When rumors started swirling that Amazon planned to unveil its own smartphone, there was an Internet-wide groan, and collective eye-rolling. The consensus seemed to be that the smartphone market is already saturated, and we simply don’t need any more players in this arena. Well, Amazon did unveil its own smartphone—the Fire Phone—and it is the first device in a long time with the potential to disrupt the smartphone status quo.
The fact that we already have great smartphones to choose from is not, in and of itself, a reason for potential rivals to throw in the towel without even trying. We already had search engines when Google came along. There were already cell phones when Apple introduced the original iPhone. It is possible to disrupt an established market if you have the right device, with the right experience, at the right time.
The Fire Phone hardware compares well on paper against rivals like the Apple iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S5, or Nokia Lumia Icon, but it doesn’t surpass them or raise the bar in any major area. It has a processor and RAM roughly equivalent to the Galaxy S5. Its display size is larger than an iPhone 5s and smaller than a Nokia Lumia Icon, with the lowest pixel density of the bunch. Megapixels is a poor measure of camera quality, but the 13MP rear camera on the Fire Phone has less megapixels than either the Galaxy S5, or the Nokia Lumia Icon. At 5.64 ounces, the Fire Phone is actually a tad hefty for a flagship smartphone.
All of this begs the question: “What makes the Amazon Fire Phone a potential game changer?”
I’m glad you asked. The answer is the experience.
The look and feel of most smartphones today are virtually identical. They’re all slim rectangles of plastic and metal with a glass touchscreen display. They all have essentially the same features and capabilities. One platform’s app store may have more apps than another, or a specific app you want or need, but within reason they all basically have the same apps available. Different devices have specific features that are exclusive or unique, but for the most part the smartphone hardware itself has become commoditized.
What sets one smartphone apart from the next is the experience. How intuitive, and fluid is the operating system? How well does the underlying platform integrate with the apps, tools, and services you depend on or use most often? How does the smartphone hardware enable you to do the things you want to do more efficiently or conveniently than a competing device? These are areas where the Fire Phone has the potential to provide a unique experience, and leave competitors in the dust.
Amazon is one of the most respected brands in existence. Its customers may not be as rabidly loyal as Apple fans, but it has an established reputation for quality and customer service. Amazon is consistently ranked among the most valuable brands in the world, and in a 2013 Harris Poll for brand reputation Amazon surpassed Apple to take the top spot among US consumers.
Amazon is also prepared to go head-to-head in most of the major categories. It already has its own mobile OS—a fork of the Android OS. It has its own app store, cloud storage, streaming video content, and streaming music service. Amazon Prime is an exceptional value, which unlocks access to movies, TV, and music content, as well as free two-day shipping on Amazon Prime merchandise, and Amazon is including one year of Amazon Prime with the Fire Phone.
The brand reputation and customer loyalty of Amazon, combined with the few features of the Fire Phone that are unique—Dynamic Perspective, Firefly, Mayday, and the Amazon Prime membership—make the Amazon smartphone a very compelling newcomer. If the device and the experience match the quality we’ve come to expect from Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft may find themselves facing a worthy new competitor.
I am looking forward to receiving a review unit of the Amazon Fire Phone to get some in-depth, hands-on experience with the new smartphone. After I have had some time to immerse myself in the device, I will share additional thoughts here.