Oh, Come On


The Internet–or at least that part of it that isn’t running around screaming because it just realized it’s April 15, and its taxes aren’t done–is agog with the latest “OMG, Amazon is working on a smartphone” rumor. Remember that these rumors have been around since around 4004 B.C. and that every time the rumors have peaked, Amazon has released something that’s not a phone with the most recent example being Fire TV.

The excitement this time is over some leaked photos and specs courtesy of BGR. I’ve yet to see a totally accurate leak, but just for grins, let’s assume they’ve got it totally correct. What does Amazon have in store for us?

Start with a screen slightly smaller than the current market leaders at 4.7 inches. Give it a 720p resolution instead of the 1080p found on those market leaders. Add Amazon’s usual “highly customized” version of Android that lacks significant chunks of the Google infrastructure in favor of Amazon’s own versions. This isn’t sounding too appealing yet, is it?

What if I tell you it’s got a brand new interface? Apparently so. Amazon’s not going to give you a stock Google/Android UI, and they’re not going to give you their standard “Fire” interface, either. No, they’ve got an exciting new 3D (or rather, 3D-like) UI. Picture the famous “parallax effect” of iOS 7, where tipping the phone from side to side makes the home screen icons shift relative to the wallpaper, giving a 3D effect. Got it? Now extend the metaphor: tipping the phone lets you see the sides of the icons! But wait, there’s more: the same effect is used in apps too! Angle the phone and you can see the sides of products in the store. So much simpler and more intuitive than sliding a finger across the screen, don’t you think?

It gets even better: Apple uses the phone’s accelerometer to figure out how you’re tipping it. Amazon is including four infrared cameras on the front of the phone to track the phone’s orientation relative to your face to allow greater accuracy and more degrees of freedom of movement.

I can tell you’re all wetting your drawers in anticipation. But wait, you haven’t heard the best part. According to BGR, this is Amazon’s premium offering and will come at a premium price, up there with the iPhone 5s, Galaxy S5, and HTC One. A “second, lower-cost” phone will come later.

Excuse me while I take a nap. I could see the potential value in the Fire TV, but I can’t see any real user value in a phone like this. Value for Amazon, sure: it’s another way to lock users into their infrastructure. But value for the user? Nope. Let’s hope this thing crashes and burns quickly.