On the surface, Amazon’s first smartphone, which begins shipping today, looks similar enough to the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy, but there is one key difference: From the Firefly feature, which scans barcodes and brings up Amazon product pages with the push of a button, to the complimentary year of Amazon Prime, the Fire was designed for e-commerce. And the phone’s expansive mobile commerce capabilities will certainly give marketers lots of new opportunities to reach consumers.
“[The phone] has clearly been built for e-commerce, but what I think is interesting is that it’s almost like that’s been done with permission from consumers,” says Shannon Denison, vice president of products and insights at Voltari.
Take, for example, the complimentary Prime membership, which entitles phone owners to free shipping and unlimited video streaming, was the focus of the Fire’s first ad, which debuted last week.
“Really? It comes with Amazon Prime?” an astonished woman asks in the spot upon overhearing two kids comparing phone agendas in a cafe. “I’ve been on this Earth nine years; I’ve never seen anything like it,” the precocious, hipster glasses-wearing boy replies.
Though Amazon is tight-lipped regarding exact figures, Amazon Prime had at least 20 million members by the end of last year, according to a Macquarie Equities Research report. And Denison believes the Fire may be able to piggyback off Prime’s pre-existing popularity.
Another Fire feature brand-new to consumers is Dynamic Perspective, which users can control with their head movements, thanks to cameras in each of the phone’s four corners. By tilting the phone, users can also manipulate images on the screen to make them appear 3-D or navigate menus and shortcuts by scrolling sideways.
“It’s almost as if [Amazon] said, ‘Hey, marketers: Here’s the SDK. Do stuff with it,” Denison says, comparing the tilt to the swipe motion popularized by the iPhone. “That technology will allow marketers to do all the things they’re trying to wire together.”
Fandango, which sells more than half of its movie tickets via mobile device, utilizes Dynamic Perspective in its new app designed especially for the Fire.
The app’s homescreen will show the most popular movies playing in theaters. By tilting left or right, users reveal reviews, trailers, and video clips, and various other menus.
“The new Fire phone app is a great way for consumers on the go to discover new movies and new theaters while making their movie-going decisions,” says Mark Young, vice president of strategy and business development at Fandango.
But how much the Fire’s new features take off depends on how much the Fire itself takes off with consumers.
So far, critics have panned the Android-based smartphone’s high price tag and incompatibility with Google apps and carriers other than AT&T. Boston optimization company Yottaa also found that of the top 500 Internet retailers, 150 of their websites redirected iPhone users to sites specifically designed for mobile. Only 33 did the same for the Fire.
Denison believes scale is the big hurdle, but by making the phone extremely easy to use – there’s a button on the Fire’s side connecting consumers with 24/7 tech support – for its small group of early adopters, Amazon’s best features may potentially proliferate.
“I think they’ve done a great job creating ideal circumstances for both themselves as a business and the consumers,” she says. “If they can move beyond the Kindle Fire audience, they’ve got a winner.”