Amazon will launch its Fire Phone through the O2 network provider in the UK at the end of this month.
The much-anticipated first smartphone from Amazon launched in the US in June and will ship in the UK on 30th September 2014.
However, excitement in the UK will be mitigated by the fact that reviews and sales of the product have been underwhelming in the US.
In the UK, the e-tailer has partnered exclusively with mobile phone network provider O2 to bring the phone to customers for free if they take out the £33 a month O2 Refresh contract. For those who sign up to the Fire Phone contract before 31st December, Amazon is also offering a year's free Amazon Prime membership.
The company sells the device as having “two breakthrough technologies” in its Dynamic Perspective and Firefly functions. The first uses four ultra-low power specialized cameras and four infrared LEDs to allow users to autoscroll, tilt and swivel media, user a carousel and claims to offer “more immersive apps”.
While the Firefly function is one more likely to alarm bricks and mortar booksellers because it allows users to scan the bar codes or QR codes of items such as books, films, songs and artwork and then find them on the Amazon online shop. “Firefly identifies printed text on signs, posters, magazines and business cards,” the company said, which it does through combining “Amazon’s deep catalogue of physical and digital content with multiple image, text and audio recognition technologies to quickly identify a variety of items from the world around you.”
The practice known as showrooming – where customers discover items in bricks and mortar shops, only top then look them up and buy them online for cheaper, is one of the biggest threats to UK booksellers, with 63.5% admitting to the behavior according to a study last year.
The phone also contains a Kindle Reader, allowing users to read their Kindle libraries on their phones. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and c.e.o, said: “We’ve packed a lot of value into our first smartphone and we are delighted to bring Fire to customers in the United Kingdom.”
However, the Fire Phone has been something of a damp squib in America where it launched, attracting some disappointed reviews, with many tech bloggers questioning if the device is special enough to encourage someone to move contracts and suggesting Amazon left its entry into the smartphone market too late.
A recent report in the Guardian supported the idea that US consumers were underwhelmed with the product, suggesting that just 35,000 devices had been shifted in its first 20 days of sales, in comparison to the nine million iPhone sold in its first weekend of launch. Amazon did not offer comment on the report.