In a development that comes as a surprise to absolutely no one, Amazon is having trouble coercing the American public to purchase the company’s first smartphone, the Fire Phone. According to data from Chitika and ComScore, Amazon has moved around 35,000 units in the past three months. Bezos and Co. never release sales data to the public, so the figure listed above is the result of some pretty advanced math and ad revenue data. (Read the full report here if you’re into the nuts and bolts of things.)
So, what the hell is going on here? Amazon’s Kindle tablets have been huge successes, so what gives with the Fire Phone? For starters, pricing and availability. The Fire Phone is currently an AT&T exclusive, and runs $199.99 with a new two-year contract or $649 outright. That pits the Fire Phone up against other Android heavy-hitters such as the LG G3, Samsung Galaxy S5 and, of course, Apple’s iPhone 5S. With Android and iOS already very established players in America’s smartphone market, the Fire Phone, which runs a forked version of Android, has yet to prove itself as a viable replacement for long-standing players like iOS and Android.
Secondly, the Fire Phone is gimmicky as hell. With six front-facing cameras, the device delivers ‘Dynamic Perspective’ which creates the illusion of 3D movements on the screen. This effect, while kind of neat on paper is just absurd to most of us. All of those cameras are bound to kill the battery on the Fire Phone without mercy. And does anyone really care about 3D-ish animations on their phones? Frankly my dear Bezos, I don’t give a damn.
To give Amazon some (albeit little) credit, Amazon’s UI works like a charm on Kindle tablets. But what works for a $250 and under tablet won’t necessarily work for a $649 smartphone. Not right now, at least.
Amazon’s got money to burn (that’s probably where the Fire moniker came from) and Bezos has made no bones about the fact that Amazon is in it for the long run with the Fire Phone. As Microsoft can surely attest, trying to compete with the likes of Google and Apple isn’t easy, and victory won’t come overnight.
For avid Amazon users, I can see why the Fire Phone would be appealing. It’s basically a one-stop shop for all things Amazon, and if you’ve already invested money in Amazon’s ecosystem (apps, video, e-books etc.) the device seems like a natural extension of the Kindle universe. But with most Amazon users and Prime subscribers rocking an Android or iOS device already, where’s the incentive to spend a ton of money on a new handset? (Don’t even mention the free year of Prime.)
With the Fire Phone, Amazon is fighting two Gorilla Glass reinforced Goliaths by hurling microSD cards in their faces. Maybe a free year of Prime will get the monsters’ attention?