Amazon doesn’t hide the fact it sells devices designed to hook you into its retail-focussed ecosystem, but has it tried too hard with the Fire Phone announced today?
The Fire Phone is the first smartphone from Amazon. Like the tablets, and the recently announced Fire TV, it hooks you in to using Amazon services rather than the usual Google services on ‘ordinary’ Android-based devices, and this time around it’s easier than ever before to buy things using the new Firefly button.
With the dedicated key, you can take a picture of anything you see, and it will be listed to look at later (and possibly buy). Music you’re listening to, or the film you’re watching – one press and it’s saved for you to look up later. Sort of like a wishlist button almost.
The eyes have it
So as not to be seen as something purely to make you spend more money with Amazon, you can do other cool things with it fortunately. Like read text from signs and posters, or look things up on Wikipedia.
Nothing Google Goggles and a range of other apps can’t do, but this is built-in from day one and available to everyone as a result.
Think about it, who would download an app like Goggles if they didn’t know such a thing existed? That and services like Mayday, which gives you help from a real live person you can see on-screen, are incredibly clever ways to make technology less scary – and get more people using services that are currently not widely known about.
Take a look around
All of this clever stuff is accompanied by four cameras on the front to give some fancy 3D effects to apps. First its own, and later to other apps thanks to the SDKs being made available to developers.
Whether developers will be rushing to support one device is another story, however.
To me, it seems like a gimmick that has little long-term value. When Apple introduced parallax effects on iOS 7, it was quickly copied and replicated on Android. Tilt your phone in various directions to watch a wallpaper move in a 3D-like environment, for example.
The novelty soon wore off. The live wallpapers consumed more power than it was worth, which raises another possible issue. What impact will these cameras have when having to analyse the movements of people?
And why is this so much better than just tilting the phone, or using gestures? Or indeed, why is this a feature that people want at all?
Perhaps in the gaming world it will work wonders, but developers play the numbers game and it’s far safer to stick with iOS and Android than a single device that may or may not sell in large numbers.
When Apple adds such technology to an iPhone, or it appears on a new Samsung or Sony phone, maybe it’s time to take notice.
Playing the numbers game
The Amazon Fire Phone is only on sale in the US. But, hey, that’s how it worked for the tablets and Fire TV, so that in itself isn’t a big deal. But an exclusive with AT&T?
How many people will have seen the announcement and now thought, no. That’s not for me. All because of it being tied to one single carrier.
And what’s more, this phone isn’t being heavily subsidised and sold at a price more akin to that of a Moto G. In fact, it’s not clear if you’ll be able to just go onto the Amazon site and buy it SIM-free, then have the freedom to choose how and where you use it.
Paying the bills
Until now, Amazon has been willing to sell devices at cost, or even a small loss, to get people to embrace the ever expanding range of services.
But perhaps this time around, Amazon thought it could try and make some money. Given the very high specification of the phone, it’s a perfectly valid idea – in theory.
But in my opinion, it’s only going to prevent the company getting the much-needed sales numbers to get support for the ‘Dynamic Perspective’ features and entice people away from other platforms.
I’m a massive Amazon customer, buying possibly far too many things simply because of how easy it is. It’s never been easier to use Amazon, as even not being at home during the day is no barrier with collection points dotted all over the country.
Yet I don’t need an Amazon phone or tablet, or Fire TV, to spend money with Amazon. I can use the Amazon app on my preferred smartphone (Android, iOS, Windows or even Tizen), or go to the website on a desktop.
I can enjoy Amazon Prime Instant Video on my Smart TV, and would be able to do so on my Android devices if the company let me. It chooses not to, of course, to try and tempt me away. But the thing is, I am not tempted away. I simply don’t watch Instant Video much as a result, favouring Sky or Netflix instead.
I’m a big fan of Amazon Prime, and signed up for the free next day delivery. I was somewhat upset when the price was hiked up, as I didn’t really want its TV, film (and now music) services. But if Amazon can make these services more accessible, then it has to be better than trying to get me to buy one of its devices.
Primed for a great deal
If Amazon was really clever though, it might have thought to offer the phone for free when signing up for Prime for 24 or 36 months – even possibly upping the price still further.
Jeff Bezos was keen to brag about the people who sign up for Prime not cancelling, so that could have been a great way to get this phone in the hands of millions. People who will get the phone as part of a long-term deal that nets Amazon a small fortune, and makes people now feel there’s no need to buy anything else when they’ve got a ‘free’ phone.
What we got today instead was an announcement of a phone that is heavily limited in its release, and will quite likely be passed over by many in favour of the very offerings on the market that Amazon is hoping to kill off.
I can’t see that happening, at least not for some time.
Introducing Fire, the First Smartphone Designed by Amazon
New breakthrough innovations—Dynamic Perspective, Firefly button, and more
- Seamless integration with Amazon’s vast ecosystem—over 33 million songs, apps, games, movies,
- TV shows, books, and more
- Only smartphone with Mayday, ASAP, X-Ray, and Second Screen
- Dynamic Perspective SDK and Firefly SDK now available
- Fire is available exclusively on AT&T, the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network
- Limited time, introductory offer—12 months of Prime included
SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jun. 18, 2014– (NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon today unveiled Fire, the first smartphone designed by Amazon. Fire is the only smartphone with Dynamic Perspective and Firefly, two new breakthrough technologies that allow you to see and interact with the world through a whole new lens. Dynamic Perspective uses a new sensor system to respond to the way you hold, view, and move Fire, enabling experiences not possible on other smartphones. Firefly quickly recognizes things in the real world—web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, movies, music, and millions of products, and lets you take action in seconds—all with the simple press of the Firefly button. See what people are already saying about Fire at http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Phone-Customers.
“Fire Phone puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand—instant access to Amazon’s vast content ecosystem and exclusive features like the Mayday button, ASAP, Second Screen, X-Ray, free unlimited photo storage, and more,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “The Firefly button lets you identify printed web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, artwork, and over 100 million items, including songs, movies, TV shows, and products—and take action in seconds. We invented a new sensor system called Dynamic Perspective that recognizes where a user’s head is relative to the device—we use it to offer customers a more immersive experience, one-handed navigation, and gestures that actually work. And this is only the beginning—the most powerful inventions are the ones that empower others to unleash their creativity—that’s why today we are launching the Dynamic Perspective SDK and the Firefly SDK—we can’t wait to see how developers surprise us.”
Dynamic Perspective—Immersive Smartphone Experience
Dynamic Perspective uses four ultra-low power specialized cameras and four infrared LEDs built into the front face of Fire, a dedicated custom processor, sophisticated real-time computer vision algorithms, and a new high-performing and power-efficient graphics rendering engine. Dynamic Perspective features include:
- One-handed gestures: Auto-scroll, tilt, swivel and peek for quicker, easier navigation and a better media and entertainment experience. For example, with auto-scroll, customers can read a long web page or a book without ever having to touch the screen; tilt in Amazon Music shows song lyrics; swivel instantly reveals quick actions; peek in Maps shows layered information like Yelp ratings and reviews.
- Immersive apps and games: Dynamic Perspective enables a new class of apps and games that are more immersive, and make it quicker and easier for the user to access information. For example, peek to instantly see close-up front and back views of a dress in the new Amazon Shopping app for Fire. In games like Lili, take on the character’s viewpoint and move your head to look around corners, obstacles, and other objects.
- Enhanced Carousel: Stay productive with real-time updates and take action right from the home screen—triage email, find recent photos, access most visited websites, return missed calls, view appointments, and more. Developers can customize the contents of their dynamic app and how it responds to user actions. For example, Zillow’s app in the carousel shows property information based on the location, so customers can access search results on nearby homes from the carousel without having to launch the Zillow app. USA TODAY shows headlines most relevant to customer’s interest—someone who frequents football in the Sports section will see those related headlines appear in the carousel.
Starting today, Amazon is introducing the Dynamic Perspective SDK that enables developers to build new experiences with this groundbreaking technology. Learn more about the SDK at http://developer.amazon.com/firephone.
Firefly Technology–Illuminate Your World
Firefly combines Amazon’s deep catalog of physical and digital content with multiple image, text and audio recognition technologies to quickly identify web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, plus over 100 million items, including movies, TV episodes, songs, and products. Simply press and hold the dedicated Firefly button to discover helpful information and take action in seconds.
- Printed phone numbers, email, web addresses, QR, and bar codes: Firefly identifies printed text on signs, posters, magazines and business cards—make a call, send an email, save as a contact, or go to the website without typing out long URLs or email addresses.
- 245,000 movies and TV episodes, and 160 live TV channels: Firefly recognizes movies and TV episodes, and uses IMDb for X-Ray to show actors, plot synopses, and related content—add titles to Watch List or download and start watching immediately.
- 35 million songs: Firefly recognizes music and uses Amazon Music’s rich catalog to show information about the artist—play more songs, add them to your Wish List, or download instantly to your Fire. Developers, such as iHeartRadio and StubHub, used the SDK to build Firefly-enabled apps, so customers can create a new radio station based on the song or find concert tickets for the artist.
- 70 million products, including household items, books, DVDs, CDs, video games, and more: Access product details, add items to your Wish List, or order on Amazon.com.
- The Firefly SDK is available starting today so developers can invent new ways to use this advanced technology. Later this year, Firefly will include artwork recognition, foreign language translation, and wine label recognition powered by Vivino. Learn more about the SDK at http://developer.amazon.com/firephone.
Amazon Exclusive Features and Vast Digital Ecosystem—All Deeply Integrated
Fire seamlessly integrates Amazon’s vast digital ecosystem for instant access to over 33 million songs, apps, games, movies, TV shows, books, audiobooks, and magazines, including thousands of exclusives. Plus, Prime members get unlimited streaming of tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes at no additional cost with Prime Instant Video, over 500,000 books to borrow with the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and the all-new Prime Music—unlimited streaming and download of more than a million songs and hundreds of expert-programmed playlists—all at no additional cost.
Fire deeply integrates Amazon exclusive services:
- Mayday is now available over 3G and 4G, in addition to Wi-Fi—simply hit the Mayday button in quick actions and an Amazon expert will appear via live video to co-pilot you through any feature on the device. Amazon experts are able to draw on the screen, talk you through how to do a task, or do it for you—whatever works best. Mayday is available 24×7, 365 days a year, and it’s free. Amazon’s response time goal for Mayday is 15 seconds or less—since launch, the average response time has been 9.75 seconds.
- ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) predicts which movies and TV episodes you’ll want to watch and prepares them for instant playback before you even hit play.
- X-Ray helps you get more from books, music, movies, and TV shows. Explore the bones of a book, including characters, ideas and background with a single tap on the screen; bring the power of IMDb right to Fire for trivia on movies and TV shows; plus, with X-Ray for Music, see synchronized lyrics display while you listen to your favorite song.
- Second Screen lets you fling TV shows and movies from Fire phone to your Fire TV, PlayStation or any other Miracast-enabled device. Second Screen turns your TV into the primary screen and frees up Fire phone to provide playback controls and a customized display for X-Ray, all without leaving the TV show or movie you’re watching.
- Free unlimited cloud storage of photos taken with Fire, automatically backed-up wirelessly and available across Amazon devices and Cloud Drive apps so you have access anywhere.
Beautiful Industrial Design & Powerful Hardware
Built using premium materials, including Gorilla Glass 3 for the rear and front, aluminum buttons, stainless steel details and a rubberized polyurethane grip area, Fire is optimized for beauty, hand comfort and powerful performance:
- Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz processor and 2GB RAM for excellent fluidity and image rendering.
- 4.7-inch HD display with an ambient light sensor and Dynamic Image Contrast that delivers better outdoor viewing.
- Global LTE and connectivity with nine bands of LTE, four bands of GSM, five bands of UMTS for better voice coverage and faster data speeds, 802.11ac support, Wi-Fi channel bonding, NFC, and Bluetooth.
- Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus for a virtual surround sound experience.
- Advanced imaging system with custom-tuned 13MP rear-facing camera with backside illumination, LED flash, 5-element f/2.0 lens, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), and high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities for beautiful, crisp photos, even in low-light conditions. Fire also includes a 2.1MP front-facing camera. Both front and rear-facing cameras record smooth 1080p HD videos.
- Reliable backup and restore leveraging the experience and operational excellence of Amazon Web Services and its cloud technology. Fire customers can automatically back up device settings, notes, bookmarks, messages, and installed applications—no need to manually configure or connect to a computer.
Availability & Exclusive Network Partner
Fire ships on July 25 and is available exclusively on AT&T—the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network. Starting today, customers can pre-order Fire at http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Phone, http://www.att.com and in AT&T retail locations nationwide. Fire with 32GB is available for $199 with a two-year contract—that’s an extra 16GB of memory for the same price as many other premium smartphones—or zero money down for as little as $27.09 a month from AT&T on Next 18. Fire is also available with 64GB for $299 with a two-year contract or starting at $31.25/month from AT&T on Next 18.
Limited Time, Introductory Offer
Starting today, customers can take advantage of an introductory, limited time offer—buy Fire and get 12 months of Amazon Prime included—FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items, unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Instant Video, unlimited, ad-free streaming and downloading of over a million songs and hundreds of playlists, and over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Existing Prime members get an additional 12 months added to their account.