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Amazon unveils new smartphone

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the company's first foray into the smartphone market on Wednesday at a private event in Seattle, Washington. The Fire phone joins a growing family of Amazon devices that includes the Fire TV set-top box and Kindle Fire Tables. Ars Technica reports that the phone will cost $199 with a two-year contract for a 32GTB device and $299 for a 64GB device. The phone will cost $650 off-contract and is exclusive to AT&T. According to Amazon's product page, the phone is currently available for pre-order and will begin shipping on July 25. Amazon is offering a free full of Amazon Prime membership with purchase for "a limited time."

The phone has a motion-tracking screen that allows a subtle 3-D effect called "dynamic perspective." Four forward facing cameras on the device can track the the user's head. The user can flip through images or scroll through web pages by slightly tilting the device.

The Fire phone has a 4.7 inch screen and a 1280x720 resolution. It has a rubberized frame, a glass back and Gorilla Glass 3 protecting the screen from scratches and other damage. The phone weighs 5.64 ounces and is 0.35 inches thick.

The Fire phone has a 13PM camera with optical image stabilization. The phone has a dedicated shutter button that will automatically open up the camera app and tack pictures. Users will get free unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive.

The Amazon ecosystem will give Fire phone users access to a wide variety of media. Amazon's MP3 store and Kindle bookstore are well-stocked. Prime customers will have access to the Kindle lending Library and Prime Instant Video. Third party apps for services like Netflix and HBO Go will also be available.

The Fire phone will also include the popular "Mayday" feature that was introduced on Kindle Fire HDX tablets earlier this year. Mayday offers live tech support 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to customers who need it. Another special feature of the Fire phone is "Firefly", an app that can identify songs played in a room, episodes of various TV shows, and art. A user can take a picture of a item or of bar codes and QR codes and easily buy the item from Amazon without having to do a lot of typing.

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