Amazon Shows Off Its First Smartphone

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Michaela Rehle/Reuters

On Wednesday afternoon, Amazon will probably unveil its first smartphone. The company hasn’t said what new features the phone will have. But in the days prior to the “launch event” it sent attendees a copy of the children’s book, Mr. Pine’s Purple House. (The gist of the book: A man named Mr. Pine lives in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same. So, he paints his house purple, an act that inspires the rest of the neighborhood to paint their houses different colors as well.) Accompanying each copy of the book was a letter from Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. “I think you’ll agree that the world is a better place when things are a little bit different.”

Silicon Valley tech companies have a singular talent for the dark art of mystical capitalism, conjuring a magical allure around minor software updates and rebranded gizmos. So it’s hard to say how different Amazon’s bid for a share of the smartphone market will actually be.

There are some clues: Two months ago, an article in the Wall Street Journal indicated that the phone will be capable of showing 3D images without requiring users to wear glasses. If true, this would almost certainly be the “purple house” Bezos was referring to in his letter. In addition, rumors have circulated that the phone will run a forked version of Android and multiple cameras.

But so far Amazon hasn’t said much. In lieu of hints as to the phone’s features, Amazon’s teaser video features a handful of people looking at an unidentified device, which is not shown, declaring: “That is awesome”; “Oh woo”; “It moved with me”; “I’ve never seen anything like this”; “That’s super awesome. I don’t know how you guys do it.”

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