Amazon’s phone is its biggest recent misstep
Amazon is a company that wants to sell everything and it has created devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire to facilitate this end goal. There are apps by Amazon that allow you to take a picture of an item in the store with your phone and pull up comparable Amazon products (if not the very same product). There are shopping apps, reading apps, music apps, and video apps for every platform because Amazon wants to be everything to everyone everywhere. It makes perfect sense that Amazon would want a phone.
A phone is a device that people take with them everywhere including to bed. 64% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 are falling asleep with their phones in their hands–or at least under their pillows. Naturally, Amazon wants to be in a person’s hands from sunup to sundown and the way to do that is the phone.
But the cellphone market is a crowded space and even Apple is struggling to keep up. It’s losing ground to Samsung, Nokia, and others in both the big screen size and the entry level version. It’s feature set isn’t as rich as the Windows or Android devices. There’s an arms race to not only produce the most feature rich phone but the phone that can communicate with wearables and the home.
IOS 8 had a lot to do with home automation. Recently Google bought Nest, a company that built a thermostat, for $3.2 billion in cash. This coming week, Google is launching Moto 360, the second of its wearable tech devices. (The first being the awful Google Glass) Rumors are abuzz with the iWatch supposedly launching in October to be announced in September.
Amazon’s exciting news? So boring it led investors to drop stock. Now I get Bezos doesn’t care about that stuff (ostensibly) but after weeks of unrelenting bad press due to the fight with Hachette, it could have used a boost. (Also, this statement is not a judgment for or against Amazon in its fight with Hachette which is a battle between two businesses not one for the cultural heart of America).
Engadget, which had a fairly positive review of the phone, said this:
Spec-wise, it isn’t the most impressive phone, despite commanding a $199 price tag on-contract ($650 off-contract). But it’s not horrible either — it’s simply what you’d expect from an average phone.
PC Magazine did a comparison against the Samsung Galaxy S5 that is the same price. PC calls it “a bit less technically impressive” because in every area, the Fire has less power. It has a less powerful processor, a less powerful camera, a less powerful video resolution, a less bright screen.
Priced at $200 with a two year contract, you get an average phone for what Bezos calls a premium device. Amazon tried to tout the Dynamic Perspective which allows for the phone to give a 3D like appearance to menus and a quick peek at things like battery life or time. But 3D isn’t really a feature that most people like. Witness the decline in 3D movies or the poor sales of 3D televisions leading television companies to abandon 3D technology or the fact that people hated the parallax motion on the iPhone. The four of the first five search results on google for parallax motion is how to turn it off, including the Apple support page.
While it has bluetooth LE capabilities, it isn’t enabled. Bluetooth LE is how wearables like a watch speak to the phone. So all the big phone companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google are looking to develop wearables and household tech while Amazon comes up with a phone that has features that no one really wants (Dynamic Perspective) and leaves out ones that they do (Bluetooth LE).
The two standout features are Mayday–where you can call a person live and have them help you–and Firefly–which allows you to point the phone at anything in your house and Amazon will pull up the corresponding item for purchase. Are those features enough for you to tie yourself to an average phone for two years?
The worst thing about the Amazon Phone Fire launch isn’t its featureless phone and the terrible name and the pedantic design. The worst thing is that it shows how truly unimaginative and uninspired the design and tech team that is working on the device/hardware side at Amazon is.
Given the lackluster product line by Amazon from it’s boring but super functional paperwhite to the okay Kindle tablets to the uninteresting Kindle phone, there’s simply no hope that they can produce anything of interest in the future. There’s no point in looking forward to future Amazon device launches because they don’t have it in their current DNA to come up with anything interesting.
Bezos keeps throwing free movies, free songs, and free books at us, but I’m bored. Sure, they have the cheapest prices around and I love my Amazon Prime but if the idea is to hook me into the Amazon ecosystem through hardware, Bezos and company needs to do a lot better. Color me unimpressed.