The Washington Post

The Fire phone is Amazon’s latest broadside against brick-and-mortar retailers

If there's one standout feature of Amazon's new Fire phone, it's the Shazam for everything. The phone can recognize not just music and QR codes, but also movies, TV shows, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and oh, yeah — all the millions of products that Amazon sells from its Web site.

(If you, like many of us, thought the killer feature was going to be some kind of 3D holographic awesomeness, stand down. The Fire phone has some 3D capabilities — for instance, you'll be able to physically look around digital corners in video games — but the holograms will have to come later.)

If the device takes off — which is still a big if — it could be bad news for brick-and-mortar stores.

Whether or not Amazon will acknowledge it, one big idea behind the device is to make it easier than ever to go "showrooming": Visit a store in person, identify and test the product you want, and then buy it with a click on your phone from Amazon instead of from the store you're standing in. This may not be a big deal right now, as e-commerce still accounts for a tiny sliver of retail sales overall.

E-commerce - Share of Retail Sales

Charts from the NRF Foundation’s Retail Insight Center. To access this data and more research please visit the Retail Insight Center.

But with the majority of Americans now on smartphones, and with e-commerce taking a growing share of all commerce, expect more people to start moving their consumer purchases online. Guess where many of them will go? The Everything Store — or at least, that's what Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos is betting.

(Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.



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