The new Amazon phone is essentially a buying machine that makes it easier than ever to buy anything from Amazon, a model that's sure to dismay retailers and that won't do you much good at work.
In the first hour and a half of the launch presentation, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spent very little time showing off features that might be useful at work, according to reporters live-blogging the event on sites like the Verge.
The phone runs the Silk browser, which Amazon created for the Kindle Fire. Silk offers a woefully poor experience, making it unreliable for accessing Web apps that users might want for work.
The app store for the new Fire phone is also likely to underrepresent, like the Kindle Fire app store, which sadly lacks many apps that uses want, particularly for work purposes. Amazon will similarly struggle to build up a big enough app store to compete with the giant Apple and Android stores.
But like the Kindle Fire, the new Fire phone has a good chance of bringing in revenue for Amazon, even if it gains only small market share.
"Anytime, anywhere. In one second. Over 100 million items," reads one slide that Amazon displayed during its launch event, as liveblogged by the Verge.
That slide captures the intent of a feature on the new phone called Firefly that recognizes images the camera picks up as well as music and video, and then makes it easy for users to quickly buy the item -- like a book, song, or TV show. Amazon said it recognizes 100 million different items. A dedicated hardware button on the phone launches Firefly.
Retailers can't be happy about this one. Some have already essentially become showrooms for Amazon, where shoppers go to look at a product in person, then order it, usually cheaper, on Amazon. The Firefly button makes that process much easier.
Many rumors predicted that the phone would have a unique technology that displays images in a way that gives them 3-D depth and that nicely displays images even when users are viewing the screen at an angle. Indeed, the Fire phone sports this technology.
It also has the rumored technology that lets users flick the phone to spur certain actions. Tilting the phone, for instance, advances items that a user might be shopping for. Tilting the phone scrolls a Web page or a book.
Like the Kindle Fire tablet, users will have access to a Mayday button that connects them directly with a customer service representative via video for help. The phone is closely tied to Amazon's Prime service, which offers annual subscribers discounts on delivery service as well as streaming video and other services. Users will be able to store an unlimited number of photos in Amazon Cloud.
Some of these features are technological wonders but until phones are in the hands of real users, it's hard to know how useful they might be. The tilt feature in particular has the potential to go badly wrong, if it changes the screen unintentionally.
Plus, the gimmicks aren't likely to set Amazon apart from the market leaders. Amazon enters a crowded market that is dominated by Android and Apple. Big names like Microsoft and BlackBerry have struggled to make much of a dent in competition with those two giants. Amazon has to offer something totally different to stand out. The tilt and 3-D features are different, but not useful enough or game-changing enough to make a big splash.
AT&T will be the exclusive carrier in the U.S. -- another factor that won't help sales. AT&T is big but it's a tough sell to try to convince people on other carriers to switch. It will cost $200 for the low-end model that includes 32 GB and includes a year of Prime membership.
Some people thought the phone might be offered for a very low price or that wireless service attached to it would come for free or very cheap. Amazon is known for pushing very low costs. Plus, such offers would help to set the phone apart from the competition. However, the pricing is in line with other smart phones on the market.