That’s the big question of course on everyone’s mind once the online retail giant announced yesterday that it was making a play for the lucrative but very crowded smartphone market.
In truth, despite its gee whiz dynamic perspective feature which provides users with a 3-D view of content, Amazon’s Fire smartphone is more of an e-commerce vehicle for the company than a mobile hardware venture.
The device is a mobile phone no doubt but making calls is only a secondary consideration at best. The Fire’s real mission is to corral consumers into the Amazon e-commerce ecosystem.
As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo put in his introduction of the Amazon Fire in Seattle this week: “Fire Phone puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand.”
And once you’ve bought into that he’s got you in the palm of his hand, I might add.
The Fire ships July 25 in the United States on AT&T’s wireless network starting at US$199 for a 32 GB model with a two-year contract, a 64 GB model is also available for $299. Of course the handset will eventually become available north of the border. Canadian companies engaged in one way or another in e-commerce might well take note of Amazon’s strategy here as well.
The phone is geared towards getting users to pay more attention to goods and services being sold in the Amazon environment where as New York Times noted “every element can be identified, listed, ranked and of course ordered.”
The bait is the dynamic perspective feature which no other phone in the market has at the moment. The technology enables the handset to respond to how a user manipulates the phone, presenting some content from a 3-D view. Imagine being able to move your head to look around corners or above obstacles when playing mobile games or being able to view layered information on a map or Yelp reviews.
However, this feature is not the big game changer but more like a gimmick.
The real game changer is the Firefly feature which uses text recognition to identify anything. For instance, a user can scan an email address and instantly add it to his Contacts, or scan a movie or listen to music and you can be brought to a page on Amazon where you can automatically activate a download and purchase of that product.
This is something that brings mobile retail into a whole new level and some analysts even foresee this as the “real threat” to the bricks and mortar store. Third-party app developers including StubHub and iHeartRadio will be creating apps that leverage Firefly, according to Amazon.
As a smartphone product, Amazon couldn’t have arrived later in the game but the company timing is near perfect for catching the mobile shopping wave. Purchases made using mobile phones rose more than 25 per cent this year to $18 billion according to eMarketer.