“The conventional wisdom is that they would only build a piece of hardware strictly to get you to buy stuff on Amazon,” says Re/Code co-executive editor Walter Mossberg. At the product launch, Bezos demonstrated a new technology called Firefly which allows the phone to scan and identify potentially millions of items in the real world and deposit them directly into users’ Amazon shopping carts.
The Fire phone will range in price from $199 to $299 with new contracts with provider AT&T.
“They have put several years of engineering effort into trying to change the way users navigate the phone and … really differentiate it from the iPhone and the Android phones that are out there,” says Mossberg. This long-term strategy, Mossberg said, is a clue that Amazon is looking to increase the company’s influence as a premium smartphone maker.
“If their goal is strictly just to get more people shopping on their stores, then they would have gone for the low end,” Mossberg says about the Seattle-based Amazon, which retails lower-functionality Kindle e-readers for as low as $69 and Fire tablets for $139 at the low-end.
“If you start at the low-end, it’s very difficult to go up to the high-end. If you start at the high-end, it’s not hard to bring out lower-end versions” to appeal to consumers across the economic spectrum.
“It shows you that the two are not mutually exclusive,” says Mossberg. “Building in features that make it easier for you to buy stuff from Amazon, whether it’s diapers or digital TV shows with a different way of navigating the phone.” That “may combine to give them a shot at muscling in to what is really a duopoly now between Samsung and Apple.”
What does Amazon think about the iPhone?
Shortly after Amazon unveiled its new device, a customer asked Bezos to sign an iPhone, according to GeekWire. After pausing for a moment, Bezos jotted, “Upgrade time?”
CNBC’s parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code’s parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.