Amazon's Fire phone's big hurdle: The learning curve

Amazon's Fire phone's big hurdle: The learning curve

Summary: Companies vying to be the No. 3 mobile platform have to take a few chances, but the problem is there's a learning curve tech buyers need to conquer to give new approaches a chance.


One of the first times I tried the tilting gesture on Amazon's Fire phone I dropped it on the table. My right tilt was a touch too aggressive and it's good that the device has Gorilla Glass 3.

Perhaps I'm uncoordinated. Perhaps you can blame the tilting issues on user error. But the primary takeaway is that the Fire phone requires a learning curve. And that learning curve is going to be tricky to navigate in an hour or less at an AT&T store. Amazon may be on to big things with the Fire phone and its Firefly and Dynamic Positioning features, but you'll need to a few weeks with the device to make a real decision.

First impressions about the Fire phone abound. To properly review the device you should probably use the Fire phone exclusively for a few weeks.

Welcome to what I'll call the No. 3 platform conundrum. The conundrum goes like this: Apple's iOS and Google's Android dominate the marketplace. Both mobile platforms operate similarly — except Android requires more management — but the icon approach prevails. If you want to break into the mobile market and be a solid No. 3 player you need to take a few chances. Mobile OS challengers need a leap frog to entice consumers to make a switch. However, these leap frog features are hard to pull off.


Let's consider recent efforts by mobile challengers:

  • Microsoft's Windows Phone introduced tiles and a new user experience that I'd argue is more intuitive than the entrenched players. However, there are only so many app developers to go around. Microsoft is No. 3 at least in part because mobile customers needed to learn some new things. Microsoft has the same issue with Windows 8.

  • BlackBerry's OS 10 also introduced a few new gestures that frankly made a lot of sense. App selection was the biggest issue with BlackBerry OS 10, but there was a learning curve too.

  • That recent history colors my initial thoughts about Amazon's Fire phone. Give Amazon props for trying a few new tricks, but this device will require me to tilt, use my head motion to navigate and learn a few finer control points. The sensors in the Fire phone give you a lot of control, but some folks may turn off some of the features with everyday use. The standard phone gestures you use today will work on the Fire phone too.

Add it up and mobile platform challengers are hell-bent on giving us a user experience revolution that few of us want. With any luck Amazon can break the trend, but it's clear that the learning curve may be the company's biggest hurdle.

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Smartphones

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  • The big hurdle isn't the learning curve but...

    ...the lack of Google applications! Who, in their right mind, would spend $200 on a smartphone that doesn't even have Google Maps?! Youtube?

    Sure, you could bring up the much clumsier web-based versions of these apps, but why would you want to burden yourself with this dearth of good applications? Just to make your Amazon shopping experience a couple clicks less? You'll give up day-to-day functionality to impress your friends *once* with its 3-d screen?
    • Me.

      I went from a Galaxy to a Lumis 1020. (I went to Android from iOS)

      Who needs the Google apps?

      And if I look at my family, none have a Google account, none use GMail, they rarely use YouTube - mainly ClipFish. And one of the daughters has an Android phone, but she doesn't use GMail or other Google services on it.

      Having seen some non-techy people grasp the way the Kinde Fire tablets work very quickly, I can see this appealing to Amazon customers, especially those that already use Prime.
      • Really?

        NONE of your family use gmail or a Google account? Well, they're certainly the exception rather than the rule. I can live without a lot of the Google apps, but Google Maps, gmail and youtube are pretty much a staple of the average mobile user.
        • Couldn't be more true in China

          Where all google services are now blocked.(Gmail, Gmap, Play name it!)
        • I have

          a GMail account, but it is only used for receiving Google spam - I get a YouTube recommendation once a month and my usage statistics email. That is probably why Google Now doesn't do anything useful, it only tells me how long it will take to drive to work and what the weather is.

          The rest of the family are on Yahoo! Mail although my partner now has an Outlook account for Windows 8 use.

          Most of the people I know tend to use, GMX or Yahoo! accounts, they tend to set up a Google account using their or GMX account if they get an Android phone. Google is used for search, but they are very mistrusted in their other services generally over here.

          That they pull down every YouTube video that includes music (including a lot of the official videos, posted by the artists themselves) "just in case" GEMA might object means that YouTube isn't as popular over here as in some countries.

          In fact they lost in court against GEMA. They put up notices saying that the videos weren't available in our region, because GEMA had objected. GEMA took them to court and said that most of the videos hadn't been issued with a takedown from GEMA. The court ruled that YouTube can't blame GEMA for a video not being available, if GEMA haven't requested that it be taken down. Now the notice reads that the video might contain music, for which they have not approached GEMA for a licence to use.
  • Good luck to Amazon but...

    Apps don't concern me as much... They have the important apps covered and it's Fire OS so it's forked Jelly Bean. Let's not forget FireOS is customized version of Android. Moving past apps the question is why this phone? Me feelings on the FirePhone? It seems to be a lot of novelty technology to give users a new UI experience they will opt out of using most of the time and sophisticated technology (FireFly) to assist Amazon sell more products and services in the name of helping the consumer. Considering the later I would have expected a much lower price tag and in fact would be praising the phone if it could be had for say two hundred USD off contract, but it cost over three times that. I predict it will get luck luster success and then Amazon will abandon the cell phone market.
    Jeremy Deats
  • Features for feature's sake...

    Why do I want most of these gestures. Tilting down sounds ok for scrolling, but the moment you tilt it down it is harder to see what you are scrolling to. Tilting appears flaky too (did not always seem to know it was tilted. Tossing the phone left or right is NOT a natural way to turn a page (where else does that ever happen in life?) and probably result in more dropped phones (or looking like you are having a seizure). Tilting in the map just seemed to mess up orientation. Finally, the recognition did not seem to recognize the object they were holding up, but hard know what the cause was (or just bad example). The whole things just seems a year away from prime time (same reason I stopped using the Kindle Fire someone gave me after a few weeks. Use my other iOS and Android devices every day though).
  • AT&T

    I will never go back to AT&T. It is a corrupt company. Charged me for a third party product on my bill that I didn't notice for months because I was busy taking care of a terminally ill family member. I didn't order this product and it was hard to get it off my bill. I don't like the 2 year contact either. I have a no contract carrier now and am happy with it.
  • AT&T ditto

    Amazon's Fire phone will have A.T.&T. as the carrier. Have had all of missbdr@'s misfortunes with A.T.&T. and am anxious to get through with the contract so I can go to an honest company. Anything with A.T.&T. is off my list.
  • A terrible sell-phone

    "New approaches" as in a phone dedicated to making you spend money shopping and tracking your every move. Friends don't let friends use a Bozos Amazon Mis-Fire Phone. Anyone who buys this instant POS gets what they deserve,
  • Amazon, stop pretending

    If Fire is a way to lock Prime customers into the Amazon experience, then stop playing around. Give the phone to Prime customers for free or low cost for the first two years. No incentives = low adoption rates = slow death or another platform requiring massive life support resources (Windows Phone, Blackberry).
  • Breaking into this market will be tough for Amazon

    I am always keen to check out the latest mobile devices as tools for learning and/or performance support. My gut feeling is that breaking into this market will be tough for Amazon unless the Fire proves itself to be truly revolutionary. So far I haven’t seen much evidence for that
    Kenneth Fung