Warc, 20 June 2014
SEATTLE: Reaction to the launch of the Amazon Fire Phone, a smartphone from the internet retailer, has ranged from hostile to lukewarm, as observers chose to either disparage it or to see the possibilities it might offer in the future.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained to the Seattle Times that the business had set out to make a device that would be different from what already existed and that would be useful to customers. This, he said, had been achieved in the two defining features of the new phone.
The Firefly object recognition feature can identify items and product names captured with the device's camera, and link through to the Amazon retail site, while Dynamic Perspective adjusts the user interface so that tilting the screen relative to the viewer's face can toggle through screens, and scroll through websites.
Bezos was unconcerned at the suggestion Amazon was late to the game. "We're incredibly early in wireless devices," he said. "The players come and go … (People) switch when their contract expires or when they break their phone."
But others were less sure. In Forbes, Jean-Baptiste argued that Dynamic Perspective was "a power-hungry gimmick" while the Firefly app could end up in other smartphones in any case. It lacked a "wow factor", he said.
Many highlighted the way Firefly recognised items and immediately offered an option to buy on Amazon, with one describing the Fire Phone as "less a phone than a pocketable cash register hooked directly into the retailer's intelligent warehouses".
Bezos was unrepentant, saying that "helping people take care of their shopping tasks is an important job to do in any smartphone".
The Financial Times brought some perspective to the debate, observing that while the Fire Phone was competitive in performance terms with the likes of the iPhone 5C, it might not prove be particularly attractive to consumers who were not already keen users of Amazon's services.
"The best thing about the phone is the vision of what it could become after a few rounds of refinements and tweaks," it concluded.
Data sourced from Seattle Times, Forbes, New York Times, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff