It’s far too early to say whether Amazon’s new smartphone, announced today, is going to succeed or not, but first impressions matter. Having read what has been written about the Amazon Fire, I currently have two thoughts. Amazon has added enough to the Fire Phone to differentiate it from the iPhone and other Android handsets. Dynamic Perspective aside, however, I am not sure Amazon is trying hard enough to really sell this phone.
No other smartphone, or tablet for that matter, uses sensors or cameras to improve device navigation. The closest thing that I can think of is Samsung’s Smart Screen feature they include in their tablets and phones that keeps the screen on as long as the front-facing camera detects your face. We are currently entrenched in touch and swipe interaction with devices, so I applaud Amazon for taking a stab at providing a different approach.
The question, of course, is whether Dynamic Perspective, and the UI and navigation enhancements it provides is so compelling that consumers will chose the Amazon Fire phone over an iPhone or any of the Android phones.
Which leads me to my sense that Amazon is not trying hard enough to sell this phone. The price for the Amazon Fire is the same as an iPhone and most Android phones, as are the performance and specifications. Why would you buy an Amazon Fire smartphone rather than an iPhone 5S or a Samsung S5?
In my opinion, if Amazon was pushing to sell significant numbers of this phone it would have much more aggressive pricing and include bundled services. With the Prime Music streaming release earlier in the week, I really expected that Amazon’s phone would be the first to come with AT&T’s Sponsored Data. As I understand it, with Sponsored Data, Amazon could have paid AT&T to allow Prime Music streaming to not count against a user’s data cap.
Instead, the on-contract price for the Amazon Fire phone is $199, no different than other phones, and there are really no bundled services. You do get one year of Amazon Prime, which is a $100 value but I don’t think consumers will view that as a discount on the price of the phone, and it is a limited offer.
I don’t think Amazon’s smartphone sales are going to be on fire, for now. Amazon is surely planning to be in the smartphone market for the long haul, and so I expect the Fire will be on more carriers and will bundle services over time. The risk, however, is expecting the Fire to over time have the same results as the Kindle.
Even though Amazon sells everything, most people first think of it as a a book store. The Kindle, and the Kindle Fires, as ebook readers, are a natural product for a book store. You think of ebooks, you think of Amazon and the Kindle. When consumers think of smartphones, are they going to think of Amazon?
While one can understand why Amazon wants to sell smartphones in order to sell more products, it is hard to understand why consumers will want to buy an Amazon smartphone. For the Fire to succeed, Amazon will have to provide consumers with a reason for why they want it.