Amazon has a smartphone. It's a novel move for an online retailer, and has already spawned dozens of stories about Amazon's business strategy. But what does that matter to the consumer? There are hundreds of other phones that they can choose from.
Sure, the Fire Phone, as it is called, does have four front-facing cameras equipped with infrared, which offers users a dynamic perspective when viewing certain images. The Fire Phone also enables one-handed navigation through tilt gestures, auto-scrolling, and more. But the hardware — a 4.7-inch screen, a quad-core processor, a 13 megapixel camera — is essentially par for the course when it comes to high-end devices.
When LG announced its newest flagship phone, the G3, last month, its tagline was "Simple is the new smart." LG is betting that while consumers want the latest and greatest, they also want something that's easy to use.
Amazon's Fire Phone actually epitomizes LG's message more than the G3 does. It is an extremely capable device on all the technical fronts, but it also makes that technology accessible. These three features are why you might want to choose this phone over another one.
Mayday is Amazon's help portal, a feature that first debuted on the Kindle Fire tablet. Pushing the Mayday button gets you a real human support representative quickly.
Amazon advertises a 15-second response time with Mayday, but in the real world it is closer to 10 seconds. It's a remarkable feature for those who are unsure of how to do something; press a button, and in well under a minute someone will be talking you through the process.
Even if you never use the feature, its very presence should remove any hesitation for those less comfortable with mobile phones — I'm looking at you moms, dads, grandparents, or really anyone humble enough to admit they don't know everything.
Having a Mayday button on a tablet is good, but having it on a primary computing device like your phone is huge.
Taking and sharing pictures are the lifeblood of a mobile device. However, it's not enough to have a good camera; it's vital that all your photos are saved and backed up.
Without much fanfare, Amazon announced free unlimited photo backup to its cloud drive. That is a step above most phones, which require you to delete pictures when the storage is full.
In other words, you can't take too many pictures. You won't have to worry whether an occasion warrants one picture or a thousand because it costs the same either way — nothing.
Amazon's cloud drive app is also available on iOS and Android, meaning that your memories aren't locked into the Fire Phone years later. And unlike Google, which offers the same unlimited photo backup feature through Google+, you won't have to send your pictures to a social network.
Firefly is the feature that single-handedly explains why Amazon made a phone: It turns the phone into a effortless shopping tool.
There's a dedicated button on the side of the device that gets you to a recognition screen. It can decipher text, audio, images, video, barcodes, QR codes, phone numbers, URLs, and much more.
Once Firefly finds the item and tells you what it is, there's also a link to purchase it on Amazon.com (if it's being sold, of course). Even AT&T's head of mobility, Ralph De La Vega, said that the feature is going to encourage him to buy lots of things.
Beyond the obvious benefit of being able to point your phone at something and buy it, there's another reason Firefly is important. It positions Amazon as a search engine in the eyes of consumers. The Fire Phone potentially eliminates the need to ever go to Google to find what you're looking for.
Both Apple and Amazon are subtly trying to alter search with homegrown solutions. It's a way for each company to expand, while nipping at Google's heels.
**Embedded images courtesy of Amazon.com**
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- Russia's giant spy ship was a high-tech disaster waiting to happen
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
- How to stop misogynists from terrorizing the world of gamers
- 10 things you need to know today: September 2, 2014
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
Subscribe to the Week