Amazon enters smartphone market with Fire phone

Amazon unveiled its highly anticipated entry into the smartphone market Wednesday, a handset called “Fire.”

The phone, announced by CEO Jeff Bezos at an event in Seattle, has a 4.7-inch screen, a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and a quad-core processor.

Amazon’s entry into the crowded smartphone space could increase competition if consumers buy into its vision. Unlike other phone makers, Amazon has a compelling service to offer alongside its hardware in the shape of the Amazon Prime music, ebook and video service.

However, success is not certain. Facebook attempted to get in on the market in early 2013 with a customized handset from Taiwan’s HTC called the HTC First. The phone was a flop and just a few months later carrier AT&T was offering it at a discount.

Founded 20 years ago, Amazon has grown from an online seller of books into one of the world’s largest e-commerce sites. It also sells its own ebook and tablet hardware, has become a publisher of electronic books and is a major supplier of cloud computing capacity. In the last few years, it has been building up its Prime annual subscription service adding video streaming, ebooks and, most recently, streaming music.

(More to follow.)

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