Amazon Fire Phone and the Merits of Having Barriers
The Amazon Fire phone came out last week with great fanfare. Besides its nifty dynamic perspective capabilities, the Fire features the Firefly technology, which, depending on your perspective, is a great blessing or a major curse. Firefly has some beneficial or benign applications: you can take a snapshot of printed material with a phone number, email or web address; Firefly will allow you to call/email/visit or log the contact info into your phone with the press of a few buttons. You can take a picture of a famous piece of art and it’ll pull up its history. The technology holds the promise (or threat) of never having an unanswered question again.
But there are other things you can do with Firefly: via its various sensors (photographic, microphone, text) it’ll recognize movies, music and over 70 million products, all of which can be added to your Watchlist, Playlist, Wishlist or shopping cart. For example, take a picture of that copy of Ulysses by James Joyce at your friend’s place and you can buy it on the spot; let Firefly hear that snippet of James Brown’s “Living in America” and you can buy the MP3…and so on. We’d imagine some time in the not-too-distant future that the technology could advance far enough that you could take a pic of someone’s outfit and order everything he or she is wearing.
Of course, you’re not adding these things to just any watch or wish list, or just any shopping cart–you are adding it to your Amazon lists; you are, if Jeff Bezos has his way, buying stuff from Amazon. And there’s very little to stop you from walking into a Best Buy or any other retailer, snapping pics of all the stuff you want, then buying them for less on Amazon. We’re not lawyers here, so we won’t pretend to understand monopolies and antitrust laws, but it seems like Amazon is trying to lay the groundwork for a world where we can bypass all forms of non-Amazon shopping.
But leaving aside the Firefly’s benign applications and ethics, we wonder whether the removal of barriers to shopping is a good or bad thing? On the one hand, Firefly seems like an amazing way of streamlining our lives. No longer would we run out of toothpaste–just snap the barcode when we notice our tube running low and wait a couple days for a new one to arrive in the mail. This has a great appeal to this author who has an acute distaste for most forms of shopping. In fact, I buy most everything I can from Amazon as it is.
On the other hand, the opportunity for impulse buying would seem to increase dramatically. We could buy a pair of sneakers or Star Wars Darth Maul Fx Lightsaber with nary a thought of whether we need these things or not. And while I don’t like running out of toothpaste, sometimes going to the drug store and getting out of the house and running into a friend is not the worst thing I to do.
The other day, we reviewed the TINY documentary, which, as many pointed out in our comments, might not have been the most authoritative guide to small living. But the movie did, at least to my mind, show the benefits of developing a connection with out stuff. While shopping is a pretty superficial connection to the processes that bring stuff into our lives, it is some connection. Might the ability to buy stuff by taking a pic and pressing a button further erode that connection? It’s a world where humans don’t make stuff, they don’t even sell stuff–the world Firefly might presage is one where stuff comes from our phones and UPS.
Then again, maybe shopping in the physical space will one day be an archaic act–one that few of us will miss.
What do you think? Do you think the removal of barriers to purchasing a good or bad or neutral thing? Have you use Firefly? Let us know what you think in our comments section.
Image via Nextweb