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Amazon Fire: M-Commerce Assumes a New Form Factor


I don’t mean for this column to become a running commentary on the latest goings-on at, but there’s no escaping the fact that after two decades, the e-commerce pioneer remains at the forefront of digital commerce innovation. One area where Amazon has particularly excelled is at creating new form factors for consuming its content and buying its goods, and the recent release of the Amazon Fire smartphone is the latest example.

Oh sure, Amazon Fire offers leading-edge display and sound features that should make it a competitor in the smartphone market regardless of its serviceability as a mobile commerce tool. However, Amazon is not releasing Fire to become the next Apple or Samsung. Much like the Kindle tablet, the Fire smartphone’s true purpose is to ease access to the Amazon digital marketplace from as many customer touch-points as possible.

Here are three key Amazon Fire features that specifically serve as mobile extensions of the e-commerce site.


Most significantly, a feature known as Firefly can recognize 100 million items, including physical objects such as CDs and books, as well as barcodes and QR codes, and even the sound of a song through the phone’s built-in microphone. Firefly can also recognize digital content such as TV shows and movies.

Conveniently, the phone includes a dedicated Firefly button that lets users instantly create shopping lists of goods and content identified by Firefly, as well as make instant purchases via In addition, Firefly can perform helpful services such as pulling up a Wikipedia entry on an image of a piece of art and recognizing phone numbers and street signs.

But clearly, Firefly is designed to turn both the physical and digital environment of the Amazon Fire user into an extension of the Amazon marketplace. This is a brilliant move on Amazon’s part, and builds dramatically on the promise of its recently released Amazon Dash mobile ordering device. The impact Firefly will have on other retailers remains to be seen (bold prediction: it won’t be favorable to Amazon’s competitors).

Prime Integration

Amazon Fire fully supports all Amazon Prime offerings such as Prime Music and Prime Video, as well as the Kindle Newsstand app for buying electronic publications. This is more of a predictable move and far less disruptive than Firefly, but nonetheless another sign that Amazon is seeking to “Amazonify” the m-commerce space as much as it can. Amazon Prime has about 20 million members who make a nice initial user base to target and may help speed up the spread of Amazon Fire in the smartphone market.

3-D Interface

One of Amazon Fire’s many “cool” features is a 3-D interface with a head-tracking system that uses four cameras with a rolling shutter to provide a continually changing 3-D view as the user tilts the phone in different directions. This feature has broad appeal beyond mobile shoppers, but it’s no accident that during the Amazon Fire public launch event, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos demonstrated an app that allowed the user to sort through dresses as if they were in an actual 3-D space.

The more real a customer experience Amazon Fire can deliver, the more utility it will have as a mobile commerce tool. Unlike most other mobile commerce tools, Amazon Fire steers consumers to one particular destination.

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