What They’re Saying: The New Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon's new Fire Phone is a little different from your phone—and it's hard to know exactly what to think. Inside, it has relatively similar specs as the competition, but processor speed, battery life, and data storage are not the points of contention on this new gadget. It's Amazon's vision of the future. 

The trump card Amazon plays with the Fire Phone is a service called Firefly, which can recognize the world around you, giving immediate information on anything from what song you're listening to, to the history of the book you're holding. Of course, if you direct it toward an object, Amazon will give you an option to buy, which is what you might say the whole thing is really about.

With an idea so revolutionary, it's bound to be polarizing. Let's see what the critics have said thus far...

According to Engadget: "These Fire devices feed directly into the company's myriad services. They're no more than conduits for the sheer amount of content Amazon has on offer." That, and Firefly. "It's Firefly that seems like the real game changer for Amazon's Fire Phone. It's hard to overstate just how important Firefly really is. With a single press on the dedicated Firefly key, your Fire Phone can recognize the material world around you…

They continue:
"...Firefly's beauty is that it does more than just let you buy stuff; Amazon isn't that shortsighted. It'll show you related Wikipedia articles for objects of interest. It can show you book reviews and recognize phone numbers from street signage. It's just useful. And if you decide you want to buy anything you've discovered, well, it's right there."

Unfortunately, they think Amazon's shooting themselves in the foot price-wise and that it's "likely to go unnoticed by the iPhone crowd Amazon's chasing after.”

The Verge:
"It's perhaps the most futuristic and wide-ranging device Amazon has ever attempted." But they're wary. "Make no mistake: Firefly is meant to be Amazon's ultimate tool for making you buy even more from its store. It turns the entire world around you into a showroom, something that brick and mortar retailers are probably already getting nervous about."

Matthew Yglesias over at the Verge's sister site Vox thinks it’s “too good,” and that it's "first and foremost a physical extension of Amazon-the-store [that retailers will fear]." Yglesias thinks Amazon has a unique opportunity “to make good-enough phones for people who aren't all that interested in upgrading," which would be very difficult for most companies. But "it would be an ideal place for Amazon to step in."

Farhad Manjoo and the New York Timesagreed.

Gizmodo noted that the Firefly features are made possible with a bunch of cameras that track your face and phone’s position in your hand—called "Dynamic Perspective"—and they want to know how others besides Amazon will use it.

"Amazon has developed some incredible tech, but it'll be up to the strength of the software that's developed using Dynamic Perspective to match the potential. It's definitely impressive—whether it's a worthwhile experience is another question altogether."

The Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, had few opinions to offer.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is an editor at Supercompressor. He had a lovely experience in a bookstore yesterday. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.