Shop in your pocket

Ama­zon is now a smart­phone com­pany but the new Fire Phone, an­nounced last week, has very lit­tle to do with com­mu­ni­ca­tions

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - Jeff Be­zos un­veil­ing the Fire Phone

The world’s largest on­line re­tailer is also one of the leading com­pa­nies in cloud in­fra­struc­ture and has made a com­pelling move into hard­ware with its Kin­dle de­vices that started with elec­tronic book read­ers and now in­cludes iPad-ri­valling tablet com­put­ers. Last week Ama­zon CEO Jeff Be­zos took to the stage for a 90-minute pre­sen­ta­tion dur­ing which he un­veiled his com­pany’s lat­est in­ven­tion – a plat­form for col­lect­ing be­havioural data and giv­ing cus­tomers a hot­line to the Ama­zon data cen­tre. Oh, and it’s a phone, too.

On paper the Fire Phone sounds like any other cut­ting-edge smart­phone – it has a 13MP cam­era that Be­zos promised was bet­ter than the iPhone’s. It has a big touch­screen and an app store that Ama­zon runs it­self with thou­sands of apps avail­able for the Fire op­er­at­ing sys­tem. There is even Ama­zon’s own gim­mick – a 3D view­ing ef­fect on the phone that one ap­par­ently has to see to un­der­stand.

The more in­ter­est­ing as­pects of the Fire Phone are in Ama­zon’s additional soft­ware that make the new de­vice a buy­ing ma­chine. What Be­zos re­ally an­nounced last week was the most pow­er­ful on­line shop­ping mech­a­nism the world has ever seen.

First up is Ama­zon’s Fire­fly tech­nol­ogy that iden­ti­fies just about any­thing in the world around you. Hold the Fire Phone up to a TV and it’ll iden­tify the show or movie you’re watch­ing. Aim it at a bar­code and it’ll find the prod­uct. Turn it on while you’re lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio and it’ll iden­tify the song. Point the cam­era at a prod­uct on the shelf and Fire­fly will at­tempt to find it. The soft­ware even recog­nises tele­phone num­bers and email ad­dresses. Then hit the patented ‘1-Click’ or­der­ing but­ton and you’ve just bought what­ever was found. Fire­fly is Ama­zon on steroids.

The other bit of wizardry is Ama­zon’s May­day but­ton. Push it any time of the day or night and within sec­onds you’ll be on a video call with an ‘Ama­zon ex­pert’ who will an­swer any ques­tion you have.

When Ama­zon s ays ‘an­swer any ques­tion’, the com­pany means it – Ama­zon ex­perts have been asked to help cus­tomers beat lev­els of An­gry Birds, to pro­pose to fi­ancées, to set­tle ar­gu­ments and to help with queries about its prod­ucts. The kind of re­la­tion­ship the May­day but­ton is form­ing be­tween the com­pany and its cus­tomers is sec­ond to none.

Google gets a lot of f lack for col­lect­ing per­sonal data and us­ing it in ad­ver­tis­ing, but Ama­zon has taken this to a whole new level. The phone costs as much as an iPhone, is locked to the USA’s AT&T cel­lu­lar net­work and will strug­gle to com­pete among more tech-savvy cus­tomers, but the ma­chine be­hind it is tes­ta­ment to Be­zos’s longterm think­ing and puts Ama­zon aeons ahead of other on­line re­tail­ers.

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