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Review roundup: Fire Phone is good for Amazon, but doesn't stack up to competitors

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
As e-commerce behemoth Amazon gears up for the release of its first-ever smartphone on Friday, technology journalists have begun to weigh in with their thoughts on the device -- and the returns don't look good for Jeff Bezos's brainchild.




Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times



Calling the Fire Phone a "solid device beneath a layer of whiz-bang frippery," Manjoo chides Amazon spending too much time on fanciful features like the head-tracking Dynamic Perspective system, which he argues "rarely makes for a substantive improvement" in daily usage. He goes so far as to call one of Dynamic Perspective's headline use cases -- Auto Scroll, which scrolls the content of the display based on the angle at which the user holds the phone -- "downright annoying," saying that the "best thing about Auto Scroll is that you can turn it off."

The highly-touted Firefly image and audio recognition functionality works well, he says, but currently serves little purpose other than directing users to Amazon's storefront.

Manjoo also took aim at the hardware itself, saying that it "looks more like a minimalist prototype than a finished product." He did laud Amazon's choice to deliver 32 gigabytes of internal storage for the same price as competitors' 16-gigabyte offerings, however.

Most of Manjoo's praise was reserved for Amazon's Fire OS, which also powers the Kindle Fire line of tablets. The app carousel and Mayday help features alone might make the Fire Phone a favorite of non-techies, he says, if they can get past the "gimmicks" and "3-D heroics."

Walt Mossberg of Re/Code



The Fire Phone is "no more than an interesting first step" toward altering the iPhone-defined touch interaction paradigm, Mossberg writes. While echoing others' sentiments -- calling the handset's standout features "less useful than I expected, and sometimes outright frustrating" -- his main points of contention are the Fire Phone's exclusivity to wireless provider AT&T and a lack of features offered by competitors.

Amazon is likely to keep the Fire Phone as an AT&T exclusive for a significant period of time, Mossberg says, which he believes will turn off the large portion of consumers who dislike the carrier no matter their opinion on the device. He also found AT&T's network data speed lacking, a potentially limiting factor for a handset that depends on the cloud for so much of its functionality.

In addition, widely-implemented features including Bluetooth Low Energy support and biometrics -- similar to Apple's celebrated Touch ID sensor -- from other devices are nowhere to be found. Mossberg also misses the app selection of iOS and Android, specifically citing the lack of an official YouTube app for Fire OS as an example of that key difference.

In order "to top Apple and Samsung," Mossberg concludes, "Amazon needs to do better."

Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal



Amazon's entry is "full of gimmicks" and "lacking basics," Fowler wrote, comparing the device to "the grown-up equivalent of a 9-year-old riding a bike with his hands in the air." While others focused mainly on the Fire Phone's software, Fowler primarily took its hardware to task.

The Fire Phone's camera, Fowler says, is subpar compared to the iPhone 5s. Low-light shots "lacked the detail and natural color I could pick up with the iPhone."

Battery life was also disappointing, with Fowler reporting a drained unit after only "three-quarters of a day's" use. The Fire Phone lasted 25% less time on battery than an iPhone in Fowler's test and 16% less than a Samsung unit with a larger display.

Others



Ed Baig of USA Today liked the Fire Phone in general, saying it has a "lovely screen," and praised Amazon's inclusion of unlimited cloud hosting for photos. The learning curve is steep, however, and he wished for additional carrier support.

Andrew Cunningham of Ars Technica called Firefly "genuinely cool," but agreed with most others that Dynamic Perspective is "neat technology with few practical uses." The lack of compatibility with the iTunes or Google Play ecosystem is a killer, he feels.

David Pierce of The Verge enjoyed the Fire Phone's camera and battery, but panned the "confusing, complex interface."
post #2 of 41
It says much about what a Great Leap Forward the iPhone was that so early in its evolution that competitors can do little to top it beyond gimmicks and larger screens.
A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
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A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
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post #3 of 41
"Start with the customer experience, work backward to the technology."

Amazon did the reverse of that, and it shows. Big time.

Too many Apple products to list...Long on AAPL, so take what I say with a bucket of salt.

You are only relevant...if your customers love you.

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Too many Apple products to list...Long on AAPL, so take what I say with a bucket of salt.

You are only relevant...if your customers love you.

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post #4 of 41
Why does AI editorialize on other people's editorials? Do you consider AI reader's too stupid to comprehend quotes from an outside review without AI's interpretation and intervention? Why not put pertinent quotes in context and provide actual links to the article? Isn't AI embarrassed to craft such an obvious hit piece? I don't know if the Fire phone is good or not but AI's hit piece certainly isn't credible.
post #5 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by MJ Web View Post

Why does AI editorialize on other people's editorials? Do you consider AI reader's too stupid to comprehend quotes from an outside review without AI's interpretation and intervention? Why not put pertinent quotes in context and provide actual links to the article? Isn't AI embarrassed to craft such an obvious hit piece? I don't know if the Fire phone is good or not but AI's hit piece certainly isn't credible.

 

I personally enjoy this sort of summary.  It keeps me from needing to read 18 different reviews, and instead I can read one piece in a few minutes.

post #6 of 41

DOA. 

 

Another one for the dust-heap...

post #7 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Another one for the dust-heap...

Right after we give it it's "iPhone Killer" stamp...

1wink.gif
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Smoke me a kipper. I'll be back for breakfast.
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post #8 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by MJ Web View Post

Why does AI editorialize on other people's editorials? Do you consider AI reader's too stupid to comprehend quotes from an outside review without AI's interpretation and intervention? Why not put pertinent quotes in context and provide actual links to the article? Isn't AI embarrassed to craft such an obvious hit piece? I don't know if the Fire phone is good or not but AI's hit piece certainly isn't credible.

 

Where is the editorializing? Each of them has a link to the source article, as far as I can see, and from a casual skimming of the others it seems to be a simple summary.

post #9 of 41

What a crap phone! And it is rightfully getting bad reviews in most places that I've seen.

 

Who the hell wants a phone designed to generate sales of Amazon's goods? Amazon should be paying people to use it, and not the other way around.

 

It's also Android, which is complete crap, and even worse, it's a skinned version of Android, which is even more crap.

 

And what's up with all of those gimmicky cameras that serve no useful purpose?

 

This phone will not sell well and only a few morons will buy it.

post #10 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post


Right after we give it it's "iPhone Killer" stamp...

1wink.gif

Agreed. I am waiting for the stories to be written about how the Fire phone is going to force Apple back to the drawing board to rethink the iPhone. /s

post #11 of 41
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

[...] "solid device beneath a layer of whiz-bang frippery" [...]

[...] "confusing, complex interface" [...]

 

Some features and details of Apple products really felt like semi-bad ideas that Steve Jobs loved and insisted on.

Brushed-aluminum skins on OS X, the infamous "hockey puck" iMac mouse, the dead-end skeuomorphism of old iOS, etc.

The company eventually got rid of all of those features and details, all for the better.

 

But Amazon had better clean up the GUI of the Fire Phone ASAP.  The thing reeks of Bezos' pet project ideas.

Too gimmicky for a professional designer to have approved.

Sent from my iPhone Simulator

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Sent from my iPhone Simulator

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post #12 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

It says much about what a Great Leap Forward the iPhone was that so early in its evolution that competitors can do little to top it beyond gimmicks and larger screens.

I prefer to think that after 3 generations

 

Iphone

Iphone 4

Iphone 5s

 

the smartphone market is pretty much matured.  There is a sweet spot that Apple has firmly entrenched as the Zeroth Tier.  There are first tier variants primarily on size, and 2nd tier variants on function and price.    If the functions aren't perfect, and align with human expectations, it's a tough row to hoe.  

 

There will be no iPhone Killer... The thing that kills the iPhone will be something that supplants the AppStore and ITMS, sucking the life from the iPhone from behind the scenes. 

 

Amazon is the likely candidate to make such a phone... and pretty much no one else (maybe microsoft.... maybe... Facebook - no.  Google - no.)

But this is strike one.  But given Amazon's contrarian management, I'm pretty sure they get 4 strikes and 5 outs before their inning is over

post #13 of 41

Amazon is a genius at what they do: Keeping people in their ecosystem/sales channel.  But personally, I think the only way this phone would be competitive is if Amazon were to offer free data/service.  

 

That would be a game changer, at least in the lower end of the market.

post #14 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by MJ Web View Post

Why does AI editorialize on other people's editorials? Do you consider AI reader's too stupid to comprehend quotes from an outside review without AI's interpretation and intervention? Why not put pertinent quotes in context and provide actual links to the article? Isn't AI embarrassed to craft such an obvious hit piece? I don't know if the Fire phone is good or not but AI's hit piece certainly isn't credible.

What else are they going to post?
Lester Victor Marks hasn't gotten around to writing his rave review of the Fire Phone yet. 1wink.gif

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #15 of 41
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Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

What a crap phone! And it is rightfully getting bad reviews in most places that I've seen.

Who the hell wants a phone designed to generate sales of Amazon's goods? Amazon should be paying people to use it, and not the other way around.

It's also Android, which is complete crap, and even worse, it's a skinned version of Android, which is even more crap.

And what's up with all of those gimmicky cameras that serve no useful purpose?

This phone will not sell well and only a few morons will buy it.

In spite of its major faults, I think it will sell quite well just as the Kindle apparently has. And for the millions who do constantly buy from Amazon, they won't care that it points them there.

I'm actually a little surprised that Amazon used Android and didn't attempt to develop their own OS. Not that it would have been better.
post #16 of 41
I believe amazon knew this phone would not take off in success. They are banking a phone that will rely on developers porting over apps from play-service apps to basic android apps. They also are not going to have any of the google apps on their platform something that many people take for granted but the YouTube, maps, gmail, and search apps are in the top 100 on both apple and google appstore. They should have priced items a budget phone built up a more stable ecosystem then work their way to high end from their. I feel bad for anyone who buys this phone as I see majority of app developers abandoning the platform in less then a year.


I personally think this article nitpicks several reviews only to give you the bad information.
post #17 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post
 

Who the hell wants a phone designed to generate sales of Amazon's goods?

 

The same type of fool who wants a phone designed to generate sales of Google advertising via continuous sifting of their personal data?

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FEAR GOOGLE
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post #18 of 41
The fire phones "gimmicks" are part of an orchestrated strategy for amazon.

1. Firefly: its purpose is obvious, and exactly what Amazon needs. Google searching isn't guaranteed to return Amazon page results unless Amazon advertises for many keywords; this solves that, and tries to create a new user behavior that allows Amazon to short circuit product search behavior before it reaches the Web browser. From a business perspective, that's clever, and some of this capability is built in to Amazon's iOS app as well (product identification from camera picture).

2. The fake 3D eye tracking tech. Neat but not essential. This was the headliner, the hook, the carnival barker shouting "see the amazing three-breasted woman!" This feature was possibly intended to draw in the press and public to sit up and take notice of what is otherwise a ho-hum iPhone clone. It is probably as "essential" (read: non-essential) as 3D on the Nintendo 3DS or Kinect on the Xbox One.

I expect iteration will make the weaknesses in Amazon's first phone history in future releases, but if these are Amazon's best ideas, then well...good luck against everyone else making smartphones.

Both gimmicks are necessary to get noticed in the crowded field of "me too" iPhone clones, so it doesn't surprise me that they launched with these two main features.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #19 of 41
The Fire Phone lasted 25% less time on battery than an iPhone in Fowler's test and 16% less than a Samsung unit with a larger display.

But I thought Samsung battery life was great and iPhones were wall huggers? /s
post #20 of 41

Depending upon how the test was conducted, the battery life relationships between the Fire Phone and an iPhone and the Fire Phone and a Samsung might have little to do with the relationship between the Samsung and the iPhone, even though one might surmise from the test that there's only a 9% difference.    But even that 9% difference, if that's accurate, could mean 97 minutes difference in an 18-hour day.    That isn't a minor difference.   

post #21 of 41

Apple needs to worry when all of their competitors figure out that it's all about ease of use and the UX.

 

At the rate they're going, Apple has nothing to worry about.

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post #22 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

Depending upon how the test was conducted, the battery life relationships between the Fire Phone and an iPhone and the Fire Phone and a Samsung might have little to do with the relationship between the Samsung and the iPhone, even though one might surmise from the test that there's only a 9% difference.    But even that 9% difference, if that's accurate, could mean 97 minutes difference in an 18-hour day.    That isn't a minor difference.   

If the firephone's battery life was 25% less than the iPhone but only 19% less than the Samsung this means the iPhone has a better battery life than the Samsung. This is the opposite of what their adverts are saying.
post #23 of 41
"Start with the customer experience, work backward to the technology." (Said Whit Falcon)

I agree. Too bad Mr Ive does not agree.
SkyKing
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SkyKing
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post #24 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

He goes so far as to call one of Dynamic Perspective's headline use cases -- Auto Scroll, which scrolls the content of the display based on the angle at which the user holds the phone -- "downright annoying," saying that the "best thing about Auto Scroll is that you can turn it off."

We'll, duh! Anyone who has ever thought about how they use a smartphone would instantly realize this "feature" is totally ridiculous. People constantly and unconsciously move their phones around when they use them. Did Amazon even try this thing out before they shipped it?
Quote:
The highly-touted Firefly image and audio recognition functionality works well, he says, but currently serves little purpose other than directing users to Amazon's storefront.

Did the reviewer actually expect Amazon to include a feature for the convenience of the user? The sole propose of this phone is to direct users to the Amazon storefront.
post #25 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post
 

Depending upon how the test was conducted, the battery life relationships between the Fire Phone and an iPhone and the Fire Phone and a Samsung might have little to do with the relationship between the Samsung and the iPhone, even though one might surmise from the test that there's only a 9% difference.    But even that 9% difference, if that's accurate, could mean 97 minutes difference in an 18-hour day.    That isn't a minor difference.   

Yeah, I'm not sure if this was a shot at Apple or Samsung but what he's reporting is that Apple's battery life is better. Also, if you're talking about 18 hours of phone time, a 9% difference is barely on a consumer's radar. There will be tons of opportunities to charge your phone in 18 hours...

post #26 of 41
"This phone will not sell well and only a few morons will buy it."

Unfortunately the world is full of morons, well at least they provide comedy to laugh at.

"never underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools"

Originally by Rickers - 2014 : Cook & will bury Apple.  They can only ride Steve's ghost so long.



 Originally Posted by  thataveragejoe :  Next week  Korea Times, "I'm gay too"-Samsung



 



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Originally by Rickers - 2014 : Cook & will bury Apple.  They can only ride Steve's ghost so long.



 Originally Posted by  thataveragejoe :  Next week  Korea Times, "I'm gay too"-Samsung



 



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post #27 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by iaeen View Post


We'll, duh! Anyone who has ever thought about how they use a smartphone would instantly realize this "feature" is totally ridiculous. People constantly and unconsciously move their phones around when they use them. Did Amazon even try this thing out before they shipped it?
Did the reviewer actually expect Amazon to include a feature for the convenience of the user? The sole propose of this phone is to direct users to the Amazon storefront.

I believe the term you are looking for is "lipstick on a pig"

Originally by Rickers - 2014 : Cook & will bury Apple.  They can only ride Steve's ghost so long.



 Originally Posted by  thataveragejoe :  Next week  Korea Times, "I'm gay too"-Samsung



 



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Originally by Rickers - 2014 : Cook & will bury Apple.  They can only ride Steve's ghost so long.



 Originally Posted by  thataveragejoe :  Next week  Korea Times, "I'm gay too"-Samsung



 



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post #28 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crosslad View Post



If the firephone's battery life was 25% less than the iPhone but only 19% less than the Samsung this means the iPhone has a better battery life than the Samsung. This is the opposite of what their adverts are saying.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crosslad View Post



That's what is implied by the ads, but if you watch them closely what they really say is that you get more battery life if you put the phone into power saving mode, which from what I've read, offers almost no functionality and turns the screen to black & white. You can do almost the same thing on an iPhone by turning off location services and Bluetooth (and avoiding making phone calls).

Nonetheless, Samsung's hits at both the iPhone and iPhone users do ring (sic) true with a lot of people and I'd concede that while they're lowbrow, they're very effective ads. That of course doesn't mean that Samsung can ever make a profit on their phones or get past the disadvantages of Android, but that's a different story.

Meanwhile, I personally believe that users are more concerned about battery life than thinness, but Apple continually pushes form over function. Frankly, I'd love it if my iPhone had an easily replaceable battery in spite of the fact that it might mean a "line" in the back of the case and one of the things I love about my late-2008 Mac Book Pro is that I can easily swap out the battery, add memory, replace the hard drive (which I've done twice) and even replace the optical drive. I don't see Apple taking away that flexibility (and the optical drive) as a positive. I think Apple really has a blind spot in this regard and it's one of the reasons I haven't replaced the machine and will continue to use this MBP as long as possible. It's not like you can walk into Apple and have them switch the battery out or put in a larger hard (or solid state) drive while you wait. They want to keep the machine for several days and there are the obvious security issues. That's not practical for most people, especially if the machine is used for business.
post #29 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sky King View Post

"Start with the customer experience, work backward to the technology." (Said Whit Falcon)

I agree. Too bad Mr Ive does not agree.

 

How do you figure Mr. Ive does not agree?

He regularly talks about the fact that technology in itself is not an end, but a means to an end - it's a tool you use to build a user experience, with the user experience being centrally important.

 

The products themselves then evidence that philosophy. I'm not seeing the disconnect.

post #30 of 41

When I watched the intro video, I wondered how that auto scrolling feature was going to work. In daily use, would it be a nuisance or a godsend? I felt that it might be something that sounds wonderful but in reality, quite annoying. What angle is the phone at while clicking on an article...does the article start scrolling immediately? And how fast/slow?

 

This is the kind of issue that should never see the light of day. It's like trying to install an app on your iPhone and move it into a folder on another screen. Whoever decided on that interface should be boiled in the tears of users....

 

10 phones could be given to smart friends of Bezos and within 7 minutes, the most annoying 'features' of the interface would be sussed out.

 

It's the final R&D and one that is not used enough.

post #31 of 41

Yeah, what company would sell devices that are meant to lock you into an ecosystem that is not easily portable to other vendors.   Oh, that's right,  Apple comes to mind.  ;) 

post #32 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

DOA. 

Another one for the dust-heap...
Amazon is in a much different position than other handset makers. It has content and cloud storage. They have a legitimate business position to sell phones. I think they made a mistake by incorporating too much tech in the first iteration. They should have focused on the camera and cloud storage and rolled out the high tech stuff after they started to build a reputation and had some developers. They also should have made the hardware improvements something that app developers could use.
post #33 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by ash471 View Post


Amazon is in a much different position than other handset makers. It has content and cloud storage. They have a legitimate business position to sell phones. I think they made a mistake by incorporating too much tech in the first iteration. They should have focused on the camera and cloud storage and rolled out the high tech stuff after they started to build a reputation and had some developers. They also should have made the hardware improvements something that app developers could use.

 

Yeah, I agree. They might have pushed a bit hard for glit on v1,  but the ecosystem is definitely there. Kindle does just fine. An amazon phone would be my second choice.

post #34 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by bugsnw View Post
 

 

Yeah, I agree. They might have pushed a bit hard for glit on v1,  but the ecosystem is definitely there. Kindle does just fine. An amazon phone would be my second choice.

 

Amazon is a loser when it comes to HW.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  That's their entire business plan.  They make cheap crap that only digs into their sales system.  And I say this as someone who probably has spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 at Amazon.  So I am NOT anti-Amazon.

 

But let's not pretend that their HW is anything but junk that is sold at a loss.  That's what it is.  

post #35 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post
 

Who the hell wants a phone designed to generate sales of Amazon's goods? 

 

How is it any different from iPhones being designed to generate sales on Apple's various storefronts, or an Android phone being designed to direct traffic to Google's search portals?

 

Everyone's trying to lock you into an ecosystem. 

post #36 of 41
Originally Posted by Euphonious View Post
How is it any different from iPhones being designed to generate sales on Apples various storefronts...

 

Because the iPhone isn’t designed to do this.

post #37 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Euphonious View Post

How is it any different from iPhones being designed to generate sales on Apple's various storefronts, or an Android phone being designed to direct traffic to Google's search portals?

Everyone's trying to lock you into an ecosystem. 

Apple created the iTunes Store because iPod owners wanted a place to buy digital music. They created the App Store because iPhone users demanded it. They created the iBook store to provide people who wanted to read on iPads with another venue to purchase books. Apple creates stores to enhance the iOS experience; this is the exact opposite of what Amazon is doing.
post #38 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobJohnson View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by MJ Web View Post

Why does AI editorialize on other people's editorials? Do you consider AI reader's too stupid to comprehend quotes from an outside review without AI's interpretation and intervention? Why not put pertinent quotes in context and provide actual links to the article? Isn't AI embarrassed to craft such an obvious hit piece? I don't know if the Fire phone is good or not but AI's hit piece certainly isn't credible.

Where is the editorializing? Each of them has a link to the source article, as far as I can see, and from a casual skimming of the others it seems to be a simple summary.

If you can't see the editorialising, then it's worked. Bit like technology.
"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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post #39 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sky King View Post

"Start with the customer experience, work backward to the technology." (Said Whit Falcon)

I agree. Too bad Mr Ive does not agree.

You mean Sir Jonathan Ive. And you're wrong; he does agree.
"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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post #40 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Euphonious View Post
 

 

How is it any different from iPhones being designed to generate sales on Apple's various storefronts, or an Android phone being designed to direct traffic to Google's search portals?

 

Everyone's trying to lock you into an ecosystem. 

 

As others have pointed out, that was not the point of the iPhone.  The fact that the App Store opened in July 2008, more than a year AFTER the iPhone was released should be a fairly clear piece of evidence.

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