"Fire Phone not having the Google Play store is also a big negative"
Junko, I agree with you. And the phone is not cheap.
I like Amazon, I usually praise their business strategy. But I am not interested in their hardware, except the basic Kindle (great to borrow ebooks from the library)
There are many other phones, much cheaper, that can compete with Fire. Unless you are a shopaholic I don't see any advantage of having access to a 100 million items database.
I believe the Fire phone could be popular among people who are heavy Amazon customers and have the Premium service.
It is not cheap, based on the subsidized price ($250 with a two-year contract) it is on the same league of the iPhone 5S and the Galaxy S5. If you want a cheap Android smartphone with similar features look for the Nokia ones or the OnePlus One
Hi, Pablo. Indeed. I like Amazon, too. I have little to complain about their delivery and customer services. What really got to me, though, in looking at yesterday's announcement was that this wasn't about a smartphone at all. This is about a portable shopping scanner that works for Amazon.
1. Amazon hasn't released a case with buttons that rapidly launch apps like.
2. Why they didn't do some work on customizing launchers to make launching their app the fastest possible and marketing that.  is a good example.
But it seems likely that those are their next moves.
So why this phone ?
My guess , either it's targeted at a specific segment of the population(my guess would be seniors, since the mayday service is very expensive, targeted specifically at them , and they might use amazon far less often than younger people - so education/brainwashing them is worth a lot of money :) ) , or that some market moves made it less deisrable(moto g) but still after all the effort they put into it they said -let's just launch and learn what we can.
"This is about a portable shopping scanner that works for Amazon."
Indeed, almost like a set-top box that automatically tunes to the shopping channels and makes the user jump through extra hoops to access other channels.
It occurs to me that the main thing about this phone is not the product scanning app or any technical feature, but the on call live technical support and help. Tech savvy people like engineers may have no sensitivity to the issue, but elderly people find smartphones truly bewildering, and the market of elderly people is set to blow up with the 77 million or so baby boomers aging and retiring. Handing your parents or pre-PC/internet generation friends an iphone or android and letting them at it is an almost guaranteed recipe for failure. This fire phone may make a real difference if they can just figure out that one feature.
"Fire Phone not having the Google Play store is also a big negative"
Well, I disagree with this. What does Google Play offer? Android apps. What does the Amazon app store offer? Android apps...usually the same apps. Why wouldn't the app author put his app in both stores?
Well, here's one reason:
Unlinke Apple, Google has almost no rules about what it puts in its app store. As a result, there are perhaps millions of copy-cat apps and lots of garbage and even malware infected apps.
Amazon takes a middle ground, and tests all submitted apps before putting them in its app store. As a result, there's a lot less garbage and malware in Amazon's store. So why not just use the Amazon app store on a Google-Android device? You can do this. The problem is that you have to enable third party downloads to get this to work, which decreases the security of the phone and opens it to accidental downloads of malware (such as if you accidentally click on a 'download me' link on a web page).
So an Amazon phone is likely to be less susceptible to malware than an Android Google phone precisely because it doesn't have the Google Play store.
I don't buy your argument at all. Amazon has far fewer apps on its app store, not because it's 'like Apple' and restricting developers from putting their apps on, but rather because Amazon insists upon having the right to give their app away for free whenever they feel like for their app store promotional purposes. Developers are not happy with this policy and thus many avoid publishing their apps there because of this lack of control over their software's distribution.
Amazon is pushing very aggressively to have a captive market, with Prime really locking in the online with free shipping, free music, kindle locking people into their bookstores, and fire tv for other media. It's on a similar scale and power that you had with department stores wiping out smaller shops, and then walmart and strip malls taking over... it's a paradigm shift that needs viable competition before everyone's locked in, not just complaints..
I checked Android developer sites and developers love the Amazon site. Apparently people who use the Amazon store actually spend money, so app developers usually make more money from the Amazon store than from the Google store--Amazon's customers spend almost, but not quite as much as Apple customers spend in Apple's store.
And they apparently love the 'app free for 1 day' feature too. It is something they can ask to be part of (Amazon doesn't just make the app free against the developer's wishes), and it is seen as a good way to get word-of-mouth for a new app. The developer sites I looked at said that they wished Google had a similar option with their store.
The most captive market in the industry is Apple's iTunes. Do you feel the same way about that?
It may have changed since I saw it some years ago, but I recall when I was working on android apps that it was a serious issue for people; not only were they getting mass downloads on the free day and a cliff thereafter, but people were often giving poor reviews perhaps because the app wasn't really what they were looking for in the first place. I've noticed in the free app reviews these days that the Amazonians review the apps with more experience, so they balance their reviews by saying within them that they got the app as a FAOTD, or free app of the day.
I don't see why Apple would merit special treatment in terms of facing competition that gives consumers good and viable options and help to cut back the monopolistic skimming and royalties. The world is not made for Apple, it's just another company that's only useful in so much as it serves.
Google's policy enforcing its Play store with 20% revenues may have made sense for a while with the concept of Android as an open platform and them making some revenue as part of their work and to cover their investments, but 20% forever is a bit extortionary, as the innovation and real development thereafter have not particularly revolutionary. Adding to that fact is that they were not the only contributors, despite being the sponsors, to the Android open source project, nor to the popularity of the platform, and the fact that they are pushing/forcing installation of the entire ecosystem of Google Search, Books, Magazines, and so on to lock it down exclusively and it's just greed to get the whole pie instead of leaving something reasonable on the table for partners and new players. Thus you have Samsung, the biggest player, looking to develop an android app compatible alternative like Tizen to put up its own shingle while it still can, especially with increasing competition in the hardware space by young guns.
Sony's in perhaps the best situation structurally by having a vertical integration with its hardware and content creation itself at least for their own new attempt to branch out into the set top box space, although I don't know the details of how that case with the attempt to separate the hardware and content divisions worked out in practice. Despite success in the game console area which the set top box intersects with, it's still weak in the phone space.
@tb100 - I agree with you. Not having the Play store is not really a negative to me. Amazon makes it far easier to buy an app once and have it on multiple devices as well. In fact, checking my current phone, the only apps updated via Google Play are the ones that came pre-loaded, the ones I installed myself are all via Amazon's App Store.
If there is a way to buy once and install on multiple devices via Google Play I never took the time to figure it out. It seemed to be based on a combination of gmail address and actual hardware. Given that the sharing between my phone and my wifes, and the 3 Kindle Fires we have in the house, is effortless on the Amazon ecosystem, solving that problem on the Play store was not worth my time.
I'm unlikely to get a Fire phone - 15 years as a Sprint customer means the AT&T exclusive is a hurdle. Additionally, I tend towards flagship phones, and it's early days to know how the Fire will stack up. Otherwise, I might be the perfect target audience - already a huge fan of Amazon and heavily invested in their ecosystem.
@Junko: "But having no Gmail, no Google Map might bother some consumers like myself".
I can even use these Google services too in my Windows Phone (a low-end Nokia 520). But my mind is a roll right now.
I'm afraid that the Amazon's Fire resemble a high-end smartphone + Amazon POS (Point of Sales) device.
The report makes me think in that Bezo's primary target is empowering the widespread use of Amazon services & products, not selling the terminal -- very similar to the Apple bussiness model.
Thus, I don't understand why they've settled the price tag so high. I'm prety sure that if the price tag is on the 600-700$ range, the money return from shopping in Amazon from those users akin to buy the new Amazon's Fire will widely surpass the terminl benefit...
Two thoughs come to my mind at this point:
1- the Amazon devices are very powerfull machines and their price bareley account for the BOM price + manufacturaring and logistics -- I would't be surprissed even if Amazon has a very short term losses in the selling process itself.
1- Bezo's guys are trying to intentionally filter the potential consumers. The ones that can afford a very high price for a smartphone, surely will have plenty of money in to spend in Amazon products. In the other side, if you don't have enough money to buy this terminal, you are not going to buy a lot of expensive --or even not so much expensive-- products on Amazon.
In conclusion, this seems similar to the Apple bussiness model (started with a device, then they built the online store) but developed in the oposite way (started with a massive online store, now they build the device)
Am I digressing too much, or maybe really approaching the real point ??;-)
Hi Junko, count me as another one who can't get along without Gmail or Google maps (afteralll, I carry an Android phone!).
I am sure there will be hacks of 3D object recognition via scanning with the Fire Phone and they will be directed towards many uses other than shopping! As of now there are still no cost-effective yet powerful hand-held 3D scanners in the market. Fire Phone could become one!
This is not just another new phone for consumers, it is potentially a huge revenue/patent generator for Amazon if it becomes popular enough.
By scanning and uploading, users voluntarily provide invaluable information such as location, time, ambience, etc. that can be a huge in-the-field training set to Amazon's AI system, even if the users remain anonymous.
The outcome of the AI system could be sold to all sorts of companies for targeted advertising, as an example.
By controlling the physical device down to the bottom, Amazon has a free pass to upload whatever they want to their AI system in the "cloud".
Comparing the app and the Firefly once hw is availble would be interesting. Also comparing the flow app using a low/medium quality camera and a high quality camera , under likely use conditions of the firefly(my guess - taking a pic with roughly aiming) might give hints if the special hw is needed.
But one thing is very likely: this feature will be used more often and will be much more habit forming(for good and bad) when it's operated using an external button.
I think the target user is the same as a Kindle Fire tablet user. My wife used a Kindle, then got a Kindle Fire when the Kindle died, and mostly uses it to read books, watch movies/TV shows, and play games. I discovered that my daughter mostly uses her Netflix subscription on her phone, not her computer. So I could see users who will do phone basics (call, text, email, surf), listen to music, watch movies/TV shows, and read books, and who will be satisfied if key apps are there.
I see this new offering in line with the things like the Kindle eBook viewer, and the Kindle Fire tablet.
The original Kindle eBook viewer was a loss leader, sold below cost. Amazon wasn't trying to make money on the hardware: they were trying to build a market for eBooks they could sell you. eBooks were a natural for Amazon, as they already had the infrastructure to display the catalog and accept the order. With eBooks, they could offer immediate fulfillment in the form of a digital download, with none of the warehousing or shipping costs of physical goods. It was no surprise at all to me when Kindle apps appeared for a variety of platforms. Amazon wanted to sell you eBooks, and the more things you could order them from and read them on, the better. The entire Amazon approach was designed around locking you into them as the vendor.
The Kindle Fire tablet was more of the same. eBooks aren't the only things in digital format, and the Fire offers the ability to view pictures and video and play audio as well as read eBooks. It's not a surprise either that Amazon has video and music production arms making content you can only get through Amazon.
Amazon is the world's largest catalog retailer, walking the path blazed by people like Sears Roebuck, but dropping the brick and mortar outlets and moving the catalog online. Retail is about market share, and the financial measuring sticks are inventory turnover and return on assets, not profitability. Most retailers, Amazon included, sell fungible commodities where competition is on price, and have razor thin margins as a consequence. They make pennies on a dollar, so they need to take in as many dollars as possible to make pennies on. It also leads to inevitable consolodation as retailers combine to get market share and economies of scale.
That Amazon should release a phone with technology that will let you take a picture and figure out what it's a picture of and buy it from Amazon is interesting, but it begs an important question. The technology is embedded in a phone. What should anyone buy a phone from Amazon?
The question is complicated by the nature of the US phone market. Most folks buy phones with carrier subsidies, and get a substantial discount on the list price in exchange for commiting to a multi-year contract. The carrier pays the manufacturer the difference between list price and what the buyer pays, and expects to cover the costs and make money on the revenue generated during the life of the contract. (I saw fairly convincing arguements that AT&T was losing money on the iPhone, because of the size of the subsidy payments going to Apple, and made money only if the customer renewed the contract.)
Amazon's offering will succeed or fail based on how it does as a phone. And the nature of the new technology pretty much requires an always on phone with high bandwidth and a substantial (and expensive) data plan. What will a data plan necessary to make use of the shiny new features cost? What will total cost of ownership be?
The fact that the Fire lacks access to the Google Play store inplies the Fire phone runs a flavor of Android. It will be curious to see a teardown on the hardware to see how much of what the software does relies on proprietary hardware (My guess is, not much), and what version of Android is under the hood. And since Android is open source, it will be interesting to see how long it takes before Android releases the source for the Android image they use, and how long is takes before hacks appear.
I really don't see Amazon trying to make money on smartphone hardware. I see this as a test bed to introduce technology I expect to see rolled out as apps for platforms with hardware to make use of them, and the entire underlying purpose is to drive retail traffic to Amazon.
@Daleste: I agree: I want to kn ow more about the designers and makers and guts--presumably designed by Amazon's super secret Silicon Valley team in an office just down the street from Apple. I've been there but no one besides the receptionist will talk with me!
< satire > Hey, this is wonderful news. With all those cameras on users' faces all the time, you'll be able to get much better product ratings based on users' facial expressions. Instead of the mere 1 to 5 stars, you'll be able to see what percentage of viewers like the product (smiling), dislike the product (frowning), find the product disgusting (wrinkled nose and lips), or find the product utterly terrifying (eyes wide, screaming hysterically).
This is definitely information I want before I buy a product. < /satire>
@Junko: I agree with your views about Fire phone. I was also wondering how many of us would be interested to buy this phone just because it would be a shopping device other than being a phone? But, I see in today's newspaper that, somehow the media is positive about it. If Amazon entices even small portion of its 250 million active customer to buy one, it would give Amazon an edge over the other retailers and tech companies. I liked the features, but not sure how many of the us apart from the Amazon fans would buy Fire phone just because it makes shopping experience better. I don't know if the Fire phone could have "Kindle mode" when the user wishes to read a book...if not, I guess this could be a nice feature
KindleFire is by all accounts a very well designed tablet
If Amazon would be selling its phone at $50 -- how many people would buy it?
The price can always be reduced if Amazon compensate for it and makes money in retail sale
Amazon is a major retail force -- gadgets are just supporting its ecosystem
I guess its not correct to compare iPhone with Fire phone. They are two different gadgets meant for different categories of consumers. How does the cost differ?? And I am sure no one can ignore Google apps at this time.
@Karen, agreed. But not only that, it implies the death of smaller CE companies whose designers have spent countless hours, striving to create products that work with other apps, accessaries and sevices.
Junko, I basically agree with your objections, but what I don't understand is, why didn't the same objections apply to the iPhone?
Both companies try to create walled gardens. Both companies' phones were initially only available on AT&T. So okay, this Fire Phone seems overly obsessed with shopping (heaven only knows, enough of the public is too!), but I think of that only as Amazon's special twist. The basic formula is identical to what Apple has been peddling for years. Why only object now?
Hi, Bert. You are absolutely right about the identical business mode -- both Apple and Amazon --l for pushing the walled garden approach. Now that Apple has proven that it works for them, now Amazon, too, is following the model.
This trend is very discocerting to me. The bigger the company is, the more power the comapny has to create their own world, and to have its own way.
Whatever happened to the engineering mission (at least among a lot of CE companies) to design products that can work well with others?
@Bert22306 that's a really interesting point that both phones are starting on AT&T's network, where historically AT&T was the original telecom monopoly.
The lack of general technical know-how and cost of always-on computing (using their modem on a phone line) that started the vast majority of the public with getting locked in to aol, hotmail and now gmail was prohibitive at first. But now the technology exists to give every consumer who can afford a device with the strength of a tv set top box their own private e-mail server (for instance, iredmail makes the somewhat advanced setup of a linux postfix/dovecot installation somewhat easy, a bit of scripting and tweaked UI added to that would make it dead simple). Corporations are just busier working on profit and widening their economic moats (the technical term for the euphemistic 'walled garden') than working for the public good, so it's just a matter of a startup or two bridging the gap and getting going to do what's right.
I recently signed up for a microsoft service thinking I needed it to download some software - and not only did they begin to spam me without notice, but they had no option within the web interface to opt-out of the emails, nor to cancel the service. I had to make a phone call and get transferred to a separate department and then work through email until they finally told me it was resolved, and there STILL seems to be an error where they just sent me another email welcoming me in!
It's really creepy that companies can legally do this mousetrap-style engineered lock-in to create captive human audiences.
When an idea or product is original and useful, it needs to be promoted and why not? some money needs to be made. But once companies have served their true purpose of improving the life of the public and it gets twisted into a mission of creating personal empires to put mankind into chains.. even chains that are entertaining and bargain priced (fishing has never worked with just hooks) something needs to change. Multinational corporations have in some ways grown beyond the regulational power of national governments, but without accountability, the infrastructure and walls being built around us (with most people's assumption that they are there to protect us) might have no exit when the edifice starts burning down.