With the announcement of the Amazon Fire Phone, the media’s buzzing about how this phone could both be a step forward in the smartphone market and also how Amazon might be either too late or stepping too far out of their ability to make this work for them. However, this new, controversial phone has a lot of new aspects that you won’t find in the competitors (namely Apple and Google) including Firefly, 3D images and maps and “dynamic perspective”.
Firefly is a barcode scanning, media identifying catalogue—basically. You will be able to record bits from a movie, tv show, or song from the radio and not only will it be identified for you, but you will have the option to buy it, add it to an IHeartRadio channel, etc. Amazon has hopes that with more apps than the approximate 240,000 it starts out with, this will become a broader ability with more sharing possibilities. As for products that are not digitally based, you will be able to take a snapshot and not only will Firefly show you it on Amazon, but it will be able to tell you where you might be able to get it locally—and give the consumer a pricing guide as well. Since we all know that Amazon has made a name for itself with competitive pricing, this might boost sales for them, but only if it works as advertised.
The 3D images and maps are not your usual type of “pop out” 3D effect, like what you see in movie theatres and on your new 3D capable smart TV, it’s a “pop in” style, one that leaves you hoping to peer around the edges of the phone’s screen, making the viewer perceive that there’s more, if only they could lean around and see it. The key to this working is actually due to the “dynamic perspective”, the ability to keep track of where the viewer’s head is with the four front facing cameras at the corners of the screen. This enables your screen to tilt itself so the user may be able to view it at any angle and will still be able to view it as normal. This also enables autoscrolling and a number of gesture, “no touch” cues that the Fire phone picks up. Many question whether using these gestures will feel natural or not, although Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, says that he tries to use the gestures with other smartphones.
In addition to these out of the box features, what else does the Amazon Fire Phone offer? Well, it comes with a 12 month free subscription to Amazon Prime: which encompasses free two-day shipping, video streaming and a library with access to books and magazines. The phone has a quad-core processor, which is standard in phones these days; a 13 mega-pixel camera, which is admittedly not as good as the cameras either of the competitors (the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the IPhone 5s) sports, while on paper it seems that it might actually have a better camera, but in actuality you’re looking at the sum of the parts: whether or not it has a “true mega-pixel” camera such as the 5s has, how good the lens is, etc.; and the Amazon App Store (as opposed to the Google Play Store, which most Android based phones have access to), which has a sum of about 240,000 apps currently, but plenty of incentives to grow (including a cap of 15,000 Amazon Coins per app producer, which is 5,000 Coins per app and a sum of three apps per producer). Granted that this is less apps available than in the Play Store, there are reasons such as every app has to be re-made completely, start to finish, to enable the “dynamic perspective” aspect to be a part of it and not just tagged on and incomplete or not acting appropriately.
So is the Amazon Fire Phone really worth the not so competitive price of $199 for the 32GB and $299 for the 64GB (with a contract at AT&T)? As long as it works as advertised, I say the answer is a definitive yes. Not only does this smartphone work just as well as its competitors at Google and Apple, but it works as an awesome platform that ties together what your tablet is capable of and the online shopping aspect of your home computer. This may cause more spending, as many studies have shown that those who shop at Amazon end up spending approximately 55% more than those who shop locally ($1,233 as opposed to $790 per year on average) due to the competitive prices, but that also has to do with each consumer individually. I definitely look forward to the reviews of the Fire Phone and hope it’s all that Amazon is toting and more.