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Amazon Releases Fire Phone: New Opportunities for App Developers

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Amazon Releases Fire Phone: New Opportunities for App Developers

On July the 18th, Jeff Bezos (CEO) officially announced Amazon’s dive in the highly competitive mobile industry and revealed “Fire”, the etailer’s first smartphone. The Fire Phone’s operating system is actually based on Android but it has its own AppStore. New innovative features could be interesting for app developers. Let’s have a closer look at this newcomer from an app developer’s perspective.

Will the Fire Phone seduce App Developers?

The new Amazon smartphone will help users “see and interact with the world through a whole new lens” says Bezos. Although Fire’s aspect and general functionalities (phone call, text messages, internet browser, camera, etc.) seems to be close to what we know today, this new phone is actually offering two major innovative features that will (or will not?) shape new ways of interacting within mobile devices.

These two breakthrough technologies are Firefly and the Dynamic Perspective. Fire Phone also offers an interactive technical support 24/7 called Mayday. We will see how these could be implemented in the app ecosystem.

Dynamic Perspective

Dynamic Perspective

This technology enables Fire to respond to the way that users view, move or hold the phone. Users will be able to use their head to play games or navigate through their device for example.

It works with four specialized cameras, four infrared LEDs and sensors that will measure facial, body and eyes movement in real time. No need to use glasses or helmets. Depending on the perspective and on the way users are looking at the screen, the display will shift and create new interactions never seen before.

With the Dynamic Perspective SDK, app developers will be able to benefit from this innovative feature and use it in their apps. It’s not hard to picture how immersive games could evolve using head tracking, shortcut gestures and multi-dimensional interface elements for example.

Amazon made it simple for app developers and especially for Android developers. Indeed, a whole set of intuitive API’s and Controls are ready to be implemented within their apps. “Very easy to plug into our device” says Asher Volmer, independent game developer. Therefore, if you already have an Android app, it should be very easy to launch it on the Amazon AppStore. See more about this below.

Firefly: interaction with the real world

Bezos talking about Firefly(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Presented as a key feature, Firefly is a unique technology allowing users to identify – and take action on - things of the real world just by pushing on a dedicated button on their phone.

Thanks to the smartphone’s camera and various sensors, users can “capture” a whole set of various contents: printed texts (magazines, posters, business cards, phone numbers, email addresses, websites, …) ; over 100 million movies, TV episodes and 160 live channels ; Firefly also recognizes music (songs, albums, artists, …) and over 70 million products such as books, CDs, Dvds, games, QR codes and more.

Not only Firefly recognizes all these, it also enables users to actually get information about these and – obviously - to order and buy any of them! Most commonly, customers will end up on Amazon’s website, but it should actually be possible for app developers or owners to customize these actions and redirect objects on any page or content they want.

Indeed, “the Firefly SDK is available starting today so developers can invent new ways to use this advanced technology” continues Bezos. Developers could therefore develop apps recognizing real world objects and include them in their apps. It would actually be a very interesting way of interacting with customers. For example, a music app could enable its users to insert a song they’ve just recognized directly into their library or playlists. A game developer could ask its users to capture a specific object to level-up.

Firefly is actually showing new ways of interactive with real things and could create new mobile behaviors. If it succeeds, the Fire Phone will maybe bring us to shift from Googling everything all the time to a new trend of pushing the magic button and get the info we need.

Amazon has its own AppStore

Amazon AppStore

Fire is based on Android but is running on its own Operating System: Fire OS, 3.5. Android apps are compatible on Fire OS even if Amazon comes equipped with the Amazon AppStore, the one running also on Kindle Fire tablets.

Existing Android or HTML5 apps can actually be implemented very easily on the Amazon AppStore, which is not the case fore iOS apps that would therefore demand more work.

If you want to know if your Android app can run on the Fire Phone, Amazon gives you a fast and easy way to determine your app compatibility. All you need to do is drop your Android APK on this page. Amazon also offers to registered developers extended test results showing how their app looks on the Fire Phone, including carousel, peek and tilt actions, for free.

Unfortunately, it won’t be possible to access apps from the Google Play Store with the Fire Phone. But the Amazon AppStore already includes most of the popular apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Candy Crush, etc. And more should come in time, hopefully.

Amazon announced that its AppStore counts over 240,000 applications. This is quite an impressive debut but it still has way to go to catch up with its competitor – Apple App Store and Google Play Store - counting together over 2 million apps…

Difference is good…but risky

In my opinion, the Fire Phone could seduce app developers as these new technologies could enable them to get closer to their audience and offer something new, unique and exciting. New types of apps and services could emerge thanks to Firefly. But the big question is… will users be seduced by the Fire Phone?

Amazon’s popularity is not to be proven anymore. Indeed, the company counts over 250 million users worldwide and 20 million Prime members. However, does it mean that these users will be ready to change their habits and buy a completely different smartphone? We don’t know that yet.

What we know is that Amazon is trying to bring the smartphone industry a fresh and innovative device. Also, it brings something new and very interesting to the app ecosystem, something that could change our entire mobile habits.

It also seems that the Fire Phone was created to drive more sales. Indeed, with the Firefly technology, Amazon is making it incredibly easy to acquire things instantly. Mobile is actually the dominant research tool as one third of online shoppers use their mobile before they make a purchase. Amazon is certainly hoping to benefit from these increasing trends.

However, people will maybe be reluctant to switch from the phones they already have and leave out all their habits and apps. The smartphone market is already heavily saturated and the Fire Phone will perhaps be just crushed under the others without even getting the chance of being adopted, as it is maybe too different and too restrictive.

Only time will tell if the Fire Phone will kindle and if users and developers will embrace it. Amazon is actually offering solid promotions for app developers to get their attention. Whatever the outcome, Amazon has shown us new possibilities and that’s already a big positive step.

Apps and games have until July 18 to be submitted and approved to be part of the Amazon AppStore. Fire will be available by July 25.

What do you think about the new Fire Phone? Would you consider developing an app with these new technologies? Tell us what you think in the comment section below. 

By Laurie Galazzo