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Failure of the Year: Amazon Fire Phone

News by Luke Jones on Friday January 02, 2015.

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Fire Phone
Fire Phone

While deciding our awards there was usually an argument in the office as there are admittedly multiple worthy candidates in each category. However, when deciding the Failure of the Year there was hushed silence, followed by an almost instant outpouring of the same answer... the Amazon Fire Phone.

There has simply not been such a disastrous smartphone this year, and there has probably not been a disastrous product on this scale in any industry. Is Amazon's first ever smartphone the biggest misfire in the history of mobile? We'll let you debate that, but it is certainly up there for its sheer level of bad.

The truth is, the handset itself is actually quite good, but is not as good as Amazon wanted you to believe to justify the high cost. It arrived on AT&T as an exclusive, a model for selling devices that is quickly becoming a guarantee of it flopping.

Exclusive carrier smartphones simply do not work anymore. Amazon has made the right moved since, bringing the price of the device down to bargain territories (it now costs just $199.99 unlocked), and even sending out a massive update. It was all too late though as the Fire Phone has sunk without a trace.

Here's what we?ve had to say about the device this year.

We called it when the Amazon Fire Phone launched, we said that the device lacked that something special to make it a hit and later pre-order analytics proved that it could be a huge flop. It seems that no one is buying the handset just weeks after its roll out, but worse it seems that most consumers have no intentions at all of buying the device.


That leads to the question, what was Amazon thinking? In releasing the Fire Phone the company said that it was the Amazon way or the highway, forgetting that the highway meant a normal Android experience with full apps and a lot more choice. I use Amazon, and I am certainly not alone in that, but how dedicated an Amazon customer do you have to be to buy wholesale into the company's ecosystem and ethos? Extremely dedicated seems to be the answer, and only around 35,000 people appear to like Amazon THAT much.


Indeed, dousing this particular blaze has cost the company $174 million in a write off to suppliers who simply cannot shift the Fire Phone, even though it is now free on contract. For some inexplicable reason, Amazon totally misjudged the consumer and thought people would lap up the Fire Phone, which basically acts as a gateway to the company's retail services. They were so confident that even by the end of the third quarter there was $83 million worth of Fire Phone stock lying around.


Amazon has cut the price of the 32GB of the handset to just $199 off contract and fully unlocked this Holiday Season. This is clearly a move for Amazon to shift its remaining inventory for the handset and once gone (if it does indeed sell) I expect that will be the last we see of the Fire Phone. The new price is certainly a far cry from the $649 off contract ($199 on contract) flagship matching price tag the handset had back when it launched exclusively with AT&T.


Senior Vice President of Devices David Limp told Fortune that pricing was the main issue behind the almost instant decline of the Fire Phone.

We didn't get the price right. I think people come to expect a great value, and we sort of mismatched expectations. We thought we had it right. But we're also willing to say, "we missed." And so we corrected.

Limp is of course correct, but there were other issues with the smartphone regardless of price. For example, the fact that the device felt like and acted like a conduit to Amazon's other services, meaning consumers felt like they were just being enticed to spend more money with the company. The result has been a phone that has flopped worse than any in recent memory, and it has probably killed any future aspirations Amazon had of continuing to build smartphones hardware.


Amazon had the flop of the year and the Fire Phone is now reduced to $199.99 (admittedly a decent buy at that price) and is in the process of sinking without a trace. However, credit to Amazon for not abandoning those who already made the devastating error of buying one of these at full price or on contract. The company is now issuing an update for the AT&T version of the smartphone, sending out a patch to Fire OS 3.6.5, while the unlocked version is also getting some love with an update to Fire OS 3.6.8 (both essentially the same software).

Both of these updates bring a number of new goodies to the Fire Phone party, such as a robust translator that can make the device translate text from/to English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian. Firefly, the app that can recognize things you are viewing and offer you examples to buy can now recognize 2000 historical paintings and supply information on Wikipedia. Amazon has also fiddled with the camera software with a new feature called Best Shot, allowing the user to take three quick burst shots when the shutter is pressed.

Other new additions include the ability to turn MMS/SMS on or off, seven new keyboard languages, block calls, and change ringtones. On top of that, Amazon says that battery life has been improved, which will be welcomed as the Fire Phone likes chewing on battery life. This extensive new software pack also includes the WPS Office app, allowing you to view and edit Office documents from Word, PowerPoint and Excel on your device. More info can now be added to the lock screen, while Auto-scroll means you can read without having to touch the screen to scroll. And of course, where would an update be without the familiar bug squashes and security enhancements.

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About the author

Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Managing Editor at MobileBurn.com and is the person you need to speak to about the content on the site. Luke studied creative writing at degree level before carving out a reputation as a freelance tech writer. He settled here at MobileBurn, where he reviews devices and contributes to the news, as well as overseeing the site's content and direction.

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