20 October 2018
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos explains the smartphone's unique features, including the Firefly technology. Photo: Bloomberg
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos explains the smartphone's unique features, including the Firefly technology. Photo: Bloomberg

Amazon’s Fire Phone takes mobile commerce to new level

While Apple fans are eagerly awaiting the debut of the latest iPhone model, which reportedly will feature a bigger screen and a faster processor, on Wednesday unveiled its first smartphone device, which could turn out to be a revolutionary product in the mobile commerce space.

Amazon’s Fire Phone features top-tier hardware including a 4.7-inch HD display, a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilizer that delivers high-resolution photos and 1,080-pixel HD videos, a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM for fast, fluid performance, dual stereo speakers, and Dolby Digital audio. The phone is running on Amazon’s own operating system which is heavily customized based on Google’s Android.

Hong Kong consumers will have to wait awhile before they could get their hands on the device. It is not yet available outside the United States, and will be sold exclusively through AT&T, which means it is SIM-locked.

While the hardware may not impress industry experts and veteran gadget users, Fire Phone’s real strength is in its inner features. Speaking at a press conference to unveil the device in Seattle, Washington, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said the smartphone is meant to set mobile commerce on fire by allowing users to enjoy shopping on the go.

Its key feature is Firefly, which allows users to identify the products they are interested in, including songs and movies, just by scanning them with the phone’s camera. By doing so, they can instantly get information about the product and buy it at Amazon. It’s a new business model: offline to online.

Currently, Firefly can recognize more than 100 million items, said Bezos. That includes 245,000 movies and TV episodes, 160 live TV channels, 35 million songs and 70 million products.

Given this unique feature, Fire Phone becomes a totally different product from other smartphones such as the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy series. Amazon intends to lure shoppers to use their phone to make purchases within its own ecosystem, rather than just selling the device so users can play games, download movies or chat.

Of course, you can use Fire Phone for such purposes, but for the e-commerce giant, the device is not only a communication tool but also a mobile outlet for users to shop.

The new Firefly feature is taking mobile commerce to a whole new level.

In China, e-commerce platforms from Alibaba Group’s TMall and Taobao to are all pushing for mobile commerce. But so far they are just launching mobile phone apps that help users buy their products on the go, rather than help them identify what they want when they are shopping in a physical store and convert their desire into shopping action.

Alibaba is linking up with local smartphone makers to launch their own phones based on its self-developed Aliyun system, which is based on Android. But those phones are mostly equipped with entry-level specifications intended for mass users. They’re a far cry from Amazon’s Fire Phone.

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EJ Insight writer

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