Why the Fire Phone is no gimmick

Jun 23, 2014
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Why the Fire Phone is no gimmick

Amazon’s Fire Phone, set to launch next month, comes with a wide range of features that some critics are calling gimmicks. They argue that the device’s four cameras on the front that allow it to deliver a 3D-like effect and some extra Dynamic Perspective features, like tilt and swivel, makes little sense. And Firefly, they say, is little more than a way for Amazon to make more money off a given product. The truth, however, is much different.

I can’t help but wonder, however, whether the critics of the Fire Phone’s featureset are more surprised by the device’s uniqueness in features than whether they’re really gimmicks.

Let’s start with Firefly. There’s no doubt that Amazon has used the feature to make people buy more products from its online store, but it could also come in handy for a wide range of other uses. Like many people, I use a QR and bar code scanner to get up-to-date information on a particular product. And I’m always amazed when I can snap a picture of a business card to get a person’s complete contact information into my phone. Having that featureset at my disposal at any time is a welcome addition to my handset and something I don’t want to imagine a world without.

While I can appreciate the concern that might go with Amazon’s approach to promoting itself, this is simple reality in today’s mobile world. Apple promotes its own services, and Google its own. Even Samsung goes out of its way to get people to lock themselves into its slate of services. That Amazon is doing the same shouldn’t shock us or make us feel like Firefly is a gimmick to get the company to sell more products – it’s an expectation that we should all understand.

Now, let’s get to Dynamic Perspective. While I can understand why people might see the technology as a gimmick – how important is 3D, really? – it offers some new opportunities for developers. And ultimately, it’ll be the third-party developer that will decide the ultimate success of Dynamic Perspective. While Amazon’s current integration is interesting, it is rather gimmicky in some respects. If the technology is improved through the use of third-party apps, it’ll quickly go from one of the most odd inclusions to the most important. And it won’t be long before the critics realize that the Fire Phone won’t be as gimmicky as they thought.

Ultimately, though, we don’t know what the future holds for the Fire Phone. While I believe the device will be successful at its onset simply because Amazon has its homepage to promote the product, I’m not convinced that it can stay aloft forever. There are very real privacy concerns related to the Fire Phone that Amazon hasn’t addressed yet. And it likely won’t take long before privacy worriers get their hands on it.

Until then, however, let’s hold off on the “gimmick” tag for Amazon’s Fire Phone until we see it in action, with third-party apps in tow. We might just discover that its features really do improve our lives.


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