Today, Jeff Bezos releases the details about Amazon’s first smartphone, the Fire Phone. On paper, the specs sound very good, 2 GB of RAM, a 4.7 inch display, a 13 megapixel camera with a f/2.0 lens, stereo speakers, optical image stabilization and more. The services sound good, unlimited cloud storage space for your pictures, synchronicity with services Amazon offers over the cloud and more.
There are some things I am not sure about, such as the aluminum buttons and the fact that Amazon is pushing their own OS, which essentially requires consumers to rely on Amazon’s own app store, which at the moment makes the Windows Phone app store seem large by comparison.
Even the price is good; $199, but should you buy this phone? If you do not have a smartphone and you are not invested in the Windows Phone, iOS, or Android ecosystems I think it delivers a tremendous amount of value for my money. But phones that do not ship with Android that are relying on new ecosystems are an experiment, at best.
Android is the gift and the curse. It is open source, so anyone can manipulate it, built on top of it, and reverse engineer the OS to get it to do what they want it to do. Samsung did this with the look and feel of the phone, but it did not divorce the device from interoperability from anything offered in the Google Play store. Amazon has always sought to create their own ecosystem off of Android, and is following in their own steps as well as taking a page out of Barnes and Nobles playbook by creating a device that needs to run apps offered exclusively through their own platform.
For the Kindle Fire tablets this approach worked well. But for smartphones, where everyone is using the same applications, can Amazon convince developers to port their apps to their own OS? AT&T is a partner, so you can expect to see this device sold through GoPhone and Cricket, and if you are using one of AT&T’s prepaid services this may actually be a nice way for you to purchase great hardware for a low price. But I cannot see anyone using post paid services taking this smartphone seriously, when Google Nexus phones that run Android without any modifications, and without apps a user may not want or need, for an extra $100.
There are a lot of apps that are available through the Amazon App store for Android, but there are also a lot of apps that are not available that a user could install through Google Play or One Market. If Amazon is struggling with an app store devoted to Android, what makes anyone think that we will see decent applications made available for their own OS? You may see a few power users modifying this smartphone, because the hardware is just that good, which was the case with the Kindle Fire tablets but I seriously doubt anyone will be using this phone as it is intended to be used. But again, if you’re not invested and you just want a powerful device, this may be a product worth looking into.