Amazon Fire: When, what, why and how?

4 minute read

With an operating system, tablet hardware and a retail ecosystem firmly in place, shifting the Amazon Fire model to mobile was always a case of when. The how, why and what is the parts we’re now trying to unpick just after Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced the new device.

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What is easy to answer: It’s a phone, it’s tied into the Amazon Fire operating system and it boasts some impressive technology features. One of the headline pieces of technology is a 3D view which uses four cameras that use facial tracking to determine where you are. This 3D view helps control 3D visuals and gesture control.

It has also created new mobile-friendly versions of features from the wider Amazon ecosystem such as Mayday – being able to call up an Amazon advisor on a video call with a promised response time of 15 seconds. Cloud Drive, Amazon’s online storage facility, is also linked to the phone. Prime Music, Amazon’s music streaming service is linked to the phone as well as the ASAP feature, which pre-loads video content from Prime Instant Video based on the persons past viewing behaviour.

Another key feature to the phone is Amazon’s Firefly service, which uses sound, image and text recognition to help people identify anything in order to get more information. It’s essentially the Shazam for everything and is the most interesting part of the launch for brands.

According to Amazon this technology will recognise over 70 million products, 2,450,000 movies, 35 million songs and 160 live TV channels. The opportunity to turn almost anything shoppable is a huge opportunity for brands but with one small set back… the retailer will be Amazon. This technology puts Amazon in a powerful position as a retailer. However, if this proves to be a successful feature for the phones users, Android and Apple should not be far behind.

The latter then answers the why question somewhat. Why should businesses care about Amazon Fire? First of all it’s the phone that’s been most explicitly built to mobile commerce. Up until this point the apps and mobile web experiences have been the main way to reach people for commerce. If Apple is incredibly closed form this point of view and Android the very open but Wild West counter point, Amazon seems to stand somewhere in the middle. It could be a happy middle ground.

Is the middle ground enough to sway users? A large enough market share will leave all these questions unanswered, with us instead saying who cares? But at the moment it seems Amazon may not be doing enough to woo people away from their current platforms. A study by Bizrate, a division of Shopzilla, has found that a minority are interested in switching to Amazon Fire for mobile and of those the majority are already using Prime for their film or music consumption. It could be enough of a user base to spark a Fire (sorry) and as we’ve seen with Apple, people will remain loyal to an ecosystem once they are entrenched.

The final question then is how? The answer to that in these early stages is ensuring Amazon is part of your distribution platform, whether you are a media organisation or a retailer. There’s little information about how open the platform will be for apps but whether it is worth building exclusively for the platform will depend on how quickly they can scale.