Amazon also making available a developer kit so other software makers can build on top of Firefly using Amazon’s recognition engines and databases. That was how iHeartRadio, for example, was created, which he said took them only a day. MyFitnessPal has done the same thing, adding nutrition info. Example: Cheetos.

Might not take advanced computer science to tell you they’re not nutritious, Bezos says.

Wine-shopping company Vivino is using it with their own wine database and label info for custom actions to tell you things like food pairings, best vintage, etc.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:17 am

Firefly SDK will be made available immediately. Cue TV ad featuring cute kid using Firefly.

John Paczkowski June 18, 201411:18 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:18 am

Let’s talk about something else a little different, Bezos said, with a flat piece of art behind him. In the 14th century, artists started using geometric perspective to create illusion of three dimensions. (Not actual 3-D, just the sense of it.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:20 am

Video explains that you can see more if you can change perspective. Doesn’t work if you tilt a 2-D drawing. With parallax, though, you can, by knowing where the viewer is in relation to image (hence these extra front-facing cameras).

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:20 am

“We call this dynamic perspective,” Bezos said, showing it in action on a lock screen.

John Paczkowski June 18, 201411:21 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:22 am

Now Bezos is showing what this looks like in maps, with the Empire State Building.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:23 am

Bezos tilts the phone and a menu comes up with search options (a feature he hasn’t yet talked about).

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:24 am

Dynamic perspective also helps for tilting phone to reveal map info that is blocked. Tilt phone a little further and additional options come up.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:25 am

Tilting can also be used to control browsing, pull up menus and perform other navigations.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:26 am

It’s a way to click and scroll without touching the phone.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:27 am

In the browser, tilting can be used to scroll through, say, a newspaper article.
“I just randomly chose a Washington Post article. I’m not sure why I like that publication.” (Bezos owns WaPo.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:29 am

Tilt phone in a book and it starts scrolling, too. You can page through a book the old fashioned way, or use natural perspective to scroll as you are reading. Can even set to scroll at a certain speed. Can put thumb on phone to stop scrolling. 

“It’s incredibly natural,” Bezos says.
John Paczkowski June 18, 201411:31 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:31 am

Active widgets, such as for email, let you look at last couple messages and take action without opening apps. Similar with camera, which includes recent photos. Third parties can do the same thing. Zillow has one for nearby homes, for example.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:33 am

Pulls up Justin Timberlake, saying he has sincere appreciation for anyone that can pull off a small fedora. “It’s harder than making a smartphone,” he said.

Anywho, Fire has a three-panel design with “Now playing” track in center. A quick tilt of the phone pulls up controls while a tilt in the other direction pulls up interactive lyrics.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:34 am

On to gaming. I think you can probably imagine what the dynamic perspective capability can do for gaming, Bezos said. Shows Angry Tofu game because, well, who doesn’t love irritated legumes.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:37 am

Bezos hasn’t talked pricing but AT&T has some information on its website, saying a 32GB model will sell for $199 and a 64GB will sell for $299. (That pricing is with a 2-year contract, according to AT&T.)

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:39 am

Meanwhile, Bezos is talking about all the front-facing cameras needed to create depth information. With four corner cameras, no matter how the phone is being held there are at least two cameras needed for stereo vision.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:40 am

An infrared light sensor on each front-facing camera lets them see in the dark. They are turned on only as needed to save battery. Allows great stereo images in any light, Bezos said.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:41 am

But people wear sunglasses, have beards, have hats, big hair or no hair. “That’s my personal favorite.”
“All of this variety is an extremely difficult machine-learning problem,” Bezos said. So you need lots of data, in this case images, to train algorithms.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:43 am

Amazon started with robots in the lab and mannequin heads with disco lighting.  “Yes I admit that’s a little creepy.”

Then moved into real world, analyzing millions of images to get good at tracking faces and heads even with complex backgrounds, etc.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:44 am

There’s even cases where faces are on a mug or T-Shirt so you have to be able to recognize the real head from the fake ones. Solution: use depth cameras to reject heads that are too small or large to be human heads.

John Paczkowski June 18, 201411:45 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:46 am

Ultimately, all that work is to get three numbers, the X, Y and Z location of where the person is viewing. But just having those three numbers makes it easier for developers. A Dynamic Perspective software development kit will let third parties create apps taking advantage of the depth information.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:46 am

Cue video of developers saying how easy it is. (But of course most developers also want sales volume before they create apps)

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:48 am

Small touches also matter, Bezos said. (Again, Bezos is a master of the Apple playbook, even if Steve Jobs wrote it.) Image on screen is a banzai plant being pruned.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:50 am

First example Bezos gives is someone saying they will be late to a meeting with just a flick of the wrist. Another, you can set to silent for, say three hours, while at a movie or meeting. “Do you know how many marriages this feature could save?”

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:51 am

In messaging a flick to the right brings up most recent camera photos. “Do the same thing in your current smartphone and see how many taps it takes you,” Bezos said.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:51 am

Another one: You can swipe from the lock screen and choose a photo album that is just a swipe away. “There’s a whole photo album here.”

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:52 am

The Fire phone will be offered exclusively on AT&T. “They’ve always done an amazing job for us.”

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:52 am

AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega comes onstage.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:54 am

De La Vega says he has used a lot of phones, but says there are three features that I really think make the phone different. First is the dynamic perspective. De La Vega says when he shows phones to other people, “I get one response and it is ‘wow’ ” (To which I am sure Amazon is thinking, “You showed people the phone?”)

John Paczkowski June 18, 201411:55 am

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:55 am

Second key feature is Firefly. So easy, the only danger is clicking once too many times and buying something. That said, he expects the shopping feature to be a hit.
“I’m going to buy a whole lot more things with this technology than I ever have before,” De La Vega said.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:56 am

It also works great with Fire TV, De la Vega said, launching into an ad for Kindle TV and AT&T’s high-speed Wi-Fi service. Even with his strongest Spanish accent, De la Vega said the voice recognition worked.

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:57 am

The last thing, de la Vega says, is the Mayday feature that lets you get help. There is a clean handoff to AT&T’s technical support if the issue is AT&T-related. 

Ina Fried June 18, 201411:59 am

It will be available for preorder on AT&T today, he said, and offered either with a two-year contract or using AT&T Next device financing for no money down.

Ina Fried June 18, 201412:00 pm

Bezos hands de la Vega what he says is the first Fire phone off the line.

John Paczkowski June 18, 201412:00 pm

Ina Fried June 18, 201412:00 pm

Wrap-up sales pitch from Bezos. $199 for 32GB model with a two-year contract for $27 per month with AT&T Next.

Ina Fried June 18, 201412:01 pm

Device will ship July 25. “You won’t have to wait long,” Bezos said.
Includes 12 months of Amazon Prime for a limited time ($99 value) existing customers will get 12 months free too.

John Paczkowski June 18, 201412:02 pm

Ina Fried June 18, 201412:04 pm

Here is Amazon’s product page for the phone.

Ina Fried June 18, 201412:05 pm

Ina Fried June 18, 201412:05 pm

And with that, Bezos exits stage right.

Ina Fried June 18, 201412:07 pm

While the device had some bells and whistles, one area Amazon appears not to be changing the game — for now — is around service plans. There was no mention of Amazon doing anything unique as far as AT&T’s service. Assuming standard rate plans and no talk of sponsored data.

Ina Fried June 18, 20141:11 pm

Second key feature is Firefly. So easy, the only danger is clicking once too many times and buying something. That said, he expects the shopping feature to be a hit.
“I’m going to buy a whole lot more things with this technology than I ever have before,” de la Vega said.

Ina Fried June 18, 20141:11 pm

It also works great with Fire TV, de la Vega said, launching into an ad for Kindle TV and AT&T’s high-speed Wi-Fi service. Even with his strongest Spanish accent, de la Vega said the voice recognition worked.

Ina Fried June 18, 20141:11 pm

De la Vega says he has used a lot of phones, but says there are three features that I really think make the phone different. First is the dynamic perspective. De la Vega says when he shows phones to other people, “I get one response and it is ‘wow’ ” (To which I am sure Amazon is thinking, “You showed people the phone?”)

Ina Fried June 18, 20141:12 pm

AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega comes onstage.




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