Amazon recently announced their first venture into the smartphone market-the Fire Phone. However, the details of pricing and availability on the device have some still scratching their heads. Why would Amazon want to enter this market now? Why price their first ever smartphone similar to that of the HTC One M8 or the Samsung Galaxy S5? Simply put, information is worth more to internet giants than anything else.
Amazon is taking a huge risk with their new Fire Phone, but the device could be seen as an investment in the future. That information comes in the form of what people are doing on their smartphones, and for some of you the bigger question would be why not just use apps for that information?
Since this is the first Amazon smartphone, many people are not familiar with the software that will be running on the device. It's Android based, but that doesn't make it fully Android. In fact, this is one of the devices that is farthest away from the Android experience anyone will be able to find. Instead, Amazon went a different route when developing their devices software-still with a hint of Android. Amazon used what's known as the Android Open-Source Project when developing software for their tablets, and now smartphone.
Google offers many different services to OEMs that allow them to develop software for devices one such way is the Android Open-Source Project also known as AOSP. AOSP is a less restrictive way to use Android as a platform to develop on top of, while losing out on some key features of Android. What's missing from AOSP is Google's Play Store, Play Services, etc. In order to use these things, OEMs must obtain a license from Google, and are given certain restrictions. Amazon figured they could replace these key features with their own apps and API's. This is why on most Amazon tablets you won't find Play Store, instead you have Amazon's App Store. Apps like that make Amazon their own, though Android is the foundation of the entire device.
While Amazon's apps can be found pre-installed on their tablets, they also saw fit to make the apps readily available on Android, iOS, and OSX devices as well. The idea behind this is simple, get more people using their apps, get more information and up our sales. Similar to any other business, the more avenues you have, the more opportunity you have to make money. Not to mention, unlike a physical store, a digital store has less overhead. The main question is only strengthened by this history, why would Amazon need their own smartphone, if their apps are readily available on other devices?
Digital stores are a growing industry, and every tech company is trying to get in on the action. The hardest part is figuring out which way works best. That said, Amazon has two options, sit back and wait for other companies to figure out the right way and then piggyback on that success and offer apps. The other option is to develop the technology themselves, and be the first to perfect the art of digital sales. With the release of the Amazon Fire Phone, it seems their answer is to be on the forefront, and develop their own way to buy-but at what cost?
In order to develop, Amazon will need developers. Amazon has a great team of developers, but that team is now burdened with building the perfect shopping experience from our mobile devices. That said, they could end up slacking elsewhere-like Amazon's website. However, Amazon has already developed their first attempt at perfecting the buying experience known as FireFly.
FireFly is a software that's been developed for the Fire Phone and allows users to simply snap a picture of an object they want to buy, and it will be found on the Amazon website. This brings an ease to purchasing from a mobile device that we may not have seen elsewhere. Still, this is a software that could've been introduced to Android easily. Taking the form of an app, FireFly could be used by millions on Android devices, and still, plenty of information will be gathered. Amazon still decided to take a different route though-and developed the Fire Phone with FireFly built into the device.
The Fire Phone will be released soon through AT&T in the US, and at a price point similar to other flagship devices. Consumers will be able to choose between the over $600 SIM unlocked device or pay about $199 with a two-year contract. Though Amazon will surely be making the majority of their cash the same way they always have (through app stores, and web sales) what's behind the higher pricing of the Amazon Fire Phone? It seems that the answer to that question could be found in the same model that we've seen from Google and their Google Glass Explorer Project. Price the device at a higher price with high-end specs, this will surely get the attention of people who consider themselves Amazon Prime frequent buyers, or-at the very least-heavy smartphone users.
The more the owners of the Amazon Fire Phone use their device, make purchases, searches, and just use their device daily, the more information Amazon will get. All of this information will surely go into developing FireFly, and the next Amazon Fire Phone. Amazon may not get the sales that we normally would want to see from a smartphone, but they will gain more knowledge from the heavy users. Which could be the entire reason why Amazon has launched a premium handset their first go around.
It's as if Amazon has a lump of charcoal in their hand that is to be the next Amazon smartphone, and the Fire Phone first gen is just the gasoline their pouring onto that charcoal. Users of the Amazon Fire Phone will be the match, and we'll just have to wait and see what Amazon burns up next year.