Jeff Bezos is a visionary. But he isn't a Jobsian visionary, rather he is more of a Fordian one. Pragmatic. Long view. Not very flashy or showy.
But he may be stretching himself a little thin these days, because he has put his company everywhere and they are up against some very powerful competition.
With the Amazon Fire Phone, Bezos is going up against Apple, Google, Samsung and any number of consumer electronics companies. That's what you would assume, but the reviews of the phone over in the States imply that he may be just seeding the market and putting the company's toe in the waters to see how things go.
To be fair to Amazon, they are taking on Google and Microsoft on cloud computing with AWS and kicking butt, so it is really hard to believe that the company's long game is anything but well thought out.
So, it seems, reading through the mass of Fire Phone reviews that this phone has potential. It isn't quite realised with this first edition, but it has potential. Like its neighbor, Microsoft, Amazon may just be working towards version 3 when things really take off. Come to think of it, it usually takes a Starbucks barista about 3 tries to make a decent decaf double mocha Frappucinno with caramel and whipped cream, so maybe it is just a Seattle thing.
Anyway, here's what you need to know about the Fire Phone:
- It's out in the US at $199 (£117) on a two year contract with AT&T exclusively.
- It can be purchased outright for $649 (£382) for the 32GB version and $749 (£441) for the 64GB one.
- The Mayday button is there, like on the Kindle Fire tablets, and it is a unifying good feature. Mayday gives users a live video helpline connection to tech support. This is a very cool feature and one that tends to be understated by the digirati.
- Carousel is a feature, again available on the Kindle Fire tablets, that organises your apps so that you see the most used ones first. Making sense of the app mire is a good thing.
- The much touted 3D factor, Dynamic Perspective, still feels like a gimmick although it may evolve with more apps supporting it. It sucks up a lot of battery life, too, which makes it a bit of an indulgence.
- The phone's head tracking technology, Auto Scroll, seems to need work. It annoyed many reviewers, but again, this may be another case of a feature that can get better with more app support.
- Firefly is Amazonian in every way. It lets you identify a product with your phone and it is, you guessed it, a pure shopping play. Is it perfect? No, which kind of defeats the object of pushing people to buy stuff. You also get the sense that it may also be a little cynical of Amazon.
There you have it: everyone got on top of the main features that Bezos promoted at launch and cried, "Hold on a minute there, bud, this isn't exactly what I expected." Version 3. We have to wait for Version 3.
Digging into the innards of the phone didn't necessarily make for a pleasant experience for the boffins at iFixit:
Meanwhile, one reviewer seems more angry than critical with Amazon:
The Street, perhaps echoing the sentiments of the money people who are sanguine on Amazon's business performance these days, is not impressed:
But, let's leave the last word with the New York Times, the venerable institute of journalistic integrity, presumably with no axe to grind and unbiased through and through.
In general, the NYT reviewer knows that this is a product that is more of a first effort than a standout product in the market, echoing similar sentiments to other reviewers across the Internet, but he is willing to be a lot more understanding:
For more on the Fire Phone, check out: Amazon's new Fire Phone: It isn't an iPhone, but...