Buy N Large Prime

Yesterday, Amazon announced its Fire Phone, a 4.7-inch smartphone running the company’s forked version of Android that can be found on its tablet offerings.

The phone is interesting in and of itself. While the industrial design is a little boring, the inclusion of four cameras to power the device’s unique “Dynamic Perspective” technology that takes a 3-D interface and makes it (probably) useful.

The software is just as interesting. The phone comes with an online cloud service. By owning of the whole stack — cloud services, front-end web services and devices — Amazon is sitting at the big-boy table with Apple and Google. I only expect the company to grow these offerings over the coming years.

There is one thing about the Fire Phone that bothers me, though. It can be used as a portal to Amazon’s online store via Firefly, a service on the phone that lets users take a photo of just about anything.

While Firefly does more than link to Amazon for purchasing, it’s clearly the focus of the service.

Here’s Ben Thompson on the subject:

Amazon has always had a unique relationship to the physical world: from a consumer perspective they’re totally virtual, yet their primary business is things you can actually touch. In that sense something like the Fire phone is perfect for Amazon: it tightly binds the virtual to not only what is on your computer screen, but to what is on your hand, and with Firefly, most of the objects you interact with everyday.

The question, though, is if the Fire phone is perfect for Amazon’s customers. Just because someone loves Amazon doesn’t mean their entire life is about buying things. And while it’s true that Amazon has gone to great lengths to make the Fire Phone compelling as a phone, it’s still an inferior offering as compared to a high-end Android phone or especially an iPhone when it comes to things like apps.

Since the Fire Phone isn’t going to burn down (sorry) any existing market leaders, it’s only fair to assume that Amazon’s main push here is to make it easier to buy things.

As I said on The Prompt this week, I’ve purchased daily-use household goods on Amazon.

I feel weird about it. While buying toothpaste online does nothing to help my local economy, the truth is that I’m not buying it from a mom-and-pop store. My six bucks is going to end up at Amazon or Walgreens, and both are multi-billion dollar companies.

There’s no doubt in my mind that technology like Amazon’s can make life easier. We’re all busy, and if I can save that 45 minute trip to the grocery store, my week could be better for it. We outsource and offload all sorts of responsibilities onto services and other people. Why should shopping be any different?

My sticking point comes from my favorite Pixar film.

While Amazon isn’t killing the planet — and probably won’t send us all to space when Earth is so polluted the human race faces extinction — it’s not hard to imagine a world in which the company’s sheer size and ubiquity make it impossible to avoid. Amazon is already my default when it comes to purchasing all sorts of items. As the company grows, I’m only more likely to use my Prime account more and more often.

All that said, I like Amazon for the most part. I don’t think the company is evil, but I don’t want to be in a chair having everything I need to me delivered to my fingertips automatically.

Buy N Large went from being a mere retailer to being everyone’s “very best friend.” It was a a living, breathing, all-knowing conglomerate designed to help and aid humanity, but ended up entrapping them.

Maybe Amazon making purchasing so easy isn’t what we need.

Hell, we’re halfway to this scenario with our always-on screens.