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Is Amazon’s Fire Phone a Gimmick?

fire phoneA few weeks ago I wrote a blog about wanting a 3D phone. Last week, Amazon announced its first smartphone, the Fire, with a 3D capability called Dynamic Perspective. It isn’t exactly the “Help me Obiwan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” 3D projected holograph I was hoping for in a 3D phone (like we may get with Ostendo’s technology in late  2015). But it is still pretty cool.

The 3D effect is possible because the Fire uses cameras to watch your face and adjusts perspective based on your viewing angle. It even works in the dark by using infrared cameras. There are no funky, or ugly, 3D glasses required. During the press conference, Amazon demoed one game that takes advantage of the 3D effect. Others will certainly be on the way. It could also be useful for other services like maps.

I wonder though, if it will end up with a similar reaction as the Nintendo 3DS. Their handheld gaming console has a 3D toggle allowing users to turn 3D effects on or off in any game. The 3DS doesn’t need glasses either, unlike 3D TV. If you take a poll of gamers, you’ll get mixed reviews on the value of the 3D effects. Some can’t stand it, others can’t live without it. Those that take issue with it complain about the limited viewing angle (you need to look straight on) and eye strain when using it.

The Fire phone reportedly won’t have the viewing angle issue because the phone tracks your movements with the cameras. But eye strain from trying to see 3D on a 2D surface may still be a factor.

By the time it gets to the UK (industry watchers estimate it will be about a year before the phones are released in the UK) there should be enough feedback to tell us if the Fire phone is just a gimmick to sell more Amazon stuff or if the features – Dynamic Perspective and Firefly (read about Firefly in a future post) – are actually useful. We’ll also find out if the phone is able to make any dent in an already incredibly competitive smartphone market.

Would you get one if you could, or are you content to wait?

Oliver Burt

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