Amazon’s new Fire phone and why I’m not buying just yet

News and commentaries, Technology

 

Dynamic Perspective in Maps

Yesterday, Amazon and Jeff Bezos unveiled the Fire phone during an event shrouded in mystery, ending the weeks-long speculation. The phone definitely packs a punch and could be serious contender in the smartphone market especially as it is backed by Amazon’s ecosystem: full year Prime membership which means access to all that Prime has to offer. But the most groundbreaking and exciting features are the “Dynamic Perspective” and Firefly.

Dynamic Perspective
In order to generate a 3D viewing experience, the tech works by tracking where the user’s head is at all times in relation to the screen. In doing so, the user will always have the perspective of looking at a 3D image. Do you remember those 3D posters in the ’90s? Looking at the Fire phone video, it reminds me of those except obviously in this case, you don’t need to focus too hard to get the perspective that the image is floating, i.e. in 3D rendering. This feature is especially compelling in the phone’s map app and in gaming. The question is how many more apps will be built on the Dynamic Perspective SDK.

Firefly
First of all, as a huge fan of the Firefly TV series (which happens to be available in Amazon Prime), I already like this name (did Amazon pay for the name?). In a similar way that Shazam can tell you the name of a song after “listening” to it, Firefly can identify products, songs and TV shows by “looking”. The Firefly database has currently 70 million products; 240,000 movies and TV episodes, and 160 live TV channels. It can also scan text on paper for phone numbers, web and email addresses.

These two features alone are making me seriously consider the Fire phone for my next device. I currently have a Nexus 5 from Google and have been looking forward to Nexus 6. I mention this because the fact that I am deeply entrenched in the Google ecosystem might be the biggest dealbreaker for me. Below, I outline more of the reasons as to why I and others like me might *not* want the Amazon Fire phone.

Dealbreakers

  • The phone is powered by Fire OS 3.5.0, which was built on top of Android OS and integrates Amazon’s software and content. As such, it does not have have any access to the Google Play Store nor any of Google’s apps such as Google Maps, Chrome browser or Gmail. Amazon has its own mail app and uses Nokia’s HERE maps.
  • There seems to be a slew of features and gesture controls related to Dynamic Perspective. Apple’s smartphone dominance is largely attributed to its simplicity such that even your grandparents now have iPhones. The Fire is definitely not simple. Case in point from the Fire promotional video: you can tilt the phone to the right to access the menu. Or is it the left tilt – you get the point. Even with instant Mayday access, a human-to-human customer service designed to help with the features, who has the time or the inclination to talk to someone when all you want to do is send an email?
  • Dynamic Perspective looks exciting but without developer adoption, users would be limited to using Amazon-developed apps. It’s not clear yet how many apps are there to render the 3D perspective but a robust app marketplace needs to be in place in order for the tech to resonate with users.
  • With plenty of other options in the smartphone market, Fire is not exactly price friendly. Sure, it goes for $199 with a 2-year AT&T contract but hasn’t Amazon heard of T-Mobile’s Uncarrier strategy? For those who are loath to get stuck with AT&T, the phone comes for a hefty price of $649 – quite a leap for a smartphone that is just entering the market even with all the bells and whistles.

So, if you consider yourself as an innovator in the tech adoption curve, *and* you don’t mind the price point, then this phone is for you. But for the rest, you might want to wait this out and see what shakes loose especially in terms of what apps will be developed for the Fire phone. Unfortunately, it is the “waiting out” period for most consumers that could prove Fire’s undoing if it wants to be *the* next smartphone platform.

Meanwhile, as of this writing, AMZN stock is down by 6%.

AMZN 2014-06-19 at 12.31.39 PM

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5 thoughts on “Amazon’s new Fire phone and why I’m not buying just yet

    1. I suppose I won’t mind the Amazon layer because I’m a Prime customer and would just rather another Google layer to it. But for non-Amazon fans, yes, it will be quite a stretch.

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