The Amazon Fire phone has been unveiled, with founder Jeff Bezos showing off a plethora of features that he hopes will help it stand out in the crowded smartphone market. But can Amazon realistically compete against the big hitters like Apple and Samsung with its offering? The Drum asked experts from DigitasLBi, Carat, Ogilvy, Tribal Worldwide, TH_NK and more to give their views on the latest device.
James Whatley, social media director, Ogilvy & Mather
In almost the exact reverse of every other player in the market, Amazon has spent the last ten years getting its ecosystem in place first, and then delivering the handset that ties it all together. Jeff Bezos could’ve just released the ‘Amazon Phone, an Amazon store in your pocket’ but he didn’t, he went a lot further than that. The Fire Phone is innovative in nearly every way accept one: price. The Fire Phone is no ‘iPhone Killer’ but then again, it doesn’t have to be. The Fire Phone is for Amazon [Prime] customers first, everyone else second. Jeff Bezos wants to make his best users happier than ever before - oh and hey, guess what? When you buy a Fire Phone, you get a year’s free Amazon Prime. And according to Bezos, Prime members never leave.
Ilicco Elia, head of mobile, DigitasLBi.
It’s a decent phone, with some clever design touches but, dynamic perspective aside, the hardware is largely 'me-too'. Whether the "3D" Dynamic Perspective delivers, or is just a gimmick, remains to be seen, but there's no doubt the technology is impressive.Amazon Firefly is the stand out feature. By bridging the digital and physical worlds Amazon's shop window is now everywhere. With a dedicated Firefly button, you can see something, identify it and buy it in under three seconds. Drunken purchases will never be the same again.An iPhone killer? Not at the $199 US price point, but the Fire Phone shouldn't be under estimated because it's a gateway to the wider Amazon service offering. Amazon wants to compete with Apple, Google, and Microsoft in being a top-level ecosystem player and is adding physical goods into the mix... and remember this is just its first iteration.
Jon Mundy, head of commercial development, Zapp360
I'll be honest, I was expecting Amazon to announce a low priced mass appeal device to bring the Amazon shopping basket into consumers’ pockets. What they've actually done is the opposite. At $650 out of contract, the Fire Phone is in the same price bracket as the iPhone 5s ($700). At that price, the Fire isn't going to reach the mass market, but it is going to transform the Amazon retail experience for those that do buy it. Amazon’s Firefly image recognition system, which allows users to identify and buy over 100m different products by pointing a camera at it, will certainly pose a challenge to high street retailers by actively encouraging 'showrooming'. Also, assuming the phone can sell in sufficient quantities, the 3D technology it employs will pose an interesting challenge for app developers.In short, at $650 the Fire Phone probably isn't going to be a best seller, but as a demonstration of Amazon’s increasing confidence in directing the way we will use and shop with smartphones, it is hugely significant.
Josh Crick, director of digital, David and Goliath
Is the Fire Phone an iPhone Killer? No. Can it play in the category of Android and Android-derivative phones in the marketplace? Yes.We know the purchase consideration for mobile devices is extremely tight and typically hinges on an end of life contract or a dead phone. That means the user ends up at their carrier location where they are inundated with marketing messages and “deals, deals, deals."To make an impression, Amazon is going to have to crack the carrier game and ensure that advertising helps them rise to the top of the consideration set. Not an easy task when you have Apple, Samsung and others dumping hundreds of millions into each product launch. Amazon will have to come out at the bell swinging, but will likely end up as a “customer’s also bought” item in the Amazon checkout process. It’s a tough game for the newbies regardless of their pocketbooks.
Rich Guest, US president, Tribal Worldwide
Before the Amazon Fire phone can be an iPhone killer — or a Samsung killer for that matter — it’s going to need to establish itself as a viable third option in the hardware market. I believe the Amazon Fire Phone will become a viable third option in the mobile hardware market. As Bezos stated, Amazon is patient, persistent, and obsessive in its attention to detail. But, I question if Amazon can out innovate Apple and Samsung over the long term. Firefly should be a game changing feature that accelerates the impact of 'showrooming' on major retailers while requiring every CPG company to reconsider its merchandising and marketing strategies on Amazon.com and Dynamic Perspective should offer both brand and luxury marketers an entirely new creative palate from which to build engaging mobile experiences. Although, I do hope neither feature will become the obligatory tactic that we shove into the end of a presentation and that agencies will be thoughtful in how to use these technologies to drive meaningful business value for their clients.
Ashley Smith, strategy director, Carat
From what we’ve seen the Fire Phone will also stand up to pretty much any equivalent phone on the market at the moment. The key is that with a smartphone in its arsenal, Amazon can find more ways to collect valuable customer data, and package it up in form of convenient, and targeted, product recommendations – a massive driver of its business.Is this “the iPhone killer”? Unlikely. Apple no doubt have several aces up their sleeve for the impending iPhone 6, and the introduction of HealthKit and HomeKit looks set to help revolutionise our relationship with our devices and the world around us. However, given Amazon’s ability to innovate (see the Amazon Dash) the entry of yet another major player can only mean good things for us all moving forward.
Ramzi Yakob, strategist at digital agency TH_NK
Alarm bells started ringing when I realised that Jeff Bezos had spent more than twice the amount of time explaining how Dynamic Perspective was developed than actually showing us what it can do to improve the user experience. Although it can produce a lovely aesthetic that may be delightful in a small number of contexts, it clearly isn’t a game changer.The ‘tilt’ controls look like they’re trying to solve interaction problems that aren’t there. And if you’re going to try to change interaction paradigms, you really need to make sure that your proposed ‘improvement’ is a considerable step-change for it to be taken seriously. Firefly is interesting, but not because it’s new; ‘Google Goggles’ and I’m sure many other apps out there do very similar types of things (although perhaps not quite as well). But it’s the first of its kind that I’ve seen that is open to developers to build upon and improve which gives it scope to be really useful for people. Question is; will the fire sell enough to incentivise brands and businesses to take it seriously enough to invest in?Looking past the much-hyped 3D effect, actually there’s a decent piece of kit with some nice features. A quality camera and screen, a reasonable price, free and unlimited photo storage, and a year of Amazon Prime thrown in to boot are enough to shift units on their own.
Paul Bennun, chief creative officer, Somethin’ Else
To unpick what this device is about is to unpick where Amazon, Google, Samsung and Apple are trying to kill each other. It’s the first time an iOS competitor has genuinely looked at its own advantages and built user-centred features around them. Our devices are interpreters of the world and providers of diversion. If you’re choosing a device for diversion (an app and content ecosystem), you buy an iPhone. If you want to buy a machine that interprets the world, Google would like your business, but no-one buys an Android phone. No-one. They buy a Samsung. Amazon have an unrivalled content and product ecosystem. Amazon want you to be seduced by a face-tracking, tilt-activated pseudo 3D user interface, but they really want you to use the dedicated button on the phone. This is a button which turns the whole world into a showroom for Amazon’s inventory. Now you’ve got a device which will interpret the world, tell you what you’re looking at, and let you buy it with one click. Amazon is hoping this utility will be something users really want; of course we won’t know until the device escapes the AT&T lock-in. But at least someone’s competing with Apple on features, not mimicry or marketing.