IDG News Service —
Amazon has always been pretty easy to figure out.

With the Kindle family of e-readers, Amazon wanted to sell books. When the Kindle Fire tablet came out, the game plan was to increase its Prime member ranks and sell media. Fire TV continued that push, bringing its substantial digital catalogue into the living room. To accomplish its goals, Amazon deliberately kept prices low, even if it meant selling the devices at cost, to make them as enticing as possible to consumers.

Each new device made sense, and fit neatly into the narrative that Amazon wanted to dominate the online retail space and bring as many customers into its tent as possible. But perhaps we were missing the big picture.

Fire Phone is something of a different animal. On the surface, it might seem like just another vehicle for selling digital contentand that’s certainly part of the plan herebut Amazon’s first smartphone is more than a Kindle Fire that can fit in your pocket. Packed with proprietary, cutting-edge technologies and priced as a premium product, it completes the company’s story, so to speak, but there’s a bit of a twist at the end: Amazon wants to take over the world.

Pay to play

More than any other gadget, a smartphone is a commitment. It’s the only device we carry with us wherever we go, and no matter if it’s a ZTE Open or an iPhone 5s, most users aren’t regularly switching handsets, even if they haven’t signed a contract. It’s a conscious, careful decision, so therefore it was widely assumed Amazon would release something more along the lines of the Moto G than the Galaxy S5, making a play for the same budget-conscious people who own Kindles.

But instead, Amazon went the premium route. When buyers walk into an ATT store on July 25, Fire Phone will be stacked up against the Galaxies, iPhones, and Ones of the world, each products with established customer bases and strong ecosystems. It’s not going to be an easy sell (even with a free year of Prime), but Amazon seems to be well prepared for the fight. The $649 off-contract price isn’t a money grab–clearly Amazon wants to position its first phone as a high-end product, and it just might be interesting enough to pull it off.

Beauty on the inside

On first impression, Fire Phone isn’t much to look at. Even if you’re staring at Amazon’s perfectly lit marketing shots, it comes across as a relatively unimpressive slab, a cheap knockoff with too much bezel and symmetrically distracting sensors. Compared to the all-metal One or the S5′s brilliant screen, it doesn’t exactly measure up, but then again, Amazon has never been hung up on aesthetics.

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