Mobility

How to get the most out of Fire Phone's Firefly

Although the Amazon Fire Phone has yet to live up to expectations, one particular feature does and makes shopping Amazon a breeze. Jack Wallen offers up a few tips on using the Firefly system.

When most mention Firefly, sighs ring out at the loss of one of the best science fiction series in the history of history. However, when it comes to mobility, the Firefly moniker is applied to only one piece of technology—one attached to what most would consider an abject failure. Thing is, that particular device actually has some really amazing features—especially on the consumer side of things.

Consider one piece of software—Firefly.

If you've never experienced Firefly, here's how it works:

  1. You have an object you want to purchase online
  2. You open up the Firefly app (or click the Firefly button—under the volume down button on the left side)
  3. You point the phone so that it can focus on the object at hand
  4. You wait until Firefly presents you with a clickable button for the object (as seen in image below)
  5. You click said button and purchase the object

fireflya.png
Firefly offering up a button to purchase a familiar book.
Image: Jack Wallen

If you've given Firefly a go, you know it's one smooth operator. You may also know that it doesn't always find the object you're hoping to buy. That's okay, I have a few tips that will help you always locate that object.

All in a name

You might think the best way for Firefly to locate an image would be the image itself. With it's multipoint recognition system, the shape and contours of an object should make it infallible. The truth is, shape doesn't always cut it. Brand names, however, do. Take, for instance, a Zoom H2n recorder I tested. It's a uniquely shaped recorder that, by shape alone, Firefly has no idea what to do with:

fireflyb.png
Firefly cannot recognize the Zoom H2n.
Image: Jack Wallen

However, flip the recorder around and focus Firefly on the model number, and it recognizes it immediately:

fireflyc.png
Names never fail.
Image: Jack Wallen

With that said, if the object doesn't have a name or model number present and Firefly doesn't immediately recognize the object, shoot the image from a different angle. One of those angles should give Firefly everything it needs to recognize the object at hand.

Let it listen

Firefly doesn't just use images to help you locate items. If you've ever used Shazam to know what a song is, Firefly one ups that and can hear a song and instantly offer up a link to purchase the song (or album) from Amazon. The system can even listen for TV or movies and present to you available purchase links.

To use this feature, tap either the music or TV icon at the top of the screen and let Firefly listen. The closer you can place the device to the source, the more accurate and immediate the results.

Web sites aplenty

Did you know that Firefly can also open up websites for you? Just point Firefly at a URL and it will offer the Silk browser to open the site:

fireflyd.png
Firefly recognizing the TechRepublic site.
Image: Jack Wallen

In order for Firefly to recognize a site, the URL must be present. Even with very clear and obvious logos, Firefly won't help you to open a website without a URL. This, of course, begs the question, how is that any more useful than simply typing in the address on the Silk browser? It's not ... unless you really, really don't like typing on a mobile device.

Finally, while using Firefly, you want to make sure to give it plenty of light and do your best to hold the device parallel to the front face of the object. Any angle will shift the perspective of the shape and cause Firefly to misread (not read) the object in question.

The Fire Phone is far from perfect. In fact, it's barely a blip on the mobile radar at the moment. But for those that live and die by Amazon, this is (or should be considered) a mobile device that could save you a good deal of time and effort. If you happen to be on of the few faithful that owns a Fire Phone, make sure you get the most out of Firefly.

Have you tried a Fire Phone? If not, what keeps you from giving it a whirl?

See also:

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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