Can the iPhone 6 Beat Amazon’s Kindle Fire?

Steve Jobs on an iPhone

The war is on — which smartphone will win? Or is Apple really trying to fight Amazon’s Kindle Fire? It’s fun to watch two giant tech companies trying to out-do each other by creating even more exciting new gadgets. But at some point you have to ask: which fight are we really watching? Did Apple just release a new phone, or a new tablet?!

But my response would be that it doesn’t matter. I always think of the long-term war between Apple and Microsoft. Actually, I remember the way it was acted out in the movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley”. It ends with Steve Jobs confronting Bill Gates over Microsoft’s plans to take over the market for personal computers. Microsoft succeeded, but I like to think that Steve Jobs personally calculated the strategy that would one day help Apple reclaim the lead.

The storyline looks like this. Steve Jobs knows that computers will get smaller and smaller, and eventually “computing” will be mostly practiced on tiny devices that we’d hold in our hands. So back in 2001, Apple releases their first iPod, and quickly carves out a niche in “fresh territory”. The iPod gets better and better, and within 6 years, Apple adds the ability to make phone calls to their handheld devices — and also the ability to run apps. And what was the iPad, really, but a big iPhone, for running apps on a giant screen?

There’s debate now about whether you can really replace a personal computer with a handheld device, but it’s undeniable that people love owning a tablet. Amazon, of course, has been selling Kindles for the last 7 years, and they introduced their own line of multimedia tablets in 2011. But the Kindle Fire may just have been a defensive move by Amazon — to make sure Apple didn’t lure away everyone who wanted to read ebooks on a handheld device.

And then Amazon launched an offensive move — releasing a smartphone of their own. The Fire Phone was even discounted massively this week, from $199 apiece to just 99 cents (with a two-year service contract). But I’m still wondering if we’re missing the real battle that Amazon is fighting here. The Fire Phone comes with a “Firefly” feature which makes it easy to instantly purchase items (using your Amazon account to automatically handle all the billing). Maybe Amazon isn’t worried about losing customer’s who’d buy ebooks, digital readers, or even handheld tablets.

Maybe Amazon’s worried about losing ground in the war for all commerce — the ability to handle every payment that gets made on a mobile device.

A Fun Video From Amazon

Jeff Bezos introduces the Amazon Fire PhoneAmazon Customer at Fire Phone event

It was a big day in Seattle when the CEO of Amazon stepped forward and announced that in addition to the Kindle, they’d now be producing a smartphone. And he’d wanted to build the excitement — creating a buzz — on the day the new Fire Phone was finally unveiled. So the word went out that some carefully-selected customers of Amazon would be invited to the event. Over 60,000 people applied for an invitation — and Amazon chose 300 of them!

Now you can watch the enthusiastic customers in their own home-made videos, which they’d submitted to Amazon to score their invitation. Amazon included three of them at the very beginning of their Fire Phone event — right before Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took the stage!

For a shortcut to the video, point your browser to

“We’ve got folks from the media, we have developers, and especially exciting for me, we have Amazon customers,” Bezos tells the crowd. (Adding “Give yourself a big round…”) But it was a very smart move, because it guaranteed that when the new product was announced, there would be a big and enthusiastic reaction from the crowd. “I know whatever it is that you’re planning is going to be amazing,” one Amazon customer promised in their introductory video, “and I want to be there in person so I can brag to everyone that I was there, day one, and saw this thing in person!”

That was Adam from Florida, who held up his own Kindle…and then his Kindle Fire. But the videos also drove home an important point: that Amazon was focused on customers, and that real people use the devices that Amazon’s been creating. “I know it’s going to be well thought out,” said another Amazon customer named Jason. “I know it’s going to be well-designed, and most importantly, I know it’s going to put me, the customer first!”

Of course, Amazon’s CEO Bezos knew that he’d be competing with the iPhone now — and with all of the legendary product introductions that Steve Jobs used to make. And the problem is these corporate presentations can seem dry, technical, and ultimately very impersonal. So I have to applaud Amazon for trying to change the tone, and make their event feel more spontaneous, like a gathering of excited people.

“I was born in Seattle,” Jason remembered in his video. “I’ve been here all my life, and it’s been a lot of fun watching Amazon kind of grow and kind of take the world by storm. And I would love nothing more to go to this unveiling…”

“I know the product is going to be awesome!”

Remember, for a shortcut to the video, point your browser to

The Secrets of Amazon’s Firefly Button

The Firefly button Amazon's Fire Phone

It’s hard to believe, because Amazon’s already doing so many things which no company has ever done. But I took a good look at the details about the Firefly service which Amazon is also adding to their tablets, and discovered even more new features to be excited about…

Here’s a link to Amazon’s own FAQ about the Firefly button. But its coolest features are things that you may not even have thought of…

Firefly can Provide Real-Time Trivia For Scenes in a Movie
Amazon’s press release promises something amazing. They’ve watched 245,000 different movies and TV show episodes, and they’re also monitoring 160 different television channels in real-time. And it really works. In a test, a reviewer at Mashable discovered that it didn’t just identify what movie they were watching — it recognized a specific scene, and then acted on that information. Firefly actually reached into the Internet Movie Database, which is somehow integrated now with Amazon’s X-Ray service. The end result is that Firefly can actually share trivia with you about a specific scene in a movie — for example, which actors appear only in this scene.

And according to Amazon’s press release, it can also provide a quick synopsis of the plot — which would be really handle if you’re channel surfing, and landed on the second half of a movie. It can even add TV shows and movies to your watch list — so you can purchase them (from Amazon) and then start watching from the beginning!

Firefly Can Name That Tune
There used to be a game show called “Name That Tune” — but Amazon found a way to cheat. They’ve apparently also analyzed every second of every single popular song, and within a few seconds can match the sound of whatever you’re listening to to its title and artist in their database. (Making it something you can buy from Amazon.)

And you can also even buy concert tickets! When you’re listening to a song, Amazon not only identifies its original artist, but can also look up that performer’s touring schedule, and then offer you tickets to their next local appearance! And it doesn’t end there.

And 70 Million Bar Codes
According to Mashable, Firefly has other superpowers, too. “Thanks to a partnership with My Fitness Pal, I discovered that a box of Nilla Wafers has 120 calories in a serving-size of eight cookies.” That’s because Firefly can actually scan the bar codes on the side of most products you’d buy at a supermarket — and then follow-up with real information that is actually useful and relevant. How many products can Amazon identify? 70 million — so far. That includes DVDs (and music CDs), plus books and video games. But it also includes “household items” (like Nilla Wafers).

And of course, once it’s identified a product, your Fire Phone can also give you a chance to purchase a product… on Amazon!

More Firefly Tricks
If I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of Firefly. If it sees a phone number on a sign, it can bring up your phone to call it. If it sees an e-mail address, it can bring up your mail client to send them a message. If it sees a URL, it can pull up that web page instantly in your browser. And of course, it can also recognized QR codes.

But in the future, Amazon’s Firefly service could get even more amazing. Within the next 6 months, they’re planning to add an upgrade which lets it identify paintings. And by the end of the year, Amazon expects their Firefly service will be able to translate foreign language phrases into English. It will even recognize a bottle of wine by the information on its label!

I’ve been wondering why Amazon chosen the name Firefly, but they seem to be implying there’s an almost magical glow to the information it provides. Their official slogan for Firefly is “Illuminate Your World,” and it looks like they’ve found the holy grail for an online shopping site.

Everything that you love can now make a direct connection to Amazon.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s new smartphone, point your browser to

The Six Biggest Surprises about Amazon’s Fire Phone

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon surprised everyone by announcing a new smart phone last week. “Fire is the only smartphone to put everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand,” read the front page of Amazon, in a special letter written by the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos. Of course, he touted all the obvious advantages of the Fire phone — apps, music, movies and TV shows, plus “exclusive features” like a 3-D interface and some cool new software tricks.

But here’s six of the Fire Phone’s biggest hidden surprises…

32 Gigabytes of Storage
Wait, what? It starts at 32 gigabytes of storage — that’s the minimum. And there’s also 64-gigabyte version. My last Android phone boasted that it could be upgraded “up to 32 gigabytes” — followed by the dreaded disclaimer in parentheses: not included. (I’d have to purchase an additional memory card — sold separately….)

And besides the on-device storage, Amazon’s Fire Phone is offering another even better alternative…

Unlimited Photo Storage in the Cloud
My current smartphone keeps running out of memory — I think every smartphone eventually hits a limit. You can try storing your photos in the cloud, but besides Google’s free storage service, even the iPhone has a 5-gigabyte limit (unless you’re willing to pay extra). But not Amazon’s Fire Phone. “Free, unlimited photo storage definitely sets Amazon apart from Dropbox, Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive,” reports the technology blog Engadget.

Of course, there’s a reason that Amazon’s upping their specs and giving away cool features for free…customers.

No Discount
“Users will pay for all the data they use through AT&T as well as being sucked into the two-year service contract through the carrier,” warned one technology blog. With their Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon offered a much cheaper alternative to the high-end tablets that were being produced by Apple. But Amazon’s smartphone costs the same as the other Android smartphones — not just for the intiail purchase, but also in its monthly servic chrages.
But Amazon did come up one more great interesting incentive…customers.

A Free Year of Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime normally costs you $100 — but it’s free for a year when you buy a Fire Phone. (And if you’re already a Prime member, Amazon will extend your current subscription by another 12 months.) And Prime doesn’t just mean you get free two-day shipping (plus a big discount on one-day shipping). Prime subscribers also get access to Amazon’s library of free digital movies and TV shows (which includes some great classic TV shows like the original Star Trek and The Twilight Zone). And there’s also over 500,000 books now in the “Kindle Owners’ Lending Library”, which lets you borrow one popular ebook each month for free. This month Amazon also announced a new streaming music service which is free to all Prime customers.

A 3-D Interface — and a 2-D Interface
Repeat after me: “Dynamic Perspective” is optional. A site called Digital Trends ran a fascinating article called “5 things we’ve learned from people who have fondled the Fire Phone,” And it found lots of enthusiasm for Amazon’s new three-dimensional interface. In fact, I thought it was a little misleading to summarize it with the headline “Dynamic Perspective might get annoying.” Although I’ll admit that that was my first thought, too.

I mean, while it’s cool to see screensavers with real depth, do you really want to see the time of day in a shifting, three-dimensional perspective? But all my concerns vanished when I also read that if you don’t like it, you can turn it off. So it’s a feature — not a permanent gimmick standing between you and your icons!

Magical Icons
Ah, and about those icons. On the Fire Phone, the e-mail icon doesn’t just sit there waiting for a tap before it checks up your inbox. It will actually gives you real-time information about what’s in your inbox, before you even tap. It’s similar to the “live tiles” innovation that Microsoft tried with Windows 8 (and their Windows Phone), and it’ll be available for lots of other icons that’ll appear on the home screen of the Fire Phone. For example, the web browser’s icon lets you go straight to recently-accessed web sites. And the app for USA Today shows you headlines — based on your own selections of the kind of headlines you’d prefer…

Check out Amazon’s new smartphone at this shortcut:

Amazon Fire Phone