How the Amazon Fire Phone Works

Concerns, Availability and Perks
From the product announcement right up to launch, Amazon was heavily promoting its new smartphone on its main site.
From the product announcement right up to launch, Amazon was heavily promoting its new smartphone on its main site.
© Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis

Concern has been voiced that the Firefly feature of the phone will give Amazon loads of information that may violate users' privacy, possibly including GPS data, photos of objects they're interested in and audio of their daily doings, among other things. Big data is already used by many companies to provide insight into people's shopping habits, and can even be used to discern things like income level and health issues. With most companies, the main goal is to target appropriate ads at people to increase sales. We already provide a ton of information to online retailers anytime we buy from them, and even to physical stores if we use credit, debit or reward cards. Using the Fire phone to research and purchase item could increase, possibly substantially, the amount of information one particular retailer will have on you, depending upon how they use the information.

At least as far as GPS data goes, Amazon says that they do not identify the location of products scanned in Firefly, but do identify location of scanned phone numbers for the purpose of adding area code, if the user has location services turned on. They will also use scanned data to improve product identification.

But if you're already a heavy Amazon shopper or app user (say, you already shop with them, use Kindle and have a Prime membership), or even if you just use the website a lot to look up reviews and prices, the Amazon Fire phone might, at the very least, make your online research, comparison shopping and purchasing experiences even more convenient. This may hurt brick-and-mortar stores more than anyone.

There are some limited time offers that might make the phone attractive, too. At the time of this writing, purchasers get a full year of Amazon's Prime membership for free (currently a $99 value), or a year's extension on their existing Prime membership. Prime gives you free two-day shipping on a large number of products. Prime also gives you access to stream lots of free videos and music, and free checkout of up to one book a month through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Fire users will be able to use Amazon Coins to purchase games and other apps, and make in-app purchases, and for a limited time, the Fire comes with 1,000 coins (worth $10).

Amazon Fire phone was released on July 25, 2014 in the United States. The price is $199 with a 2-year service plan for the 32GB model ($649 without a plan), or $299 with a 2-year service plan for the 64GB model ($749 without a plan). You can also get it from around $27 to $38 per month through AT&T's Next Installment program, depending upon your chosen model and number of monthly installments. Like the iPhone when it was initially released, Amazon's Fire Phone will only available for use with AT&T networks at first.

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