Yesterday Amazon revealed the new Fire Phone in a way we are far more used to seeing from Apple.
The incredibly slick transformation of Amazon into a hardware business is a case study for marketers everywhere. Just as the Kindle made the great leap forward for e-Readers, so Amazon has leapt in front of the game by providing what looks like a next-generation phones experience, and has set the bar for Apple, Samsung et all to follow.
For marketers, the most significant aspects of the announcement center on four key areas.
The beginning of the end for the touchscreen
The Fire makes extensive use of two new types of input interface – both intended to be more intuitive and more useful than the
touchscreen. Firstly, Dynamic Perspective uses the position of the user’s head to control the interface directly. For example, Bezos’ handset was programmed to respond to certain head
movements by opening the Washington Post. Games can now also be controlled partly or entirely by your position related to the screen. Secondly, device movement is now a core navigational tool.
Scrolling down pages is controlled by tilting the phone up or down, and the thumb is relegated to a ‘pause button’ to hold up the flow should someone interrupt you. These two innovations
alone make Apple’s Siri seem like a failed experiment.
Now the whole world is a QR code
Google attempted image recognition and machine vision as long ago as 2010, but has never followed up on the idea as a way to effectively search and identify anything in the real world. Amazon’s Firefly service, accessible through its own dedicated hardware button, seems like the first truly workable machine vision service to hit the mainstream. Amazon claims that over 100 million different items can be identified under real-world conditions such as darkness and glare.
The Cloud goes mobile
The Cloud is a natural partner for mobile – small devices have limited processing power and storage, but Amazon is the first to effectively use the power of the cloud to complement both. As well as backing up all photos taken to the Amazon cloud (as Apple has done for some time through iCloud) it is also used for back-end processing for apps such as Firefly, where immensely powerful cloud-based systems can process your images against the databases with what Amazon demonstrates as great speed.
Amazon finally leverage their ecosystem
While Kindle proved an effective gateway for Amazon’s reading product, the Fire Phone connects up the rest of Amazon’s increasingly broad product base. Without making any explicit reference to it, it seems that the Fire will have additional value and functionality for Amazon Prime members, and Firefly is a natural extension for AmazonFresh. Likewise Amazon’s Prime music offering is enhanced by embedding song-lyrics in a sing-along feature, and can recognize images of TV screens to bring up opportunities to watch that precise episode of a show through Prime.
Amazon has raised the bar in both user experience and technology innovation, but there must be huge doubts as to whether they can really ‘cut it’ in an increasingly polarized world, where consumers and households increasingly belong to either Apple or Google.
Amazon is making the right move by opening most of their new technologies to developers, but the fact is that Amazon is launching a product that fundamentally alters the way we interact with smartphones, and that’s a task that Apple alone have truly been able to effect up to now.
The Amazon Fire is certainly a bold step into our mobile future, but in this most competitive of sectors, Amazon’s job in becoming a leading player is only half done.
If the future of Fire is so unclear, what are the take-outs for marketers from this launch? Well firstly, Amazon launched not just a smartphone, but a new and potent shopping device. If they can get consumers used to the idea of scan-to-shop, they can further extend their lead in retail, where already over 30% of every shopping journey starts on Amazon.
And equally worrying is the drive to extend the Amazon Prime network as an intermediary for transactional relationships with brands. If we are to maintain the effectiveness and control over our brand messaging, we need to sustain our direct contact with our target and existing audiences. This again places more emphasis on delivering potent and memorable communications, backed up with relevant CRM and close customer care.
Still, there’s no guarantee that Fire Phone will shift enough units to make a difference – anyone remember last year’s Facebook Phone?