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Amazon has, at last, launched a smartphone. It’s called the Fire Phone and — apart from the badass name and a key feature (called Firefly), that’s bound to raise the interest of at least of few hardcore geeks — it doesn’t appear to have all that much going for it at first glance. After all, smartphones as we know them have been around for the best part of a decade now and of the late starters, only Windows Phone with all Microsoft’s might behind it has been able to make any dent in the iOS, Android duopoly.
The thing is, it’s never really a good idea to write off Amazon straight off the bat. Remember this is a company that’s gone from its founder selling books out of his garage to being one of the world’s leading cloud computing providers and the number one player in the ebook space by a pretty significant margin. Until very recently it was also the only company that’s been able to come anywhere near competing with Apple in the US tablet space.
I repeat: do not write off Amazon.
It is important however to remember that past successes are no guarantee of things going right in the future. If it was, I’d be able to stop the article here and you’d all walk away nodding and agreeing that I am a very clever chap indeed. Given that, I’ll just have to do my best to persuade you that the Fire Phone (jeez, that really is a bad-ass name) stands a chance of succeeding.
It’s not about the specs
One of the first things to strike you when looking at the Fire Phone’s specs is just how, well, ordinary they are. There’s a 4.7-inch display, a Quadcore 2.2 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and an Adreno 330 graphics processor. The camera, at 13 megapixels isn’t a world-beater, but it’s not going to leave anyone feeling too disappointed either.
This is not, in other words, the kind of technical one-upmanship we’ve come to expect from the likes of Apple and Samsung. And when you think about it, that might not be a bad thing.
I mean really, about the most demanding things we use our phones for on a daily basis are taking selfies and finding the nearest fast food joint. Do you really need a supercomputer in your pocket for that?
By choosing not to play the same game as Apple and Samsung, Amazon’s effectively avoided taking part in a war it never stood any chance of winning. Instead it can focus on what it’s good at, what it’s always been good at: getting people to buy product from its various stores.
And if Amazon generates enough sales from Fire Phone users, you can bet that it’ll start slashing prices and might even be okay with selling it at a loss (just like it is with the Kindle Fire), which will only make it a more attractive proposition.
Funnily enough, Amazon seems to have put a hell of a lot of effort into making it as easy as possible for people to buy stuff using the Fire Phone (still bad-ass, no matter how many times I type it).
Indeed, the phone’s key feature, Firefly, is the embodiment of precisely that attitude. The feature has a couple of tricks up its sleeve, all leading users to the Amazon store.
First off, you can find something in the store by taking a photo of it (something which actually debuted on the company’s iPhone app back in February.
On its own therefore, it wouldn’t be enough to convince anyone to choose the Fire Phone for their next upgrade. It also has a Shazam-like feature that allows people to buy music they hear in the real world and purchase it from Amazon Music. Interestingly, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrated this particular feature by using it to identify an episode of Game of Thrones.
Even the phone’s novelty feature, Dynamic perspective and tilt scroll, seem aimed at providing the best possible mcommerce experience.
The feature, which is similar to the iOS 7 effect on the wallpaper and lock screen, makes the screen pop out at you and is meant to give you more thorough look at the content you’re viewing.
“Since it knows what angle I’m holding the phone, I can see all the Yelp reviews, how many reviews there are, how many stars there are,” Bezos said during the demonstration.
None of that however compares with the biggest advantage Bezos has over his rivals.
Amazon can take risks
That advantage largely comes down to the fact that Amazon’s shareholders allow it to take risks. Time and time again, Amazon’s had iffy results and time and time again, its shareholders have collectively shrugged and pushed Amazon’s share price up again.
By and large they have faith in Bezos and that gives the company space to take risks, make mistakes and realise that having better technical specs than your rivals does not equal innovation.
And that, dear reader, is why the Fire Phone is the kind of gamble that could pay off. I’m not saying that its success is guaranteed, not by any means just that it has a fighting chance.
One last thing: Say its name out loud, “Fire Phone”, and tell me that doesn’t sound like something you would love to own one day.