This is no inferno. Amazon’s newest gadget is more like a guttering candle at present. The Fire Phone falls farther afield than of any of the company’s other devices to date — not only in terms of what it does for customers but what it can do for Amazon. But Amazon has gotten steadily better at improving its products and services in the past few years and we shouldn’t count the company out in the smartphone space.
Here are a few things Amazon could do to make the next Fire Phone burn brighter.
Improve the design
It’s tough to design a phone that’s truly distinctive these days, but the Fire is a pedestrian slab devoid of virtually all personality, lacking cues such as the curved back of the LG G3, the hybrid physical and capacitive buttons of the G5, the bright colors and sloping cover glass of a Lumia, or the chamfered edges of the iPhone 5S. It also annoys us with a pointless glass back and odd lack of navigation buttons.
It’s most distinguishing feature, the four cameras in the corners of the front, aren’t attractive aren’t attractive either. Though the Fire Phone is far from the eyesore that was the first Kindle. Over the years, Amazon greatly improved the look and feel of its ebook reader and has distinguished its tablets with great accessories like its origami cover.
We still have hope that the Fire Phone will become more of an object of desire.
Better tie it to Amazon Prime
Unlike when it entered the tablet market, Amazon aimed high in terms of price, going head to head with expensive phones like the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S at $200 with a two-year contract and $650+ without. The only pricing concession is for subscribers (or would-be subscribers) of Amazon Prime, who get a year of service thrown in as a limited-time offer. This strategy is the opposite of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, which currently feature cutting-edge specs for a budget $230 price.
Bundling a year of Amazon Prime isn’t the boldest move, but it’s a targeted one that builds long-term value for Amazon; Prime customers get the most out of Amazon and become its best customers. Amazon should continue to offer a substantial discount on Prime to Fire Phone owners.
Temper Dynamic Perspective
The four cameras mounted on the front of the Fire Phone are there to enable Amazon’s 3D-like Dynamic Perspective feature, which not only adjusts the angle at which images are displayed on the screen, but can reveal more information. It’s an innovative idea, but may be too different from the way any other smartphone works. Amazon is opening up Dynamic Perspective to the imagination of developers, but it should always provide alternative ways of accessing information that is revealed by it.
Related: Amazon Fire Phone review
Amazon is also locking itself into keeping Dynamic Perspective around even if customers don’t like it. If apps are built that require it, Amazon will have a tough time removing the feature from future phones.
Make Firefly proactive
Along with Dynamic Perspective, Amazon’s Firefly is another signature feature that the company is opening up to developers. It’s also the one with the closest tie to Amazon’s core business. The more objects one identifies, the more prompts you receives to purchase that object at Amazon. Amazon poses the scenario of seeing a book that someone is reading and wanting to find out more. But Amazon should take more of a cue from Google Now, which the company has cut out of its platform, and be proactive about products that one might need based on one’s schedule and location. If it sees a kid’s birthday coming up on the calendar, Firefly could suggest buying party supplies.
Tap the Turks to outdo Siri
Speaking of agents such as Google Now, One of Amazon’s lesser-known services is Mechanical Turk, a network of humans who can carry out tasks such as voice transcription. The Turk could be put to use in a human-powered Siri-like query engine. Of course, it wouldn’t happen in real-time, but at least one company now has a highly-rated app in the app store offering exactly this service.
Of course, there are privacy concerns if you start to use real people to act like a personal assistant for Fire Phone owners, but there are a lot of neat things the Turks could do.
The Fire Phone is Amazon’s first stab at smartphones. We don’t think it’s about to cut its losses and quit anytime soon. We expect it to iron out a lot of the Fire Phone’s big problems when it announces future devices. Maybe there will be budget Fire Phones, or faster Fire Phones. The sky is the limit. We can’t wait to see what Amazon cooks up next.