Does the Amazon Fire Phone Break Any Important New Ground?

I had an eye on a couple of live blogs of the Amazon Fire Phone announcement (see coverage from Gigaom and ReCode), and it was hard for me to see anything that broke any new ground that will change the current two horse race between the iPhone 5s and the Samsung Galaxy S5.

I thought that Amazon.com was going to do something really attention-grabbing, like make the phone free for at least some Amazon Prime customers, but they didn't do that. In fact it's priced to be competitive in every way with the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S5, including the unlocked price. The phone itself seems comparable to the iPhone 5 in terms of most specs, not the 5s.

I thought they would release the phone on all major networks in the United States simultaneously, but they released exclusively on AT&T. I thought this was a joke when I saw it break on Twitter.

The Fire Phone runs a fork of Android which is called Fire OS. I don't think that OS is really optimized for hardware in the same way that iOS 7 is and iOS 8 will be optimized for iPhone hardware.

What Jeff Bezos said that got my attention is this: "Can we build a better phone for our most engaged customers? Can we build a better phone for Amazon prime members?"

If that was the design goal, it implies that the phone itself is a Amazon.com e-commerce platform with smartphone features, rather than the other way around. I have a lot of respect for Amazon.com as a company, but I want to own and use a first-class smartphone that is a relatively open platfom with lots of app choices including Amazon and Google. After reading the live blogs, I'm not sure this is it.

Finally, I was hoping for some indication that Amazon.com would make more of its entertainment services available outside of the USA. I don't think that happened.

I hope to find more to like about the Amazon Fire Phone and its services than I have so far. I'll let you know if I do.