Amazon’s Fire Smartphone: Success or Flop?

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 8.31.36 AMIt’s been know for the last several months that Amazon would be coming out with a new smartphone for the masses. Very little was know about it, but people speculated that it would be released in a similar fashion as the Kindle Fire Tablet. That is, it would be a well constructed device running Amazon’s custom version of the Android OS, and sold for a below-market-value price. The thought being, Amazon would make up for the low price by getting people to use more of it’s paid services.

I was surprised to learn of the actual details of the “Fire Phone” after Amazon’s press release this week. Jeff Bezos talked about all the great technical wizardry of their new phone, with the 4 front facing cameras for head tracking and the “Dynamic Perspective” mode for a 3D screen display. The “FireFly” app was also touted as a way for this new phone to quickly identify bar codes, phone numbers, email address, etc. But in my opinion, all of this was gimmicky. Cool tech stuff, but still gimmicky for the general public.

All of these advanced features do make me wonder two things: (1) How much compute power is required to do the Dynamic Perspective, and at what cost to battery life? And (2) How much of the FireFly processing is done by the Amazon online servers and would require large amounts of data the user’s cell phone data plan? None of this was mentioned in the press release, but it makes me wonder what resources and cost is required to use this advanced technology.

The Fire Phone itself didn’t look very advanced from the outside. It actually reminded me of an minature 1st Generation Kindle Fire Table. It was smaller, but looked like a thick Kindle Fire. With other smartphone companies like Apple, HTC, and Samsung striving to make their phones thinner, lighter, and with less bezel area, I was surprised to see the Fire Phone looking so antiquated.

Finally, there’s the cost of the Fire Phone. I thought it would be priced below what comparable smartphones are selling for today (being heavily subsidized by Amazon), but it wasn’t. Instead, the cost seems on par with most Android Phones. This seems strange since the trend is to have cheaper smartphones (i.e., Motorola’s line of phone and OnePlus).

Will I consider switching to the Amazon Fire Phone. Even without seeing the phone in person, my answer is probably no. I’m perfectly happy with my current HTC One M7, and I anticipate my next phone to be lighter, have more battery life, thinner, and have more storage space and faster processor. Unfortunately for Amazon, that future phone is not the Fire Phone.

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