Fire Phone – Review and its Impact on Retail

by | Aug 13, 2014

For an on-the-fly product review – no pun intended – I spent the last 3 days using Amazon’s new Fire Phone and Firefly app. Here’s my experience:

The object recognition capability of the Fire Phone via the Firefly app is quite impressive.  I scanned over 50 items and Firefly detected about half of them correctly. This is expected performance as Amazon claims that Firefly recognizes (only) 100 million items so far (and counting).

Firefly is really good at identifying items by barcodes but not the best (yet) at recognizing items without them. There are items it was able to identify without barcodes like a can of Hunt’s tomatoes or French Vanilla coffee creamer but was only able to identify less omnipresent items when I scanned the barcode.

Even with barcodes, not globally unique, scanning a barcode often resulted in an item being pulled up from Amazon that didn’t match the original item at all.

  • Fire occasionally fails to recognize items correctly. For example, it recognized a Michael Kors bag as a different Michael Kors item and failed to recognize an iPad cover, Apple Magic Mouse, Keurig coffee maker and other objects even though these items are all available to purchase on Amazon.com.

I can undoubtedly envision a Fire Phone user scanning an empty cereal box or shampoo bottle to replenish their stock. Fire makes the process too simple to not take advantage of.

What’s the outlook for the adoption of the phone itself? For consumers who haven’t drunk the Amazon Kool-Aid or are generally satisfied with their iPhone/Android device, the switching cost is too high.

The cost of Fire makes it an unlikely alternative as the phone is as expensive as its competitors.
Fire does provide cool gimmicks like “dynamic perspective” (responds to your coordinates),  a great camera, object-, text- and TV show-recognition and even mayday support to assist less-savvy users. This may not be enough to coax users away from their existing devices.

A shopping channel into Amazon

  • Fire is clearly a “shopping channel” into Amazon which help increase Amazon Prime subscriptions but a little late to the smartphone game. In addition, the tradeoff between conveniences versus Amazon being too-close-for-comfort with the Fire Phone is definitely one that users might consider as a deterrent to buying the phone.
  • The notion of users being able to scan more unique items like a piece of jewelry a friend is wearing, place an order on Amazon and have it fulfilled, though not far-fetched is not a reality yet.

In summary, the Fire Phone release is definitely a great step for Amazon,  but for the consumer, not so much.

Shivani Khanna Stumpf

Director of Product Management at SPS Commerce
Shivani's extensive background in shaping platform business models and her expertise in building networks make her well suited for heading up SPS Commerce’s retail solutions strategies. She is responsible for utilizing cloud technology and graph-based architecture to advance the company’s Retail Business Network for its 65,000 customers. Shivani also directs the ongoing development of mining the $1 trillions of purchase order transactions flowing through the SPS Commerce platform for connected intelligence and insights to drive our customers' business.
Shivani Khanna Stumpf