Is Amazon’s New Fire The Ultimate Mom Phone?

Camera-driven shopping, shift-to-tilt, a 4.7-inch display–is this the minivan of the smartphone world?


Amazon, of course, hopes to get its just-released Fire phone in the hands of all consumers, but we think the new device’s feature set might just make it the ultimate phone for busy moms. Unveiled Wednesday after years of speculation, Fire sports a 4.7-inch display, dynamic perspective, one-handed interactions, and Firefly, an optical reader that allows consumers to identify and purchase products with a few simple taps.


Imagine carrying a baby or bag of groceries. Under those circumstances, using both hands to interact with a phone–one to hold it, the other to swipe, tap, and pinch–makes for a clumsy experience. CEO Jeff Bezos says the company experimented with displays ranging in size from 4.3 inches to 5.5 inches, ultimately landing on 4.7 inches because it’s the ideal size for one-handed usage.

Dynamic perspective in Amazon’s maps app.Image: Alice Truong/Fast Company

Fire’s eye-catching dynamic perspective feature, a sensor system that adjusts images and other content based on the tilt of the phone, is another feature that seems ideal for moms on the go. Powered by four front-facing cameras and infrared lights, dynamic perspective allows for a whole range of one-handed features, including auto-scroll and motion-based gestures.

With dynamic perspective, a mom with a baby in tow could scroll a webpage or article simply by tilting the device. She could also browse through a photo gallery on a product listing page by tilting the phone left or right. In addition, the phone’s three-panel layout–which features navigation on the left, the app’s core functionality in the center, and additional context on the right (for example, on the music app, the “delighter,” as Amazon’s Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices, calls it, is synchronized lyrics)–can be accessed via a flick of the wrist. By tilting the phone left or right, Fire will pull up the corresponding panels.

Perhaps most significantly, the phone’s built-in optical reader, Firefly, makes it possible for a busy person to point that camera at a product in real life so Firefly can identify it and find listings for that item online, and then purchase those items from the Amazon store. In fact, there’s a dedicated Firefly button built into the hardware of the phone, on the left side.

It’s clear families have been a key target for Amazon as a company. When it comes to investing in original content, the e-commerce giant hasn’t focused on producing the next House of Cards or Orange is the Next Black, instead placing its bets on children’s programming. Its Amazon Mom program offers its beloved Prime membership with an added perk: 20% off diaper subscriptions. The company’s Kindle Fire tablets come with an optional service called FreeTime Unlimited that puts age-appropriate content in front of kids and lets parents monitor and limit their usage. Even when it launched Prime Music last week, vice president of music Steve Boom emphasized the kid-friendly tracks available on the service. “Young families are a very important part of the Amazon Prime base,” he said then.


Limp said the Fire phone certainly targets Prime members. “Many of those, as you point out, are moms,” he told Fast Company. “We have a whole program called Amazon Mom,” he continued, noting Amazon also runs a comparable program for students. Nonetheless, he said busy moms can benefit from Fire’s features, though he also anticipates it to be popular with the general Prime community as well, as early adopters.

But is Fire really a mom phone? From Limp’s response, it doesn’t sound like Amazon paid special focus to moms, but instead thought more broadly about busy people looking for shortcuts in their everyday lives when designing the Fire phone.

Whether or not Amazon built the Fire with moms in mind, there’s no denying that the mom market is attractive and lucrative to mobile phone makers–and an ideal audience for Amazon’s Firefly tool. According to analytics company Placed, 80% of smartphone-wielding moms use their devices as part of their grocery shopping. A study by AOL, BBDO, and Insights Now found that new moms spend more time on their smartphones than other adults. And 2013 Edison Research findings suggest that moms lead smartphone ownership, with 64% of moms owning one of these devices, vs. only 53% of the rest of the population.

But Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen isn’t sure that moms will flock to Amazon’s new device. “I think it’s necessary to segment the market to deliver what people need,” Nguyen said, but the ultimate question, he noted, is: “Will a busy mom drop her Samsung phone, her iPhone, or whatever she’s using and buy this because it makes her life easier?”

“Maybe–but probably not,” he concluded.

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal