The Amazon Fire Phone

The Product

Intriguing. That’s the word I’d use to describe the phone Amazon announced yesterday. It’s got the makings of a decent imaging system. And the “dynamic perspective” feature might be more than a “gimmick”.

The reason I’m intrigued is because it looks to me that Amazon has tried to push the market forward a little in a few key areas.

Amazon might be the first to alter the way we interact with our smartphones. It’s likely the touch screen is going to be replaced at some point and this is the first step along this road. You might chastise it just now, but hardcore gamers said the same thing about the Wii’s motion controllers and it wasn’t long before Sony and Microsoft were doing it too.

They didn’t just show off a fancy wallpaper (like Apple did with Parallax), they’ve got games that actually use the technology and so far they look great. I’m curious to see what developers can come up with beyond what’s already been shown. The phone essentially knows where you are looking, and that’s got bags of potential.

Speaking of potential, the camera has the potential to be really great as well. It’s 13 megapixel with an f2.0 aperture and OIS. This could be something good and I look forward to seeing sample shots from it. Apple has had the best camera phone on the market for a few years now, theres nothing to say Amazon won’t push this forward.

Alongside the camera is the ability to have unlimited photos stored and backed up. Amazon can do this because they are the kings of web storage but it’s undoubtedly something we’d all like to see come to whatever phone we use just now. The closest you can get is Google+. Photostream is fast becoming the poorest offering, I’m hopeful that this changes with iOS 8.

Amazon is a shop first and foremost. They exist to sell you things and the Fire phone is definitely set up to assist with that. You can scan things in the real world and buy them on Amazon (if they stock it). This, again, is another example of the way Amazon is trying to change the way we do things.

This is undoubtedly going to hurt brick and mortar stores because it will encourage people to go “showrooming” more often but that’s not Amazons problem. They shouldn’t slow their efforts to let the competition catch up.

This technology is also used to recognise video and audio content so that you can buy a movie straight from Amazon, who don’t just sell digital copies they sell physical copies as well, something Apple and Google do not. It’s essentially Shazam but it works for video as well. Again, I’m curious to see where they takes this as it could be something we see a lot more of in the future.

Overall though I’d like to get my hands on one and play around with it. As far as ecosystems go Amazon’s isn’t a bad one to be locked in to and the phone itself doesn’t seem like a huge dud.

The Reaction

That’s not to say it’s all gravy and this launch is akin to the original iPhone but there is a similarity. The negative reaction to the Fire Phone seems to be based around 3 key areas. It’s US only, it’s exclusive to AT&T and it costs a lot on and off contract. These 3 things were also true of the first iPhone and boy did that turn out to be a flop.

Negative reactions to these types of launch always appear to be based around “It’s not an iPhone”. People misremember the iPhone as some sort of hallelujah moment when it was announced in January 2007. It wasn’t. It was panned by a lot of people when it was first announced for various reasons. The 3 aforementioned ones plus it had a poor camera, no MMS, no video recording, no apps and the back looked ugly!

Everyones waiting for these giant leaps. These clear cut “whoa I just witnessed the unveiling of the Next Big Thing” don’t really happen all that often. Yet the industry still keeps moving forward, it evolves. I see each of these events as baby steps along the way. I can concentrate on the good points and take a ‘wait and see’ approach with the rest.

Investors often take this strategy and that’s another bone of contention. Why, when people on Twitter are sending so many tweets chastising a product, do the investors keep buying more stock in Amazon? Because Amazon keeps growing and Amazon looks very much like the future. Drones, digital content, ebooks, phones, tablets, subscriptions, fast shipping. These are all things that 20 years ago you would expect to see in 2014 but when we have them all we do is complain about them.

Investors aren’t trying to impress their Twitter followers with their witty dismissals of a product in 140 characters or less. They aren’t looking for retweets or faves and they usually don’t have blogs to drive traffic to. They just want to make money and in spite of what commenters like you or I might think, Amazon keeps making money.

I don’t need numbers to know Amazon is a success. Who am I going to compare them to? What other company is there that does even most of what Amazon does? Digital music and video stores, hard goods, streaming, ebooks, fast shipping? The numbers are of no use to me (or you) because we have no benchmark.

Let’s face it, we all know what’s going to happen. Thos numbers are going to be stacked up against Apple’s. Nobody is beating Apple on numbers. They’re a dynasty. They are the New York Yankees, Manchester United and Michael Schumacher. They don’t always win but over the piece they come out on top.

Unlike sport though, there is no definitive end point in this ‘competition’. There’s no score and there’s very little rules. Amazon is choosing to keep it’s numbers a secret and that means nobody knows how good or how poor they are so that judgement call is taken out of it.

If a company is doing poorly then people who are aware of it are less likely to buy from them. Success breeds success. It’s nice to know you’re part of a crowd. Safety in numbers. Amazon doesn’t play that game. They just make products and if you like them, buy them. It’s actually pretty simple and I applaud them for it. There’s no rule that says you must release numbers.

Amazon makes hardware whilst still selling other peoples too and that’s again unique. If you go to an Apple store you can only buy an iPad. If you go to Amazon you can buy an iPad, or a Fire, or a Galaxy Tab the list goes on and on. I don’t see Best Buy or PC World breaking out quarterly numbers for which Tablets they sold and how many? Why should Amazon? They are a retailer first and foremost and this is what retailers have done for years. They compete alongside the products they sell. Amazon is just doing it better than anyone else.