Amazon on Fire

The news of yet another smartphone hitting the market, especially when it it is not a new iPhone or Samsung’s latest entry is not usually cause for more than an occasional yawn. When “non phone” makers jump into the phone market, the end results are not always something to look forward to either. Anyone remember the Facebook phone or the Garminfone? Microsoft produced a dud of a phone with the Kin, which lasted less than two months. In short, there are plenty of great companies that have made some very poor choices and decisions in entering the smartphone market.

Introducing: Amazon Fire

Enter Amazon. At first glance, their smartphone entry is not necessarily all that inspiring. The 3D views and tilt to scroll elements, while they certainly look nice, are not game-changing at first glance.

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From a purely functional perspective, this is not an iPhone or Galaxy killer. Unlike earlier examples of failed smart phones, Amazon took a completely different approach with what they are trying to do with this device. They are NOT looking to compete with other high-end smart phones purely from a device perspective. Though the Amazon Fire does measure up as a high end smartphone, its appeal lies in the Amazon product line that now becomes instantly available. When Amazon released the Kindle and subsequently developed it into the fantastically popular tablet that it is today, its appeal was not so much any single great feature, but rather the accessibility of all things Amazon. The device is not really even the main selling point and Amazon priced its Kindle lineup to reflect that. The devices are inexpensive and Amazon relies on subsequent media purchases to generate revenue. The Amazon Fire seems to be another device to further the purchasing of auxiliary Amazon products. Interestingly, Amazon has decided to price the phone in line with other high end smart phones, moving away from the model of low cost devices they established with their Kindle lineup. How this will play out remains to be seen.


Firefly: The Supercharged Shopping Cart

What may be the most compelling and game changing element of Amazon’s phone is a feature called Firefly. Bar code and QR code scanners have been around for years and have become an integral part of how consumers shop and compare prices. Firefly takes things to a whole new level. Use the phone to “listen” to a song and Firefly will identify and “price” the song on Amazon, even adding it to your shopping cart for you. Take a picture of anything — really anything, not just a barcode or QR code, and Firefly will also price the item for you on Amazon and add it to your shopping cart. According to Amazon the Firefly feature will recognize 70 million products, 35 million songs, 245,000 movies and TV episodes, and 160 live TV channels. Amazon is betting that people will use the Firefly feature to purchase some of those products, songs, movies, TV shows and live TV… from Amazon. They are including a full year of membership to Amazon Prime for those who opt for the Amazon Fire. This is in line with positioning the phone as a device used to purchase and use Amazon’s other services (music, movies, books, games, etc.). Did we mention that it actually does also make phone calls?

With more and more consumers using their mobile devices to aid with online shopping, a feature like this, which allows for easy price checking with Amazon and a smooth and easy interface to purchase, Amazon may very well have created something that will resonate very well with this generation of smartphone users. With over 250 million users, Amazon has already established a market of consumers who are familiar with their products and would be interested in using Amazon Fire as their new smartphone. Amazon may not have reinvented the wheel with this smart phone, but they certainly have supercharged the shopping cart. Now it remains to be seen if we all actually want a supercharged shopping cart in our pockets 24/7.

Photo Credit: Phone Arena and Techno Buffalo

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Arie Shpanya

Arie is the COO, Executive Chairman, and Co-Founder of Wiser, a dynamic pricing and merchandising engine for online retailers and brands. He has extensive experience in business development with a focus on eCommerce (eBay and Amazon), and is a guest blogger on Econsultancy, VentureBeat, and more.