Wednesday morning, we’ll find out: The company is expected to unveil a new device at an event in its hometown of Seattle. My colleague Kevin Fitchard and I will be live blogging here starting at around 10 a.m. PT, with the official event expected to begin at 10:30 a.m. PT. In the meantime, please leave us your Seattle coffee and restaurant recommendations in the comments.
And here is the press release: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1940902&highlight=
We’ll leave you with a photo of Amazon’s early prototype for computer vision
For now, thank you for following along with the live blog today!
And that’s a wrap. We will have more about Fire Phone later today; I’m getting a demo this afternoon and will have a chance to ask questions then as well, so if there are things you’re wondering about, leave them as a comment here, or tweet @laurahazardowen.
And at Month $12 (after you spent $324) you’re eligible to trade it in for a new phone. Perhaps the Fire 2?
Bezos again. “I hope that you guys have as much fun using this phone as we had building it. Thank you so much for coming.”
So in the Next program $27 a month works out to be $540 over 20 months, which appears to be discounted over Amazon’s regular pricing
On Mayday for Fire Phone, as with the Kindle Fire tablets, the customer service rep can take over the phone and do things like draw on its screen to show somebody how to do things like edit photos.
“Almost like a search engine” is interesting: Could your internet life exist within the world of Amazon? “it’s almost like the world is a hyperlink” and there is no place for Google in this world.
“They’ll tell you the name of the book and where to get it.” Which is Amazon, obvi.
We are now watching another ad showing customers using the phone. “Firefly is almost like a search engine,” one says.
And that should make all the analysts who worry about Amazon’s slim profit margins a little happier.
IIRC the Kindle Fire tablets had come with 3 free months of Prime but this is a more generous offer designed to bring more customers into Prime. But I think that this should put the whole “Amazon gives away devices free with Prime” idea to rest. They didn’t do it with the Kindle and they’re not doing it with the phone.
Or if you join the Next, it’s $27 a month in device payments.
Rather than the phone being a perk for prime members, Prime is a perk with the phone.
Existing Prime members get another year tacked on to their subscription.
Now for the “one more thing”: 12 months of Amazon Prime (a $99 value) are included with the purchase of the phone.
So here’s the pricing: $199 for a subsidized on-contract device with AT&T
“Preorder today and it ships July 25.”
Wait, I went too fast. It’s $199 for the 32 GB model.
It’s $199 for the 16 GB version with a 2-year contract. Or $27 a month with the AT&T Next program.
According to Amazon’s Webpage availability July 25
My guess is that we are going to see some kind of special offer but we’ll see.
Bezos is now running down all the details of the phone and is going to be getting to price soon, I think. We still haven’t heard if there’s any deal for Prime members or how it’ll be available through Amazon’s site.
Next is AT&T’s upgrade program. That means you can trade your old phone in for a Fire if you’re eligble.
Bezos just gave de la Vega a Fire Phone in a little box with a ribbon on it, and now de la Vega is leaving the stage.
So Amazon won’t be troubleshooting network issues, but you’ll be able to take your network issues to Mayday and they will collaborate with AT&T customer service in the background
Two-year contract or AT&T’s Next program, which Fitchard can give more details on.
Fire Phone is available for preorder now, de la Vega says.
Fire TV’s struggle with Janko’s German accent on video: https://gigaom.com/2014/04/03/firetv-walk-through-first-look-video-review/
“We have worked closely with Amazon so that if you have any issue with an AT&T service we have a warm handoff between Mayday and AT&T.” that’s actually pretty useful.
It looks like Amazon’s own product pages aren’t ready yet. You can search out the Fire Phone and get results, but if you click on the links you get an error.
“What you have seen today is Amazon bringing that reality to bear today, not years from now, but today.”
He talks about Fire TV and how it was able to recognize his voice “Even though I tried to use my strongest Spanish accent.” Should note though that when our own Janko tested out the Fire TV it had a little trouble with his German accent.
De la Vega talks about how fast the Wi-Fi connection is in his house.
Which, if that’s actually true, could result in a lot of mistaken purchases with this phone as people experiment with Firefly, so hopefully it’s not all one-click.
“I’m also an Amazon Prime member,” de la Vega says, so he couldn’t let his assistant hold his phone because according to him it would instantly order all of the items he had scanned with it.
“The second feature that I really really love is FIrefly,” de la Vega says. “I was running around Fireflying everything.”
“Imagine what’s going to happen when software developers get hold of those SDKs.”
In de la Vega’s view, those are: 1) Dynamic perspecitve. “Those four front-facing cameras provide a picture that is absolutely amazing. When I show that phone to people I get one response and it’s Wow and it’s consistently Wow.”
“What I really think makes the phone different are…4 key features.”
“it is compulsive once you learn how to do it. It’s also a great phone on its own.”
“i’m really impressed by what Amazon has done with Fire,” de la Vega says.
Here comes AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega.
“Weve been working with AT&T for 5 years now with Kindle…they’ve been great partners”
“I’m very excited to tell you that the FIre Phone is going to be offered exclusively on AT&T.”
The Fire is now up on Amazon’s site. You can buy off-contract unlocked versions for $649 to $749. It’s not an inexpensive device
“There are dozens of small touches like that throughout the phone.”
You can choose a photo album that you want to be “one swipe away” from your lockscreen. Amazon would really like you to use those 3D lockscreens, thanks.
Finally, in the lockscreen — “these lockscreens are so gorgeous, you can replace it with a custom photo of your choosing, we think many people are going to not do that” Bezos says so they wanted to come up with “something even better” to do with the lockscreen.
The example is photos sent via text message — Bezos said it reduced the number of taps needed to do this.
“We’re looking for those things that people do frequently and wish were easier. Sometimes they get so inured to the old way of doing it they don’t even realize it could be easier.”
You can also set your ringer to turn off only for a specific amount of time — 2 hours while you’re at the movies say. “Do you know how many marriages this could save?”
First up is the calendar app, which looks to be Amazon’s own calendar app. You can send a message to everyone in a meeting with you, if you’re running late, saying that they should start without you.
Now Bezos is talking about “small touches” — little things on a phone that matter a lot “when users really use the phone.”
That’s also why Amazon sent out that press release earlier this week saying how the number of apps available on the Amazon App store tripled in a year, to 240,000.
The goal with this is to sell developers on how easy it is to use and get them to create games and apps especially for the Fire Phone.
We’re watching a video of developers talking about how easy it was for them to use the dynamic perspective SDK.
“This is so beautiful and elegant that all of that…years of hard work boils down to these 3 numbers…makes it easy for developers to take advantage of this. We’re excited to announce the dynamic perspective SDK” available immediately. “Developers are going to blow us away.”
“At the end of all that work, here’s what you get: 3 numbers, X, Y and Z. Once we get those 3 numbers in a robust way, we then tie them into our 3D renderer” and an image shifts its perspective based on how you are moving your head or tilting your phone.
“We have found heuristics and workarounds for all of these things.”
The technology also had to be good enough that it wouldn’t recognize a face that wasn’t actually a person’s face — a drawing on a mug, say.
“At the end of all this we got really good at tracking faces, finding heads.”
The goal was to test it using all different kinds of facial features and to be able to recognize different types of faces. “Ultimately to get a robust product you need to move out into the real world and we did that. We collected millions of images with the actual camera hardware from all over the world…I am compressing years of work by some of the world’s best computer scientists into two minutes.”
If you want to solve a difficult machine learning product you need “lots and lots of data,” Bezos says, going on to explain how Amazon developed this face-tilt technology in the lab.
Everybody’s face is different, Bezos says, and “all of this variety is an extremely difficult machine-learning problem.”
I hear somebody sigh behind me.
Bezos hasn’t talked about pricing yet, though.
Meanwhile it looks as if AT&T has posted some product pages for the phone and will be selling it for $199.99 with a 2-year contract.
Bezos is going on and on about how the cameras work on the phone.
“The right way to do this is with computer vision. That’s a tough problem,” Bezos says. “It’s a tough problem even in the lab, super hard when you move out into the real world.”
Bezos is really trying to hammer home how important dynamic perspective is, and he’s spending a lot of time on it. Perhaps I’ll be converted later when I test it out but right now I’m a little bored of hearing about it.
Bezos is geeking out over a game called “Angry Tofu,” showing us how dynamic perspective works as you look around and tilt the phone. It’s cool but is it enough reason to buy a phone?
But, yeah, like Laura pointed out. Apps are key to any smartphone. Amazon has to have a compelling answer for key apps like calendar, email and maps.
We’re going to talk about games now — this is where the whole dynamic perspective thing comes in strong. Games must have to be specially built for it.
These are just tweaks. These are impressive features, even the small ones like adaptive autoscrolling through a book or article.
Laura and I were discussing this morning about who an Amazon phone would appeal to. Why would you buy it versus another Android device. It’s becoming really clear that Amazon is designing this device very distinctly from any other Android handset.
You’ll note we haven’t heard much yet about Amazon’s custom apps — remember that because Amazon devices use a custom version of Android, apps like Gmail aren’t available. We’ll dive further into this later.
We’re getting a little demonstration of email — we haven’t seen the email app yet, but you can browse through your email in the Carousel feature, it looks like, without going straight into the app. This appears to be Amazon’s answer to notifications.
You can pin content to your app grid — the book you’re reading, for instnace (the example we see is John Green’s TFIOS) or a magazine.
Now we’re learning about the apps on the phone. There’s a carousel for apps, apparently, and also an “App Grid” — “really good for muscle memory. You can put things where you want them to be and expect them to be there when you get back.”
“Somebody distracts you, you’ve got to look at something, put your thumb on, take care of whatever that distraction is, then bam, you’re back to your reading.”
In other words you can set the scroll speed, then simply read the book without having to touch it with your finger. If you want to stop the motion just put your thumb on it.
“Just one big, long scroll,” Bezos says dreamily. You can also “lock” a scroll speed in place so that the text scrolls automatically as you read.
It applies to books too. Bezos opens a copy of Jess Walters’ “Beautiful Ruins” on the Kindle app. “I can page through this book, the way you would normally do, but I can also have it scroll infinitely.”
“You don’t have to obscure part of the screen with your finger…it’s completely a very natural, easy, one-handed gesture. Because of the dynamic gesture sensors it’s also a very robust gesture.”
“There’s a better way to scroll on this phone.” You can tilt the phone to scroll down the page, and if you tilt it further it goes faster; if you tilt it just a little, it goes more slowly. “This gesture: We call it auto-scroll. It’s so natural that now that I’ve been using this phone for several months, every time I go back to a device that doesn’t have dynamic persepctive and can’t do this gesture, I keep trying anyway.”
Now we’re looking at content in the web browser: “I just randomly chose a Washington Post article.”
You can tilt the phone to control browsing — browsing through dresses on Amazon’s website, for instance. “Those are the kinds of things that you can do” — though it’s not clear yet if websites will need to be optimized for them (probably). But perhaps Amaozn is hoping that this will be a substitute for scrolling on a screen.
Bezos loves dynamic perspective, basically. “Let me show you some other things on dynamic perspective” beyond maps.
Sorry for that brief break: The Wi-Fi dropped out for a sec, giving me a wee little heart attack
“Let’s go into Maps.” Looks as if Amazon is using Nokia’s HERE Maps
“Let me show you some other things with dynamic perspective…I’m very excited about you getting your own hands on this.”
Because let’s be honest, the lockscreens are cool but you’re not buying a phone because it has a cool lockscreen.
You can see how this would be useful for gaming — presumably Amazon is thinking about uses for it beyond fancy lockscreens.
“We call this dynamic perspective.” Bezos shows off the 3D effect that’s created on the phone. “This is one of our lockscreens. We had a lot of fun making these lockscreens.”
“What if there were 1000 artists standing by to redraw the picture every time you moved your head? What if they could do it 60 times a second?”
Wow, Bezos is drawing quite the bold analogy. The Fire phone’s 3D is the phone equivalent of the renaissance ?
That technique hasn’t really changed “for 600 years,” Bezos says — artists still rely on geometric perspective. “We can improve on that a little.”
We’re getting into the 3D stuff now, I think. Art used to look “completely flat,” Bezos said, until the vanishing point technique was invented in the 14th century.
“Let’s talk about something else a little different.”
We are now watching an ad for Fire Phone and Firefly that’s going to run on TV. It’s an ad with precocious kids.
Some examples of Firefly recognizing famous paintings:
The Firefly SDK is available now, so developers can start testing it.
Bezos is showing off a few other ways that app developers are working with Firefly. A wine app called Vivino, for instance, brought in its own image recognizer and wine database. “if you want to use our recognizers you can do that. If you have your own machine-learning expertise in house you can use your own recognizers.”
…and then build a custom action on top of it, the way iHeartRadio did. MyFitnessPal did one too — nutrition information when you use Firefly to scan a food product.
The Firefly SDK is available to third-party developers so they can build on top of it. “They can use our text recognizers, our image recognizers…our content databases…”
“Firefly is so easy to access. Customers are going to love this.”
All that work on Firefly “would be completely wasted if you couldn’t get to Firefly quickly” so it has a dedicated button on the phone. The button is on the side of the phone, below the volume buttons and above what I think was the camera button.
My best photo of the morning. This is as good as gets folks…
On the device, “we scrape the image” to find the relevant text, compress the image, “reduce it in size 165 times because we’re just sending the parts that matter” to the cloud.
Processing is done in the AWS cloud but “a 2.1MB image takes a little bit of time to transmit.”
Bezos is explaining the types of machine learning that Firefly uses to be able to do this, going into a fair bit of detail about semantic boosting.
Some photos of Bezos doing rapid-fire image ID with Firefly:
Presumably Firefly will come to be able to recognize more items over time, just as more items have been added to Prime over time.
“Firefly recognizes over a hundred million different items and it does this under real-world circumstances.”
Finally, “if you’re walking down the street…you can do this from a distance,” using Firefly to quickly identify a phone number on a sign, say.
FIrefly can also recognize art and pull up Wikipedia information about it.
There is a lot of clapping. Lots of Game of Thrones fan here. “We haven’t just recognized the episode. We’ve recognized the scene.” I’m guessing that this works with only a selection of TV shows and movies, not everything, but we’ll see.
“Firefly can even recognize TV shows.” Right now it’s recognizing an episode of Game of Thrones.
iHeartRadio, for instance: You can get a custom radio station based on a song that you’ve Firefly’d.
And here’s a Shazam like feature that would have helped me identify that Haim song earlier: Firefly identifies music that is playing and then lets you buy it on Amazon. “Third parties can build actions for Firefly” too.
Fire Phone pulls up a history of all the items you’ve scanned on Firefly. “I can tap on any of these items and there are actions.” So, tap on the book: You can buy the Kindle edition, the paperback or the audiobook right there. You can also share it with a friend too.
Bezos is scanning items quickly. In some cases he’s focusing on the barcodes but mostly he’s just taking pictures of the devices.
The phone recognizes things on the table. It recognizes a book and a DVD when you hold it over the cover of those devices. It is very fast.
I think that we are going to be able to use this phone to order products quickly.
Deets on Mayday, introduced last September: https://gigaom.com/2013/09/25/amazon-aims-for-first-time-tablet-buyers-with-free-mayday-tech-support/
Two dudes drag out a table with a canister of Kosher salt and a box of Cascade dishwashing tabs on it.
“Something a little bit different” is coming up next. It’s called Firefly.
Mayday would be a big improvement on the customer service we currently get from carriers.
Yep, Mayday is on Fire Phone as well. It works over Wi-Fi or 4G and “we set a goal of ourselves for 15 seconds and have actually been ansewring in less than 10.” It’s free — there’s a Mayday icon on the FIre Phone’s “Quick Actions” menu.
“I would go to one of the stores and ask them, one of the tech reps,” one woman on the video says. Perish the thought.
Here are a few of the sample video clips shown on the Fire
A video runs of customers not knowing how to do things on their phones. These people don’t know how to do much. They really need Mayday, obv.
I’m guessing that Mayday, which provides live video support via the Kindle Fire tablet, is going to appear on Fire Phone too.
Last week Amazon touted the success of its Mayday customer support. Bezos is now talking about customer service.
The Kindle Store and Kindle Owners Lending Library, plus “ComiXology looks terrific on this phone.” Audible too. None of this is a surprise, and Amazon’s attention to reading while you’re outside transfers from the Kindle e-readers to this phone.
Deets on the Amazon Prime Music service: https://gigaom.com/2014/06/12/amazon-launches-streaming-music-service-free-for-prime-members/
“I think you’ll be unsurprised tolearn that we lavished attention on this phone for reading.”
As a reminder, that service is free to Prime members and is a streaming service with about a million songs and no ads.
Next up we’re talking about music. “Phones are our primary way to listen to music.” The recently launched Prime Music comes in here, of course.
Video features like second screen and X-Ray are enabled on Fire Phone. “We’re bringing over features to Fire Phone from Fire TV….we predict what you’re likely to want to stream…the streaming starts instantly.”
First up we have video playback on Fire Phone.
“Services matter, too. It’s not just the hardware.” That’s kind of a duh for anyone who follows Amazon’s device strategy. Sell the hardware cheap (though of course we don’t know what the phone costs yet) and make money on the services.
He shows a picture of tangled iPhone earbuds. Fire Phone headphones have flat cables with magnets that clasp them together. “Premium earbuds, we’re including them in the box. They’re not an accessory you have to purchase.”
“One thing on phones that doesn’t get enough attention is the sound.” Dual stereo speakers, virtual surround sound.
Free unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud. Take that, Apple…
“We gave you a button you can press that launches the camera wherever you happen to be.”
Bezos is spending a lot of time on the camera. This is not just a phone, it’s a camera too.
“Let me show you a comparison.” He compares Samsung S5, iPhone 5S and the Fire camera. The Fire image is sharp, not blurry or noisy.
Optical image stabilizers “counteract that natural hand tremor that all humans have.”
“Our phones are also our primary cameras. We put a huge amount of attention and energy into making this the best camera.” 13 MP rear-facing camera, f/2.0 five element lens and optical image stabilization. “Crisp, beautiful photos.”
Quad-core 2.2 GHz processor, Adreno 330 graphics processor, 2GB RAM. “Make sure it’s fast and fluid.”
“We obsessed over outdoor viewing.” 590 nits, “industry-leading brightness,” circular polarizer “so even with your sunglasses on you can use this phone in both portrait and landscape mode.”
4.7″ IPS LCD HD display. “We picked 4.7 as the perfect size for one-handed use.”
Gorilla glass on both sides, CNC machined aluminum, steel connectors “so you won’t get that USB wobble that everybody hates…we obsessed over the chamfur”
“We put a huge amount of effort into the industrial design.”
Woots and claps. “This phone is gorgeous.”
Here is the phone! Fire Phone
But inside Amazon, Bezos says, “We ask a different question…how would the phoen be different? Can we build a better phone for our most engaged customers? Can we build a better phone for Amazon prime members?”
PRIME ECOSYSTEM appears in caps on the screen. “We have this huge prime ecoystem.”
I think they might announce a phone at this event.
Over the last 2 years, Bezos says, the most frequent question he’s been asked is “Is Amazon going to build a phone?”
He cites the book “Mr. Pine’s Purple House,” which every attendee received. “The hero of the story is Mr. Pine. He wants to do things a little bit differently. My mother dutifully read this book to me at my request hundreds of times as a child. She’s here in the audience today. Thank you, Mom.”
“One of the hard things that customers have come to expect from Amazon is that we invent.”
If you, like me, are thinking about Hachette as Bezos talks about this stuff…well, presumably the thinking is that customers simply aren’t noticing that kind of thing. And to be fair, most of them probably aren’t.
1. Do hard things well. 2. Repeat. “Can’t do this tens of times, can’t do this hundreds of times, you have to do this thousands and thousands of times over and over. If you do that and you stick with it, customers notice.”
Amazon probably has a lot more trust from its customers than the mobile carriers, I’ll give him that.
“How do you earn trust? I can tell you how you don’t do it. You don’t ask for it, that never works. I think there is a simple recipe for earning trust. It’s hard to execute, hard to do but simple to describe. Here’s how you earn trust.”
“What’s the most important thing Amaozn has done in the last 20 years?…I think the most important thing that we’ve done over the last 20 years is earn trust with customers.” Audience claps.
“Reputation is a trailing indicator of excellence,”Bezos says, “and in my view that’s how it should be.”
“Today we have tens of millions of tablet owners.”
We’re seeing a bunch of positive reviews of Kindle Fire tablets from the tech press.
Jeff Bezos cites early poor press for the Kindle. Someone next to me goes, “Awww” in a “feel bad for Amazon” way.
“We’ve been in the device business now for 10 years. We launched the Kindle 7 years ago and we worked on it for 3 years before that.”
It’s the same with hardware, Bezos says: “You have to be patient, you have to work at it and you have to obsess over the smallest of details.”
from @MissBumptious: “The only decent life choice I’ve ever made is Amazon Prime.”
Now we’re seeing tweets from customers who love Prime.
“Prime isn’t leaky. People use the service. They use it a lot. They love the service and when it comes time to renew, they renew.” Of course, there were concerns that when Amazon raised the price of Prime from $79 to $99 earlier this year, people would stop renewing.
“You can fill a bucket with an eyedropper if the bucket doesn’t leak.” Not quite getting this metaphor yet
“We keep at it.”
“Tens of millions of Prime members,” Bezos said. “What’s the real story underneath Prime? It’s patience, persistence and attention to the smallest of details.”
Bezos says that the major growth in Prime is due to Prime Instant Video, the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and the Kindle Fire tablet.
“In 2011 the slope of that graph changed a lot. You don’t see this very often in business.” Prime membership increased dramatically. “What the heck happened?”
He shows a graph of Amazon Prime membership growth. “We knew we were on to something…we quickly had millions of members. But then something very extraordinary happened.”
“We have a lot of exciting news to share with you today.”
“We had 60,000 people apply for an invitation to come to this event. We have 300 of you here.”
Jeff Bezos! And the crowd goes wild
“The reason why you need to pick me to go to the event is because I’m the most best, most loyal Amazon customer you have.”
Next customer video from Chad, in Charlotte, NC. So some people here traveled from a lot farther than Seattle.
Now we are watching a video of a customer making his case for attending the event. “I would love nothing more than to go to this unveiling.”
Does this count as graffiti?
The music is getting louder and I think Jeff Bezos is gonna come RUNNING out any second.
T-Mobile’s got Macklemore later on tonight. Maybe he’ll make a guest appearance at this event.
Waitin’. Insert some joke here about how if this event were a Prime shipment it would be late.
I’ve had to google the lyrics of every song playing over the loudspeaker system to see what it is, because I am lame and haven’t heard any of them before. So far it’s been Haim and Sky Ferreira. The Haim is available through Prime Music, if you were wondering.
You all will have to forgive my crappy photography skills. I took this camera on safari and got a whole bunch of blurry shots of distant animals. Good practice for today’s event.
It’s a full house.
We’re in! Sitting in the center of the second row. We will be able to show you every pore of Jeff Bezos’s face.
Just talked to a few folks with Amazon Customer badges. Though one looked like a GQ model, they confirmed that they indeed applied to come online and were chosen. Those I talked to, at least, live in Seattle and thought it seemed like a cool thing to do on a Wednesday morning.
Still early but the crowd is growing
Amazon is very smart on handling the media. They serve you coffee BEFORE they let you inside.
We’ll have more to say when we get inside — the doors are supposed to open around 10 AM. For now, I don’t have a lot for you beyond the fact that the Porta-Potties are sparkling clean.
Kevin Fitchard and I are here at Seattle’s Fremont Studios waiting to get into Amazon’s event. Along with tons of media (duh), a bunch of attendees are here with name badges that identify them as “Amazon Customer.”