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What people are saying about Firefly on Amazon’s Fire Phone

amazon fire phone with firefly appFrom the moment Amazon announced their entry into the mobile phone market, people have had a  lot to say. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about the 3D capabilities of the Fire Phone and how cool that might be. But the Firefly capability is really what has caused the most polarizing discussions.

In case you missed what all the fuss is about, Firefly allows the user to point the Fire phone at anything in the real world and find out more information about it – kind of like a visual and audio Google. It can recognise songs, movies, barcodes and identify over 70 million products just from an image – plus provide prices for all of it.

It’s the potential of such an app (and the hardware that supports it) that’s got people talking. Here’s a brief summary from around the web:

  • Greatest invasion of privacy ever – Suspicious minds want to know what Amazon will do with all the images and sounds the users will be uploading into their databases. Already Amazon (and others) track what we look at and purchase then feed those into algorithms to sell us more things. Think about what they could learn about every individual if they had a record of what we listen to, watch and have around us in the real world (and not just what we do online).
  • An app to kill retail stores – Skeptics believe the app is designed to simplify the purchase of everything through Amazon. You’ll no longer need to go to High Street – just point your Fire phone at your friends handbag, shoes, video game, or dinner and buy it on Amazon.
  • Just another glorified storefront – Much like sceptics, some folks believe the Fire phone is just another entry into the Amazon marketplace, much like the Fire series of tablets. While great devices on their own, you are tied to Amazon and their approved apps and products. And Firefly just opens that marketplace to be even bigger.
  • Just license the apps – “Firefly is a great idea and I want it on my iPhone” is the gist of what many bloggers are saying. The Kindle app is available on virtually all mobile devices so why wouldn’t Amazon eventually license Firefly too?
  • A test – One of the most interested comments I found has to be that the release of the Fire Phone is just Amazon’s attempt at a field test. The blogger argued that there wasn’t really any benefit of releasing the Fire phone right now when it is likely to be just a blip in an already over crowded mobile landscape. Except they say, to gather enough information from the users they do get to see what they need to produce next time in order to be a game changer – like iPhone was and Android has become.

I think all of the opinions have validity. It’s unlikely Amazon’s phone will make much of a dent in the US when 93.6% of the market is controlled by Android and iOS. Especially given the high price point (as much as $749 without a contract –  or £437) and only being available on one network provider.

If Amazon decides to release the phone globally (which will take some time given restrictions in other countries, even the UK) it will run into a similar barrier. As of the first quarter of 2014 both Apple and Android lost market share to lower end, less costly devices in emerging markets.

So maybe the best idea is that this phone is a test to see if Amazon has, or can have, what it takes to compete in the world’s mobile market. But what about Firefly? Would you use it?

Oliver Burt

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