What's right (and wrong) with the Amazon Fire Phone

What's right (and wrong) with the Amazon Fire Phone

Summary: Amazon is using easy access to its empire as a lure, but whether this is a big enough pull to get users to swap their smartphones for the Fire Phone remains to be seen

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(Source: Amazon)

Yesterday Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled Amazon's latest hardware device – the Fire Phone. Amazon is no stranger to hardware, having turned ebook readers into a mainstream device before going on to make an array of tablets. But the smartphone market is more crowded and competitive than any hardware market that Amazon has entered into before.

Does the Fire Phone have what it takes to shake up the smartphone market?

Understand that this is a first impressions piece based on the hardware demonstrated by Amazon and the published spec of the device. I will update this piece as soon as the hardware is released and add some hands-on thoughts.

What's right with the Fire Phone?

  • Good hardware: From a hardware standpoint, Amazon hasn't disappointed, producing a smartphone with quality hardware. The Fire Phone can stand its ground up against the likes of Apple's iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy S5.
  • Focus on entertainment: The high-quality screen and dual stereo speakers make this a smartphone for people who want to consume content.
  • Tied deep to Amazon's ecosystem: There's almost no aspect of Amazon's digital empire than the Fire Phone doesn't seep into, and that's good for tying owners to the Amazon brand.
  • Innovation, but not too much innovation: It's clear that Amazon hasn't just come out with yet another smartphone. It's added some interesting new features to the Fire Phone – such as the dynamic perspective feature, or the Firefly technology that can recognizes printed web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, artwork, movies, music, and millions of products – without overloading users with too much new stuff.
  • Innovation could lead to Fire Phone-specific apps: I can see there being apps built for the Fire Phone that could be exclusives based on technology such as the face tracking and Firefly. This could – if the phone and the apps gain enough traction – be a big hit.
  • MayDay button: Not everyone's a tech-head, and some people will appreciate having a helping hand a click away.
  • Free cloud storage for photos: Apple, are you listening?

What's wrong with the Fire Phone?

  • Price: At $199 for the 32GB version, going up to $299 for the 64GB model, the price seems high, especially considering that this is contract pricing. For a new platform trying to gain traction, this is high. Doubly so when that platfrom is so tighty bound to a store.
  • Off-contract pricing is insane: If you think the contract prices are insane, wait until you see the off-contract price – $649 for the 32GB model and $749 for the 64GB model.
  • AT&T-only: This worked for Apple with the iPhone until it didn't. I wonder if that era of carrier exclusivity isn't over for all the player to be honest. It's highly restrictive to potential buyers, and offers little incentive (especially considering the prices).
  • Android, but not Android: There are a lot of people who love the Fire OS platform, but I wonder how much they'll love it when they're migrating from an Android device to Fire OS. It will be a test for Amazon to see if Fire OS can gain acceptance among smartphone users.
  • No Micro SD card slot: Which means having to pay the $100 for storage if you're a heavy user.
  • The Amazon brand is too full-on: Does the Fire Phone feel a little too much like an Amazon store in your pocket? It might. Striking the fine between giving users the opportunity to buy stuff and forcing stuff down their throats is hard, and it relains to be seen if Amazon has achieved this.

The bottom line:

There's no doubt that Amazon also has steep challenges to face. The first is that as a single retailer it will have to shift tens of millions of handsets in order to make a dent in either the iOS or Android ecosystem. If we just look at Android alone, there are now over 1.5 million devices being activated daily. Then let's not forget that the Android ecosystem is dominated by a single player – Samsung. I've lost count of the myriad of tablets and smartphones this company currently has on offer. And it's a company that has a reputation for making good products.

Amazon is using easy access to its empire as a lure, but whether this is a big enough pull to get users to swap their smartphones for the Fire Phone remains to be seen. There's also a worry that Amazon has packed too much of itself into the Fire Phone, and that users will feel that they are paying a premium for the privilege of being allowed to spend more money with Amazon.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Hardware

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14 comments
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  • What's wrong with it

    If building a solid device with some unique gimmicks - and the ability to run many Android apps - would be sufficient for success in the phone industry, Thorsten Heins would still be CEO of Blackberry.
    Sacr
  • Can It Sell?

    I guess not. Not everyone like Amazon ecosystem especially Android and iOS hardware core folks. Honestly, if I'm iOS fans, I'll wait for iPhone 6. If I'm Android fan, I'll get HTC One M8 for the same $$$. If you want to compete with current high end phones, drop the price for incentive or you won't sell. Sorry, Fire, this is not for me at that price.
    Cun Con
    • You forget...

      One selling point is actually a major drawback: the heavy link to Amazon services. As reported (internationally) these fancy extras will work in USA, England, and... Germany.

      For anyone else, the phone is Just A Phone.

      Amazon need to expand their services world-wide, or expect a washout.
      alan_r_cam
  • Though it is a very interesting device

    The things wrong with it (price, carrier, etc.) will likely be a major issue to overcome.

    I do see some positive things from having it come to market though. The increase in options will further create the need for developers to consider other platforms. Creating apps for only stock Android is not going to be an option for many developers, as it will be too limited a market. So the case for branching out and including iOS and forked Androids (as well as BlackBerry and Windows Phone) will be in a much better position going forward. Only time will tell if further fragmenting the market will make any improvements for consumers.

    I wish Amazon could have pulled some clout for changing the pricing structures with carriers. The biggest issue for consumers is lock-in (carrier and platform [Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.] and carrier network availability.
    grayknight
  • The Anti-lock-in Movement

    Mobile OEM's and OS makers/forkers need to have something more than the device+OS UX to sell people. BlackBerry's insufficient strategy is in not having something more than the device+OS UX to sell. They need apps not tied down to one mobile OS. To pursue lock-in like Apple and now Amazon are doing, they need unique services that attempt to surpass the other platforms' offerings, not just differentiate (hi Microsoft :-P). BlackBerry (like Windows Phone) was only different (READ: not better) from the other mobile OSes in it's UI and basic UX, but even those areas of distinction aren't enough to acheive suction in an app-driven, personal users' eco-system-driven mobile market. I'd love for all app developers to make all their apps feature complete on all platforms in real-time to offer all users the ability to foster their own individual ecosystems that aren't tied to any one mobile OEM's service, device, or operating system (or OS forks) - that'd leave more users open to more platforms than iOS and Android. It's really too bad that all these mobile OS providers would rather lock you in to them than empower YOU to do more than what their own services offer in a one-track minded way. Getting Apple to open up the little bit that they are doing in iOS 8 took too long and is part to blame (in addition to mobile market saturation and the entry-level price of their lowest current devices) for their slowing market share, although their user share (MOST important) remains steady, but is at risk. I have an iPhone 5s, but I am not ashamed to say I have a little buyer's remorse in investing as much as I have in any one ecosystem, especially Apple's ecosystem. One thing we all need to CONTROL from start to finish is our OWN ecosystems. Only then will we have a true Internet of Things. There is no IoT when one OEM or OS (or OS fork) is the conduit (hi Apple). So, Amazon appears to be trying to pull an Apple here. While the value proposition looks good superficially without much evaluation, further thinking leaves me turned off and more inclined to pursue the platform that allows for more flexible self-controlled ecosystem management on the go. Messy as it can be, that platform is Android (preferably, the Nexus/GPE blend). Otherwise, the only way to achieve fostering truly (forgive the following wording) self-centered IoT is HTML5 apps that aren't confined by OS, so long as the OS supports HTML5 apps. HTML5 apps suck, but if they enable omni-platform IoT, I'll absorb a few performance shortcomings so as not to be tied down by any one OEM, OS, or OS fork.

    DISCLAIMER: This rant is my opinion. No conjecture intended should you perceive its presence.
    theNewDanger
  • $750

    thats a lot of bing rewards farming to get enough gift cards lol
    everss02
  • fail on so many levels

    although it can exist as part of the ecosystem, with modest sales, indefinitely. Looks like amazon must be starting to care about profit now.

    This at a time when we are (hopefully) moving away from the subsidized phone, and also carrier exclusives. I fully expected that $199 was the actual price and couldn't believe the actual price. Its main features are about selling stuff for amazon. Greed.

    Also, it is certainly not an "android" phone. Android should only be mentioned in passing as the base OS from a technical sense, but there is absolutely nothing to do with android (google services, ecosystem) as far as the end user is concerned.
    drwong
  • Price seems fair...

    I know the price is 199 or 299 with contract, but that is the cost for most other phones. And you forgot to mention that you get a free year of Amazon Prime with the purchase. That is a 99 dollar value and gives you access to:

    - Prime movies
    - Prime Music
    - 2 day free shipping from Amazon
    - 1 Book check out every month.

    And if they have an app of the day that is free like the Kindle tablets, then this is still a pretty good deal.
    aretaksonic
  • It doesn't - or shouldn't - work that way!

    "users will feel that they are paying a premium for the privilege of being allowed to spend more money with Amazon."

    Adrian, you nailed it with this (final) comment - that was my initial thought, too. If Amazon wants me to buy and use a Fire Phone (especially over the competition) so they can then more easily encourage me to buy more "things" from them, they should pay ME to attract my attention - I'm sure as hell not going to pay them for the "privilege"!

    Of course, I also don't buy and wear clothing with some clothing manufacturer's logo on it - unless they offer to pay me for that too, perhaps. What bothers me is how many human sheep have apparently been sold on the ridiculous idea that they are somehow more "cool" if they wear the clothing with the logo! Consider, people (especially kids and teens) will actually pay MORE for the same general quality and utility of item, if it has a "cool" logo on it - just plain stupid, but a hell of a selling job by the manufacturers, I have to admit!

    But Amazon? Sorry, no thanks ...
    johnvin9
  • Its bascially an apple then?

    "Striking the fine between giving users the opportunity to buy stuff and forcing stuff down their throats "

    Thats we we love Android because they DONT do that!

    The Fire will be quickly put out!
    slobbythegreat
  • I am so not interested in this device

    Since I ALWAYS buy my phones without contract, $649 is too high for a device with no SD slot and which isn't a phablet.

    Sorry, but as we get older, our eye sight gets a little weaker, so a bigger screen with selectable font sizes would be great.

    Take the Kindle Fire HDX 7, down size it to 6.25 inches (so it can be held in one hand), add an SD slot and PHONE capabilities to it, unlocked, and then offer it to me for $649 and I may just be interested it. Otherwise, right now, I'm looking at a Galaxy Mega 6.3 come Black Friday.
    mheartwood
  • It's the reaction

    Of the anti-Microsoft Team to the Windows phone. Why are there so many varieties of Coke products? To take up shelf space. Why is an Amazon phone important? It takes up the third display space at a mall kiosk... Amazon, Apple, Google, Mozilla etc. One company, forged to avenge a wrong, one or two remaining steps. Hang in there, the Microsoft shareholders are pretty unhappy. A few more pushes. The end game is the 3D graphics chip for pads to pull gamers off the XBox. Soon. Soon...
    Tony Burzio
  • My point of view

    Right: Design, battery power, new features as motion tracking, camera
    Not than right: Actually it has better battery power as other devices, but maybe not enough for all the features, it does not have GPS
    everything is here
    http://versus.com/en/amazon-fire-phone-vs-apple-iphone-5s
    nataliamolina
    • Are you sure about the GPS?

      The Amazon Fire does have GPS built in...or are you saying it does not have an app built in for GPS?
      aretaksonic