Amazon launches a shopping machine and calls it a phone

Engage your wallets!
Engage your wallets!
Image: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Amazon’s Fire Phone is here: CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the company’s first smartphone at an event today in Seattle. Details are still rolling in, but Bezos has already made one thing clear: This is a shopping device.

The most interesting feature so far is called Firefly: An image recognition app that can supposedly detect and identify more than 100 million items, ranging from physical products on sale at Amazon—Bezos demonstrated the feature with a Nutella jar, among other products—to songs and phone numbers. The phone has a dedicated Firefly button on its side, meaning that the feature—and your credit card—is always only a tap away.

Amazon is also opening the service to developers so they can build Firefly into their apps. Two examples, via the Verge’s Fire Phone liveblog: Using MyFitnessPal to get nutritional information for food or Vivino to get more information about wine. This could be one way to get companies creating custom apps for the Fire Phone’s app store instead of just porting over their plain Android apps.