Will Amazon Set The Mobile Market On Fire?

Christopher Mims thinks not:

The central problems with the Fire, the factors that will kill its sales as surely as they have held Windows Phone to single digit market share in North America, are these:

1. People are loath to switch from the phones they already have, and in the process abandon all the apps and media they’ve bought.

2. The North American market for smartphones–and especially the market for high-end smartphones like the Fire – is heavily saturated, which means there are hardly any new users out there who might adopt the Fire as their first phone.

3. Fire can’t access the existing pool of Android apps. It’s missing critical ones like Uber (Bezos says it’s coming) and Snapchat (no word on when it will appear).

Yglesias worries that the new Fire Phone is too high-end for its own good:

Jeff Bezos’ company has a unique opportunity to come into the smartphone space with a strategy that’s not symmetrical to what other people are doing. Amazon’s phone is first and foremost a physical extension of Amazon-the-store. That argues for a strategy built around a cheap, zero-margin phone that aims to undercut the existing market leaders.

Instead, Amazon seems to be trying to beat the market leaders by adding a bunch of snazzy 3D features to what we’ve come to expect from a high-end smartphone. They’ve even gone out of their way to slightly exceed iPhone 5S specs as far as I can tell. The only price edge Amazon is offering is one year’s worth of Prime membership for free. But this, too, seems backwards. Rather than making Prime a benefit of phone ownership, why not make a cheap phone a benefit of Prime membership?

Manjoo concurs:

For Amazon, a company whose previous devices have had innovative pricing plans that often involved selling devices at cost, the Fire phone’s uninspired price tag is a surprising disappointment. The world needed a great, cheap smartphone.

But Vauhini Vara is tickled by some of the high-end features:

[I]t can do a bunch of charming tricks that are, in fact, like something out of a futuristic “Dick Tracy.” It can change the perspective in games in response to your head movements, make images appear almost as if they were in 3-D (though it isn’t actually 3-D, as some had predicted it would be), and scroll through the content on a Web page – say, a newspaper article – when you tilt it. … People seem to be finding its phone’s newfangled features pretty cool – cool enough, maybe, to get them to switch over from the iPhones and Samsung Galaxies that, after all, haven’t offered much in the way of new whiz-bang gadgetry over the past couple of years.

And Timothy B. Lee believes Amazon made one shrewd move:

The Fire Phone includes an app called Firefly that helps users identify things they point their cameras at, from books to paintings. For some items, Firefly will present useful information, like the Wikipedia page for a famous painting. If it’s an item Amazon sells, Firefly will let you click to buy it.

This should terrify brick and mortar retailers. They have long worried about “showrooming,” the practice where customers will find a product in a physical store (like Best Buy or Home Depot) but then order it from Amazon where the price is lower. Showrooming isn’t new – journalists have been writing trend pieces about it for years. But Firefly promises to make the process effortless.