I ordered a Fire Phone…and why a lot of other people will, too

I ordered a Fire Phone…and why a lot of other people will, too

I like my

Samsung Galaxy S3 SmartPhone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

…a lot.

Every day I use it, I think it’s cool.

About a month from now, though, I’ll be trading it in for a

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

Why, you ask?

Well, first, I have a somewhat unusual use case. I write about this stuff. 😉 Now, that doesn’t mean I’ll write about the Fire Phone a lot…reading isn’t going to be one of its main features, although the “infinite scroll” ability is something that I see people wanting on Kindles. You’ll be able to do that without touching the screen, too, which could be a good thing. I suspect they may need to coin some new terms for repetitive stress injuries, though…and “Fire Phone neck” might be one of them. 😉

It will do audiobooks (including Immersion Reading and Whispersync for Voice).

They haven’t talked about text-to-speech, although it does have audible menus and such:

Accessibility page (at AmazonSmile)

I’ll probably mention it sometimes, the way I talk about other things in my life (like jury duty). I haven’t written that much about my

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

although I did talk a bit about using mirroring to read books on the big screen.

It’s interesting, too, that this isn’t a “Kindle phone”, but a “Fire phone”. Amazon now has more lines with “Fire” in the name (Fire TV, Fire Phone, Kindle Fire) than with “Kindle” in the name (Kindle readers, Kindle Fire).

I’m glad they didn’t name it a “Kindle” phone…I would really have preferred that that be saved for EBRs (E-Book Readers)…I don’t really like that it is part of the tablet name, but that ship has sailed.

Knowledge of it is one reason for me…and that will be true for some other writers, as well. Even though it seems like there are a gazillion tech blogs, that’s not enough to make the phone work in the market.

I’m also attracted by some of the features.

Mayday is the best Customer Service thing I’ve ever seen, and having that on a phone is amazing! I do think it will be more challenging for them than for the Kindle Fire, but it will be nice to know it is there.

I think Firefly (object recognition) has some incredible potential. One thing they haven’t talked about: facial recognition (on individual faces). Oh, it knows where you are looking, and it can tell the difference between a picture of a face and a face, but I think there may be some apps in the future that really take advantage of its senses.

How about no password or thumbprint…it just recognizes you?

It looks at a photo on Facebook…and identifies everybody.

You are at a football game, and you know your friend is there…you tell Firefly to scan the crowd for that face, and it finds it.

Now, the last one may be impossible…probably too far away…but it got you thinking. 😉

One more: you go to the playground with your kid. Your phone is able to keep track of where your kid is at all times, out of the mass of other kids.

Again, that may be wishful thinking, but the capabilities Firefly will already have will be very useful!

I’m hoping I’ll be able to use it to put books into Goodreads (owned by Amazon)…books without UPCs (Universal Product Codes). I can already scan fairly recent books to put into Goodreads, but a lot of my books can’t be scanned.

Oh, and I’m hoping the Optical Character Recognition is great! We’ll see about that, though…I’ll be testing it pretty quickly (I should have the phone at the end of July when they first ship).

As for dyper (dynamic perception…I just am amused by calling it “dyper”)…we’ll see how much I like it. Might, might not.

As a t-shirt I have proudly proclaims, though, I’m “nobody’s target market”. 😉

Here is what I think a lot of the tech blogs haven’t been getting.

I’ve seen people ask, “Why would anybody give up an iPhone or a Galaxy for this?”

Wrong question.

Amazon doesn’t need anybody at all to give up their current SmartPhones.

Only about half of the people in the USA own SmartPhones.

Now, admittedly, a lot of people (infants, for example) don’t own phones at all…but even if you only look at people with mobile service, something like a quarter to a third of them still don’t have SmartPhones.

That’s what will make the Fire Phone succeed (knock virtual wood).

How many of those people who don’t have SmartPhones have Amazon accounts?

A lot, I would guess.

Remember, they don’t have to unlearn the Apple interface, or the Google interface.

I was talking to somebody today, and I said that someone who switches from an iPhone or a Droid to a phone where you do a lot of flicking rather than tapping may have some trouble adjusting…but they’ll be able to do it.

If someone learns on a Fire Phone, they’ll have a tough time using a different phone.

These people will want to do e-mail, watch videos, go to websites, make phone calls (including videocalls)…and my intuition is that the Fire Phone will do all of that more intuitively than other SmartPhones.

“What about the price?”

It’s comparable with other choices…and this is Amazon, a familiar entity to them.

The cost actually wasn’t bad.

The phone was $200, approximately (although, and I knew this, the sales tax was on $650 about…so it was about $250).

I get a year of Prime. Even though we’re Prime members already, they still pay for it next time. That saves me about $100…bringing it down to about $100.

I’ll be able trade in my S3 for about $50…making my investment in this phone about $50…certainly doable.

Now, a newbie won’t have a SmartPhone to trade in, but they may be able to get something.

Yep…there will be some migration, and there may be quite a bit of gifting. Mayday means that your relative that could never figure out a phone can have tech support twenty-four hours a day…and it won’t be you.

I think the big audience, though, will be SmartPhone virgins.

I’ll write a bit about it when I get it, and I’ll be happy to answer questions.

Oh, one question which I’ve addressed already: reader Bob Anderson was concerned about battery charge life with all the fancy features…and honestly, so was I.

It actually has a great battery!

“Battery size: 2400mAh. Talk time: up to 22 hours; standby time: up to 285 hours. Video playback: up to 11 hours; audio playback: up to 65 hours.”

I would guess you could read for a few days on a camping trip without charging it.

I still have some unanswered questions. It does have a voice assistant, but I have a lot of fun with that, and I’ll be looking to see how well that works. We’ll see if the features live up to the hype. I’m interested in how someone with some disabilities will be able to use it…are there good alternatives to flicking your wrist? By the way…um…how to put this? Jon Stewart kidded Jeff Bezos when he talked about using the Kindle one-handed…and Jeff made a point of that again with the Fire Phone. I can certainly see the advantage (eat lunch with one hand, keep the phone clean), but it does seem a bit…odd. 😉

Update: I have a number of readers comment on the phone being AT&T only, and that’s also been a concern of the blogosphere, so I thought I’d address that.

Would they sell more Fire Phones if it was also available on other carriers? Sure, I think it would be very hard to say otherwise.

Does that make it a “mistake”?

Not necessarily.

Amazon doesn’t know for sure how successful a product will be when they launch it. Oh, I’m sure there’s some sense about it, but you can’t tell…and the biggest tech companies have had clunkers (Apple’s Newton, the Facebook phone, for example).

AT&T must pay them a lot of money to be the exclusive carrier (they did that with the Kindle Fire, too)…which I think of as “launch insurance”.

Let’s suppose it is a flat fee, not something per person who actually signs up.

That way, even if the Fire Phone was a flop, Amazon would have some of their costs covered, which helps make investors less nervous.

After the first year, Amazon can open it up to other carriers: that’s what happened with the Kindle Fire, now available for AT&T or Verizon.

If somebody really wants one now, will they want one less a year from now? Maybe (some people want that “first rush” feeling), but if Amazon is confident in the product, it may also be that more people want it a year from now when it has been proven.

I don’t think this is part of the argument, but 3G/4G is becoming less crucial, as wi-fi  becomes more available. By the 2016 models, you are, I think, pretty likely to have a wi-fi hotspot in the next car you buy. If you can make phone calls and do navigation in the car, and you have wi-fi at the home, office, and stores (and increasingly, pretty much full city coverage), might it be possible to do it with no carrier?

Cutting the risk significantly buy getting an exclusivity fee might be worth reducing the amount you can make in sales.

Just my thoughts on that one…

End update

Anyway, I thought some of you would want to know, and I’ll write about something else next time.

Have any questions about the Fire Phone? Do you think it won’t succeed…that people who haven’t gotten a SmartPhone so far aren’t going to do it for this one? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


14 Responses to “I ordered a Fire Phone…and why a lot of other people will, too”

  1. Phil Says:

    Big fan of Amazon, not of AT&T. Mistake in limiting to only one carrier, especially AT&T. Would seriously consider if Verizon.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phil!

      Your comment, and some others, prompted me to update the post with my thoughts on the AT&T exclusivity. Basically, my guess is that AT&T paid them enough to make it “launch insurance”, and that next year, you’ll have your chance on Verizon, too. 🙂

  2. Karen Says:

    It is an interesting phone and I like some of the features but having it be an AT&T phone was a deal breaker for me. We travel a lot and we have been stuck in too many places without coverage with AT&T. We need the coverage Verizon gives us. Hope you enjoy it!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      I appreciate the good wishes! You aren’t the only person who feels that way…

  3. Gwen Says:

    It sounds like a great change from my current Windows Phone, but the reason that I won’t even consider it is the connection with AT&T. Their service here and the last state that I live in (WA) was completely unusable, as in no bars. My mom, after years of AT&T just finally switched after years of PITA service. She could us her phone in either their home here or Palm Springs, there were times that even just five miles from home, there was no signal and my verizon phone worked well. Heck, even when I climbed Mt. Rainier with my verizon phone, I had one bar…my AT&T companion climbers phones were useless.

    And if I am honest, I do really like my Win8 phone and have gotten over the fact that if apps are developed for it at all, they come after IOS and Android. Life is actually much easier with less apps to choose from.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Gwen!

      I like having the Windows phone perspective…thanks! Fewer apps, if the store is well curated, can be better…

  4. nceads Says:

    I agree that having AT&T is a deal breaker. We’ve been Sprint customers for years and been extremely satisfied with coverage and, especially, pricing/plans. The phone sounds great, but until it’s available with other carriers, I think a lot of people will steer clear.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, nceads!

      Yep, a lot of people won’t get it for that reason…but my guess is that enough people will get it to make it work the first year, and then that more people will be able to get it.

  5. Kerry Montgomery Says:

    I was excited to order the Fire phone, but when I entered my AT&T account info for my S4, I’m not eligible for an upgrade for another year. 😦 I wonder if there’s a way to get around it?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kerry!

      Do you have two numbers on your account? You might be eligible under the other phone number…that’s what happened with us.

  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I too will buy this “device” — though perhaps not until the fall. I’m lucky that my existing Lumia phone is with ATT (:grin). I will keep a Windows phone (which I really like), and get the Fire as a 2nd phone on my account to see if Firefly and Dynamic Perspective really change things or not.

    I live in Florida and my ATT coverage has been good — LTE 4G everywhere I go. I recently traveled to SF and to Vancouver BC — had no coverage issues there either. When at home I use WiFi and turn the phone’s cellular data access off.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with this “device” is calling it a “phone”. Jeff Bezos, in an interview w the NYT (as mentioned in the comments above), commented that he hardly ever uses his phone to make calls.

    This is (IMO) primarily a shopping platform (though not necessarily just for Amazon as the firefly SDK is open and presumably other retailers could write apps to use Firefly), and also perhaps an “aide memoire” — just using firefly to remember things you see in the real world — you point it at something; it identifies it, and then depending upon the type of thing it has recognized, gives you several actions you can perform on it (save it, buy it, get Wikipedia info about it, or invoke some Firefly-enabled app functionality).

    From my own experience, shopping (especially product search/comparisons/pricing) is time consuming — so anything that can make that process more efficient and less time intensive will definitely get a look from me.

    As to strategy: I’m sure the main objective here is to capture new Prime subscribers (who reputedly spend lots more on Amazon than non-Prime subscribers), and to increase engagement with existing Prime subscribers. Looking at this from the point of view of the existing smartphone market probably misses the point — I don’t think Bezos expects to make a big splash with existing smartphone users right out of the box. I suspect this is (as many have observed about Amazon’s approach previously) a long term play. This is no Kin phone — Bezos has the stones to stay the course.

    As to pricing: I suspect that was driven more by ATT’s desires to “fair trade” their phones (ATT sets prices not other retailers and discounting is not allowed). Apple “fair trades” all their devices. Retailers get around the no discounting prohibition by bundling the device with a gift card. Amazon’s free 1 year Prime subscription (extension) is in effect a $100 discount — aimed at Prime — which to come round full circle IMO is the main reason for this device to exist (:lol). That’s not to say that Amazon & ATT couldn’t offer targeted deals from time to time (my Lumia cost $0 with a 2 year contract on a 1 day deal two years ago on Black Friday :D).

    Much is made of app store disparities. With app counts at most stores in the hundreds of thousands (in some cases millions?), I think these comparisons are specious — misleading at best — 90% of the content in most app stores (IMO) is junk. On my kindle fires I’ve been able to get everything I need from Amazon and the 3rd party app store 1mobile.com. A valid concern is whether developers will support the Firefly and Dynamic Perspective SDK’s — to really leverage these new capabilities.

    As to the UI: I have a Windows Phone (Lumia 920) and I love it — I also have 2 Kindle Fires. The UI’s on both are quite different from each other, but each is easy to use. I don’t really see any major learning curve issues with Fire OS 3.5.

    This is not a device for geeks who want lots of customization, and lower level accesses — nor is it for most of the technology pundit classes — all of whom have working patterns, and lifestyles far removed from Amazon’s target audience.

    I think the Fire Phone is mostly about changing the nature of shopping and retail (and maybe many other things — Firefly needs to marinate a bit with 3rd party developers :grin) more than anything else. Bezos has been disruptive here before — it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I think it’s important to note that Jeff Bezos rarely using a SmartPhone as a phone is probably typical,not atypical. I would certainly guess that I rarely spend five minutes a day actually talking on the phone on my phone…although, since we don’t have a landline, calls from our adult kid can sometimes run half an hour. I’d still guess that the use of my phone as a phone is overall under 10%. I use it as a navigation device, so that’s a big chunk of time.

  7. rogerknights Says:

    “3G/4G is becoming less crucial, as wi-fi becomes more available. By the 2016 models, you are, I think, pretty likely to have a wi-fi hotspot in the next car you buy. If you can make phone calls and do navigation in the car, and you have wi-fi at the home, office, and stores (and increasingly, pretty much full city coverage), might it be possible to do it with no carrier?”

    Globalstar’s (GSAT) increasing reach will abet this trend.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      Certainly could be part of it. In my area, cities increasingly provide wi-fi as well.

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