No UK launch. Smallish screen. Why Amazon may have missed trick with its Fire smartphone

It has been rumoured for years but last night Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos finally took the wraps of its debut smartphone – the Fire.

Due to launch in the US in July – but no UK availability lined up yet – it takes an Android heart and layers all kinds of Amazon trickery on top – a bit like the Kindle Fire tablets.

It does boast a few unique features – more on those in a moment – but even so I think Amazon may have missed a trick with the phone – here’s why.

1 Is the Firefly button really such a big deal – The whole point of Amazon doing a phone is that it wants to be able to flog you even more of its music, video and well, everything else. So the phone boasts a Firefly button, which as Bezos explains lets the user ‘identify printed web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, artwork, and over 100 million items, including songs, movies, TV shows, and products—and take action in seconds.’

The idea is that you can scan products, like books or whatever, and it will look them up on Amazon and offer you the chance to buy them. Whilst this won’t make Waterstones very happy, it does seem rather useful. Not only is it for buying stuff, but can be used for other information too.

As our sister title TechDigest reported

For example, it’ll figure out what track is playing, much like Shazam can – and can even identify TV shows. What’s most interesting about this is that third-party apps can plug into it, meaning that if you have MyFitnessPal installed and scan a bag of crisps, it will tell you how many calories are inside. Similarly, if you’re at an art gallery and scan a painting, it will load up information on it from Wikipedia. It’ll even recognise email addresses and phone numbers, so you can add them straight to your contact book or call them. If lots of apps can plug into this then reality is about to get a whole lot more augmented.

As Uswitch commented ‘Amazon’s killer blow lies in its deep connection to the Prime subscription service. The Fire Phone is rather a gateway into its millions of books, movies and music on-demand, making the device key to a very appealing package.’

But while the technology is impressive is it realty such a big deal? Do users need any more help in buying products? It is pretty simple to buy Amazon products from other phones – so while from Amazon’s perspective the Firefly button is a useful tool which will help sell more product it is not really a reason for consumers to swap to the phone in the first place.

Also Amazon may have problems explaining what the phone feature actually does. As Carolina Milanesi, analyst, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said ‘Dynamic perspective offers gimmicky lock screen, maps enhancements and a different way to scroll books/articles & navigate browser – catchy?’

2 The screen size – Amazon has gone smaller than expected with the Fire coming in at 4.7inches, that’s significantly larger than the iPhone but nowhere near the size of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and phones from Sony and HTC. It seems like Android users like bigger screens and maybe Amazon has miscalculated on this one. At the very least the larger the screen size the easier the buying experience.

Larger screens are sold to early adopters who buy premium phones. That’s a lot of the market that Amazon are passing on by opting for a screen size of less than five inches.

3 The non UK launch – Once again Amazon has opted for a US launch (July) with a promise to roll out the phone to the rest of the world in the near future. Not good enough. By the time it arrives – and if past form is anything go by it will be six months – the phone will have been completely eclipsed by the iPhone and Galaxy 6s. I cannot see many people in the UK getting excited about this handset if it arrives in six months’ time.


That said the 3D feature is rather impressive – though a tad gimmicky – and we have high hopes for what sounds like a very promising camera. Although I would be surprised if that camera surpasses those found on recent models from Sony and Nokia.

As the WSJ said ‘This is premium pricing that positions the Fire Phone as a high-end device right up there with the flagship phones from Samsung and Apple. Those two have left nothing but scraps for others trying to crack the premium market. Maybe the 3D makes it worth, but I’d be surprised if people switch allegiances based just on that.’

There’s a lot more detail on the phone here.

Ashley Norris

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