Amazon Fire Phone Built for Commerce, Payments

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 3.10.34 PMIn a special media event in Seattle yesterday, CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the Amazon  smartphone, called the Fire Phone, and it has notable implications for payments and e-commerce.

The device, which has been rumored for quite some time, is packed with state-of-the-art specs and new features, and is built for commerce. A click of the button sends the user — where else? — to Amazon’s site. Another click makes a purchase. It’s so easy to buy things with this phone that a presenter joked he had already bought several things by mistake while using it.

The phone starts off with 32 GB storage and is $200 with a contract, exclusive to AT&T, according to multiple reports. Off-contract, the Fire Phone costs a hefty $650. The device will also be able to track a user’s head (that’s kinda creepy) with four, front-facing cameras. The phone will also use 3-D technology to make images and features on the device appear in 3-D as well.

From a payments perspective, the Amazon Fire Phone has a feature called FireFly, which allows users to view an object with the smartphone camera(s) and, if appropriate, call it up for purchase from Amazon. Users view the object and press and hold a button to prompt the software to recognize a number of different information sources, including phone numbers, book titles, DVDs, QR codes, CDs or bar codes. This information is then used to pull up an Amazon product.

Since Amazon is still primarily an e-commerce company a feature like this comes as no surprise. The FireFly feature, according to Bezos, takes just one second to recognize around 100 million different items. FireFly should prove unpopular with retailers, since one obvious use case is showrooming from Fire Phone users.

TechCrunch reports that Amazon will also throw in 1,000 Amazon Coins, its virtual currency for a limited time. The device also includes the Mayday button, introduced on the Kindle Fire. It’s unclear whether this will be of use to apps that reside on the phone.

There are still some issues surrounding the Amazon Fire Phone, as we wrote earlier:

James Wester, IDC’s Research Director for IDC Financial Insights, told Bank Innovation that he remains a proponent of Amazon and its potential payments system, but pointed out that Amazon’s greatest issue is getting devices into the hands of consumers, whether it be a Kindle or a still-unannounced smartphone.

The features and specs seem interesting enough, but will a relatively high price tag (the iPhone 5S is the same price but only offers 16 GB of storage at that price point) and cool features that focus e-commerce, will Amazon’s Fire Phone catch on with consumers? It remains to be seen.

The device is available to preorder on AT&T and Amazon’s website and ships July 25th.

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