Amazon.com introduced its upcoming smartphone, the Fire Phone, onstage at an event in Seattle featuring CEO Jeff Bezos today. The device is designed to be part of a larger Amazon ecosystem -- made by a retailer, designed to assist consumers in retail shopping, especially customers of the Amazon Prime service. That includes a new music component, revealed earlier this month.
Along with the hardware, Amazon unveiled Firefly, an audio and video feature that identifies both physical objects and media playing near the phone, with the latter function mimicking Shazam and its song-identifying competitors. In Bezos’s onstage presentation as well as a demo video, Firefly was shown to identify both a song and a film -- which, naturally, can be purchased, accessed or rented from Amazon in its retail store, video library or Prime service, with a further tap or two. Firefly can also works on TV shows, can interpret and store text, and can identify consumer goods -- including CDs, DVDs and video games -- for immediate or future purchases.
Moreover, Firefly is already integrated with apps, including at least one music app. Bezos said a Fire Phone user can build a custom radio station using iHeartRadio after identifying a song via Firefly, as well as search for tickets to a live music event via ticket reseller StubHub. It’s not immediately clear whether other music app developers have already built features using Firefly, but Amazon released a Firefly software development kit today concurrently with the announcement, enabling programmers to do so in the future.
Amazon’s press office did not return a call seeking comment in time for publication of this story.
Although Firefly is native to Amazon’s new phone, Shazam and song-identifying competitor SoundHound’s app remain available in Amazon’s Fire Phone app store, which has versions of Android apps for the new devices. The retailer also offers Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, Vevo, Sirius XM, Slacker, Rhapsody, Rdio and 8tracks, among many other music apps, as well as Twitter and Facebook. Notably absent is YouTube.
To lure customers, Amazon is giving away a year of Prime to anyone who buys a Fire Phone. The offer applies to new customers as well as existing Prime account holders, whose subscriptions will be extended by 12 months.
Amazon added access to over a million streaming songs to its Prime offering this month. The $99-per-year club gives members free two-day shipping on Amazon purchases, as well as access to a variety of streaming videos and a lending library of Kindle books. Prime Music doesn’t include new releases, and has a far more limited library than typical all-you-can-eat services such as Spotify. But since it’s bundled with the rest of Prime, it immediately became one of the largest streaming music services available, with at least 20 million subscribers.
Bezos showed off numerous other features of the phone, including a “dynamic perspective” function that gives the illusion of three-dimensional displays by sensing where a user’s face is; it uses four front-facing cameras to do so. It also permits one-handed scrolling when a user tilts the device forward or backward, eliminating the need to tap or drag a finger on its glass touchscreen.