#amazon

Finally got around to reading most of the initial reviews of Amazon’s Fire Phone. Brutal. Really brutal.

Not that I’m surprised. At all.

I just hope Amazon isn’t surprised. Because if they are, they would seem to have a fairly large problem on their hands. That is, they’re completely out of touch with reality — or more importantly, with their customers. No one wants to have to tilt a phone to use it. It’s a gimmick gone rogue. 

As I asked back in April, when the 3D (“Dynamic Perspective”) functionality was still just rumored:

The question you have to ask is: at the end of the day, does such a feature make for a truly better user experience? Or is it just a novelty trying to mask itself as a differentiating feature? Or worse, does it actually make the device harder to use?

Now we know the answer.

nicholosrichter asked:

Regarding the Amazon 3D OS: If navigating around apps and such is done by tilting and moving your phone, and the visuals are influenced by your head movements and so forth, how do you imagine that will affect usability if you are on the move? It's one thing to be standing still, holding your device in the standard "I'm looking at my phone position", it's something else to be walking down the street glancing down at it while dodging other pedestrians. And what about using it while out for a jog?

All good questions that I have to assume Amazon thought of. Maybe there’s a simple toggle to turn the functionality off? Or maybe it uses the accelerometer to automatically do it if you’re walking/running? Or maybe I’m wrong to assume :) We’ll see!

More from Zach Epstein on Amazon’s forthcoming smartphone:

Prime Data could be a special plan tied to Amazon’s smartphones that gives users a certain amount of free access to streaming movies, TV shows, music and other Amazon services over cellular data networks.

I’ve long wondered if it wouldn’t make more sense to think of this Amazon phone as an “Amazon Prime Phone” — and it’s looking like it may be just that. And this make a lot of sense given what Amazon has done with the carriers in the past to subsidize data for the Kindles. 

Zach Epstein with more on Amazon’s forthcoming smartphone and its “3D” technology:

Amazon’s motion sensing and head tracking technology also changes the way users access menus and other features in apps. In fact, we’re told that Amazon’s smartphone apps don’t even have traditional menu buttons. Instead, menus and other functions are accessed by tilting the phone to the right or left. These tilts cause new panels to slide in over the current screen.

So for example, if the user tilts the phone to one side while reading a book in the Kindle app, the phone will open the X-Ray menu, which is a reference tool that provides contextual information relevant to whatever the user might be reading at the time.

A tilt in the messaging app while composing a new message will open up a panel with the phone’s camera roll, allowing users to quickly and easily insert a photo. Tilting the phone to one side while using the weather app reveals the extended forecast.

Again, this reeks of functionality that stems from novelty and differentiation rather than usefulness. But we’ll see. If they can nail this, maybe it will be a new interaction paradigm. My guess is that it will be nearly impossible to nail such interactions, though.

Zach Epstein apparently has some details (and images) of the forthcoming Amazon smartphone:

The device houses an additional four front-facing cameras that work with other sensors to facilitate the software’s 3D effects. One source tells us these four cameras, which are situated in each of the four corners on the face of the phone, are low-power infrared cameras.

The device’s extra cameras are used to track the position of the user’s face and eyes in relation to the phone’s display. This allows Amazon’s software to make constant adjustments to the positioning of on-screen elements, altering the perspective of visuals on the screen.

The result is a 3D experience without the need for 3D glasses or a parallax barrier in front the LCD panel like the solutions used by the Nintendo 3DS portable video game console and HTC’s EVO 3D smartphone from 2011.

While I’m hesitant to say so definitely before seeing it, this reeks of pure novelty. Just as it was with every other “3D” phone before it

The question you have to ask is: at the end of the day, does such a feature make for a truly better user experience? Or is it just a novelty trying to mask itself as a differentiating feature? Or worse, does it actually make the device harder to use?

Yes, the iPhone has a “parallax” effect with iOS 7. But Apple doesn’t shy away from it being purely ornamental. And, by the way, a lot of people hate that feature.

The Amazon Phone need only be an Amazon Prime Phone, not some weird, novelty-laden thing.

Jeff Bezos in his annual shareholder letter:

Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. When this process works, it means our failures are relatively small in size (most experiments can start small), and when we hit on something that is really working for customers, we double-down on it with hopes to turn it into an even bigger success. However, it’s not always as clean as that. Inventing is messy, and over time, it’s certain that we’ll fail at some big bets too.

Always a good read.