Tech Talk: Amazon’s SVP on Rise of Echo, Fall of Fire Phone

The Amazon Fire Phone that was launched in late 2014 was one of the glowing failures of the otherwise massively successful and global tech giant, Amazon, mainly known for their largely satisfied customer base. This device also provides a sharp contrast to the success of another device launched in the same year by Amazon, the Amazon Echo. Although the phone was a major failure for the company, the Amazon Echo shone through and garnered a niche group of users who were excited to own a new piece of technology. While Amazon’s attempt to funnel users through an exclusive smartphone built around online shopping fell flat, Amazon Echo, an internet-connected speaker which acts as a virtual assistant to the user, became a sleeper hit, paving the way for a series of developments around the device.

According to Amazon’s SVP Dave Limp, both projects were significant risks to Amazon, but with a key difference. The Fire phone was launched six years after the first Android phone hit the market, and seven years after iPhone was launched. And it failed to make its mark in the smartphone industry, which is crucial for a segment this overcrowded with options. The Fire phone had its share of exclusive features, including an app called Firefly which would let the user find the product from a supermarket in Amazon and be able to order it, but that’s where the lists ended. The device was plagued with numerous negative reviews, as it neither had an outstanding design nor an incredibly attractive low price at launch.

In comparison, Echo was a brand new device in a virtually non-existent segment – an internet-connected speaker able to communicate with the user about various necessary information like the weather forecast, alarms, conversion of data, managing to-do lists, and of course as an extension to Amazon’s website and product details. The virtual assistant was named Alexa, and the device doubled as a Bluetooth speaker, launching at the price of $179. The device became instantly popular among a group of people intrigued by the idea of artificial intelligence and virtual personal assistants. Echo has received updates at a regular pace, adding more functionality with time and was recently integrated into Spotify, providing it with more traction.

Although the phone was not a hit, Limp did not fail to commend the Fire team for trying to make a break into the already crowded and highly competitive smartphone market. He also left the discussion open for the probability of future release of phones from Amazon, noting that mobile is a fundamental element in Amazon’s strategy.

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