Amazon-Fire-Phone-AH-Headliner (1)

Android Headliner: Why The Fire Phone Didn’t Catch Fire

October 24, 2014 - Written By Tom Dawson

 

Earlier this week Amazon held a routine earnings call, the usual ups and downs of selling everything – be it digital or physical – were commented on and it was pretty much par for the course. Except however, when it came to Amazon’s hardware, specifically the Fire Phone. Now, it’s no secret that Amazon’s first smartphone hasn’t been the most successful product launch from Amazon, and while I wouldn’t call it an outright failure it’s safe to say that Amazon probably isn’t too happy with the lukewarm reception of the Fire Phone. Sadly, not only is the Fire Phone a financial blow to the eCommerce giant, but it’s also fantastic material for people with enough talent to whip up a quick pun.

During this earnings call, it was revealed that there was $83 Million worth of Fire Phones lying around, just waiting to be sold. Do we think Amazon has that many Kindles lying around? Nope. In fact, I’d wager that the fairly pricey Kindle Voyage has been selling better than the Fire Phone and just like the Fire, the Voyage’s price tag is questionable at best. It seems to me that the Fire Phone failed because Amazon lost their way a little bit. I have a Kindle Paperwhite and I love it. Comparing an eInk device to a smartphone isn’t the same, I realize, but the reasons I love my Kindle is that it’s simple, it works, it wasn’t too expensive (in my opinion) and I can use it however I want to. The Fire Phone on the other hand, not so much.

It’s not easy to enter the smartphone market these days, and considering that it’s all about the ecosystem these days it’s even harder if you’re not a member of Google’s club. Having said that, Amazon has a pretty brilliant ecosystem of their own these days, not only is it the place most people do the majority of their online shopping with, but it sells books, magazines, apps, games, movies, music and so on and so forth. The Fire Phone however, is not something anyone can go and pick up and buy, it’s not a device that appeals to anyone off of the street like the Fire line of tablets or the original Kindle does. Unless of course if you’re an AT&T subscriber, that is.

Carrier exclusives are not a good idea, they just aren’t. While people can scream at me and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m writing from a consumer’s viewpoint here, and in 2014, if I want something I should be able to have it, regardless of who I want service from. That’s perhaps a simplistic way to look at things, but let’s take a look at it from a business perspective; if I were going to sell something like the Fire Phone (my company’s first foray into a competitive and hostile market) I sure as hell wouldn’t put all my eggs in one carrier’s basket. Taking aside the fact that the Fire Phone asks too much of the average consumer with learning something new, adjusting to services that aren’t yet available from Amazon, and generally not giving people the same flexibility as your run-of-the-mill Android phone, asking people to only use it on AT&T was a stupid move.

We’ve been here once before with AT&T and the Facebook phone, AKA the HTC First. There was nothing wrong with the First, it was a decent enough handset that you didn’t even have to use Facebook Home to use, it was basically a stock Android smartphone. While I firmly believe it didn’t sell that well just because it was cool to hate, the First more than likely failed for the same major reason the Fire Phone did; it was exclusive to AT&T. I’m not pointing the finger at AT&T here, it’d be stupid if it were exclusive to Verizon, US Cellular, T-Mobile, Sprint, MetroPCS, you name a carrier and it’d be stupid. The reason is pretty clear, too. It’s 2014, and the US wireless landscape has never been so competitive. We have T-Mobile competing on price, offering consumers plans at prices they want with true unlimited data and then we have AT&T and Verizon offering some of the best and most reliable service available in the country. It’s also a climate that sees customers able to swap carrier at a moment’s notice with ETFs paid off by the next willing suitor. So, for any smartphone manufacturer – let alone one shipping its first ever – to ask those who’re interested to stick to one carrier and one carrier only just doesn’t make sense.