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Amazon Fire Phone will crash and burn

Analysis Expensive, privacy-invading device is unlikely to set the smartphone market alight
Thu Jun 19 2014, 16:01

Amazon Fire PhoneAMAZON UNVEILED its first smartphone, the Amazon Fire Phone, on Wednesday, and while there was plenty of hype building up to its launch, we think the handset will likely crash and burn.

Despite introducing a number of unique features, such as its '3D' interface and onboard Firefly information-collection service, the Amazon Fire Phone hasn't received the best reception since, with one analyst even slamming the device as a "$649 shopping basket" promptly after its unveiling.

The Amazon Fire Phone's price is one of its biggest failings, with the handset set to cost $199 on a two-year contract, or $649 if picked up SIM-free.

IHS analyst Ian Fogg noted, "This is a high-risk launch price strategy which is unsustainable for a smartphone market entrant. Simply having a well-known brand on the box is not enough to sell smartphones, as Nokia and Motorola know well.

"IHS expects Amazon will reduce the Fire's price within months to make the Fire more attractive."

Building up to its unveiling, speculation was rife that Amazon's smartphone would look to the Nexus 5 and Moto G in terms of pricing, but instead the firm is pitting itself against the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5, and if the phone's specifications are anything to go by, it is unlikely to come out victorious.

First off, the Amazon Fire Phone arrives with a 4.7in HD 720x1280 display - unimpressive in comparison to the Galaxy S5's HD 1020x1920 screen, and even less so compared to the LG G3's 1440x2560 resolution screen. Of course, this screen does come with unique 3D-tracking features thanks to its four front camera setup, but this is not something that users are calling for, and we'd definitely prefer a better quality display.

The rest of the handset's specifications are fairly average, including its ageing Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 13MP rear-facing camera, which likely won't manage to lure punters away from the Galaxy S5's newer Snapdragon 801 chip, nor its 16MP camera.

It's also worth noting that while the Amazon Fire Phone will arrive running Google's Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system, this will be skinned in Amazon's Fire OS, which essentially turns the handset into a glorified Amazon shopping basket, offering one-touch access to the online retail giant's services. What's more, a new feature called Firefly uses the handset's camera to scan in products - be it a book or a poster - which it will then identify on Amazon's servers. Of course, if the book, for example, is for sale at Amazon, there's the option to add it to your cart automatically.

Amazon explains, "Firefly quickly recognises things in the real world - web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, movies, music, and millions of products, and lets you take action in seconds - all with the simple press of the Firefly button.

Firefly also, much like a feature Facebook recently announced, comes with audio recognition, so Amazon can identify products using the handset's microphone.

This, along with the 3D tracking technology and GPS locator features onboard the handset, has already set off privacy alarm bells, especially in the light of recent NSA snooping revelations, which means users are more mindful of their privacy. There are concerns over the insight Amazon will obtain into the habits of Fire Phone users, including location data, who they contact, and what they're likely to purchase.

Speaking following the Fire Phone's launch, Vic Hyder, co-founder of Silent Circle noted, "The wider working population of the UK are aware of the ever-increasing threats to the data we transmit via mobile technology. They know of eavesdropping capabilities, but in many ways are consigned to the abuse - not just from government but from criminal scavengers and corporate competition."

If first impressions are anything to go by, Amazon's Fire Phone - given its expensive price-tag, creepy tracking technology and lacklustre specifications - likely will go the way of its tablets, which have failed to give Apple or Samsung a real run for their money. µ

 

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