Amazon Fires its first shot at the phone market

Amazon is finally making a bid for its slice of the phone market - but is the Fire ready to blaze?

Another day, another tech announcement – and one we’ll probably be waiting a while to see in Europe. Today’s big launch was from Amazon, which has not traditionally been quick in getting its tech to Europe.

As long rumoured – it was a phone: the Fire Phone. And that puts Amazon right into the heart of the biggest battleground in tech right now: the phone market.

What does the phone bring to the market that’s different? Well, it’s very much an Amazon device, in that media consumption and shopping are front and centre in the way you use it. Much of the launch was given over to a feature called Firefly, which is a whole image and audio processing system, primarily devoted to identifying things and allowing you to buy them – through Amazon, of course. But that’s always been the Amazon way.

I’m not sure that Apple and Samsung have a lot to worry about, but the less successful Android handset manufacturers perhaps should be sweating – in the US, at least. For consumers already deeply rooted in the Amazon ecosystem, this and the Fire TV round out an end-to-end system that could make the Amazon way very compelling for consumption-oriented consumers.

The Fire difference

What else does the phone have to offer?

The Fire Phone

There are some interesting technical aspect to the phone. The four cameras on the front of it allow motion sensing, so the phone “knows” where your hand and face are, allowing a faux-3D effect on the screen as you turn it. It’s difficult to judge to what degree that’s a gimmick or a really useful feature without actually getting our hands on one – but the battery life implications are worth looking at.

And talking of cameras, Amazon is very heavily promoting the photographic quality of the device. Photography has always been the strong suite of Apple’s iPhones, and historically, Nokia’s offerings, a reputation they have maintained with the Lumia line. On average, the photo quality of Android phones has been somewhat behind those. Amazone is making some pretty remarkable claims for the 13 megapixel camera on the rear of the Fire. If, as Jeff Bezos said during the launch, the phone is become most people’s main camera, then it’s a good battleground to choose.

And the really compelling aspect of it is that Amazon has the cloud nous to back it up. The phone comes with unlimited free online backup of your photos – and Amazon’s various storage options have proved repeatedly down the years that they can handle pretty much anything thrown at them. While we doubt Apple’s cloud claims due to bad experiences, few will have any doubts about Amazon’s.

Firing up competition

What can we take away from this?

  • Amazon is determined to be your portal for as many purchases as possible
  • Photography is becoming a major battleground for phones. As the phone becomes many people’s main camera, it can be a huge differentiator
  • Another front is opening up. Hot on the heels of Apple’s online photo storage offering, Amazon is now offering to store all your photos online for free. The cloud ecosystem that ties together your various devices is becoming as important as the features on the device itself.

For now, those of us in Europe can only watch and wait as the phone is realeased in the US only – and only on one network, at that. But, as the final piece of the Amazon ecosystem jigsaw, it’s certain worth keeping an eye on it…