On Fire Phone, Amazon Steals Its Own Feature From Apple's iPhone

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When Amazon.com (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos announced the new Fire phone Wednesday afternoon, he left out an important fact about one of its coolest features.

TheStreet's technology editor Chris Ciaccia explains how Amazon's new Firefly app works:

Bezos unveiled a new feature known as Firefly, which can recognize over 100 million items, such as a CD, song, book, game, food or other item. For a instance, if a user sees a CD, a song from it can be played on Amazon on another music app such as Pandora or iHeartRadio. Users can scan a book using Firefly, and then purchase it.

While there's no question Firefly looks really cool, as far as I know Bezos neglected to mention that one of its niftiest features is hardly new at all. In fact, if you own an iPhone from Apple (AAPL) with recent iOS software and the Amazon shopping app installed, you can already scan an item -- bar code or the actual item itself -- and proceed to purchase it from Amazon. All you have to do is use the "Flow" feature.

So, if you follow me, Amazon built a feature into its, by the looks of it, excellent all-purpose, though shopping-centric Firefly app that's been available on Apple's iPhone only to tout that feature as a cornerstone of its "new" Firefly app set to debut on Fire phone. It makes me wonder if the Bezos strategy of knocking off hardware isn't getting just a bit old. You can read my rationale around that point in Apple Executing a More Powerful Strategy Than Amazon.


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--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a full-time columnist for TheStreet. He lives in Santa Monica. Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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