SEATTLE (MarketWatch) — At a product launch event that mimicked Apple Inc.
in nearly every way, Amazon.com Inc.
unveiled a new smartphone with a slew of features that propel it beyond the current batch of rival offerings, but is it different enough to gain traction against the iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system?
That is the question all investors are now wondering, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sought to answer, showing off, over an hour on stage, a slew of new technologies Amazon has been developing.
The new Fire Phone includes features such as dynamic perspective (a 3-D like element), a serious camera with 13 megapixels, and Firefly, which can quickly recognize bar codes, phone numbers and serial numbers. Bezos said Amazon had been working on the new technology for just over four years.
Although Bezos did not demonstrate Firefly in this manner, the implied usage is clear: Firefly is a trojan horse for shopping on Amazon. Go into a store, look up a serial number, and it will search for it on the web. Then, Amazon will likely be offering a cheaper price for that HDTV you are looking at, and it will offer a one click buy. It could also even counter the retail price.
Bezos described Amazon’s hardware efforts like the first Kindle as starting out slowly. Now, however, the company has tens of millions of both Kindle and Kindle Fire users. He also said customers love Amazon Prime and to sweeten the sale of the new smartphone, he is also adding one free year of Prime, which now includes a music service in addition to its videos and 2-day shipping.
Is it enough to get consumers to switch from the iPhone or Android devices? Bezos and Co. are clearly going after those who want to read more on their phones. He is not afraid if they dump their Kindles as a result. As long as all roads lead to Amazon.com, and more books and music and movies are bought, he does not care how you get there, as long as it is via an Amazon device.
The Kindle-like features making it easier to read and take photos on the phone, especially outdoors in the glare of sunlight, could be enough of a new feature for some consumers. It’s not clear yet how useful the dynamic perspective would be used beyond maps and games.
While Bezos did not get the oohs and aahs of the audience that tech’s last maestro, Steve Jobs, used to garner, he could still have a winner. By waiting for several years to get into the smartphone market, Amazon is addressing a few key problems with these devices.
By waiting long enough he may actually have improved upon the technology, much as Jobs did with the first iPhone.
Only time will tell. Investors need more information about the practical usage of the phone, but it’s feasible that Amazon could succeed here where others have failed.