Amazon Fire Phone FAILURE: $170 Million Wasted!

We are going through everything you need to know about the Amazon Fire Phone Failure. Today let’s read about the Amazon Fire Phone.

Amazon Fire Phone FAILURE: $170 Million Wasted!

Amazon is a colossal online store, and you most likely even depend on them for most of your purchases. But Amazon is a lot larger than just a store. They also offer Amazon web services to clients like Netflix, NASA, Twitter, Apple, et cetera. They’ve also added media streaming to their portfolio with Amazon Prime Video. And in addition to that, they also acquired one of the largest game streaming platforms in the world, Twitch. All this is just to show you how much Amazon wants to acquire market share in any and every sector. And the Fire Phone was the company’s attempt to break into the smartphone market. Now to fully understand why Amazon created the Fire Phone, you gotta go back to the beginning. Amazon started out selling books, CDs, and DVDs. As they were entering the digital age, Jeff Bezos was quick to adapt. And so Amazon created the Kindle. The Amazon Kindle was the first piece of hardware that came out directly from Amazon. It was also the first reader in the world to gain any sort of significant traction. Since then, several modifications have been made to the design and performance of the Kindle to satisfy customers even better. Now although being such a big hit, Bezos was looking to go further than just the simple-reader Kindle device. When the Amazon ecosystem consisted of just books, the Kindle was good enough. However, now that they branched out into other forms of media that the Kindle didn’t support, Amazon needed to make another device to tie the new broader ecosystem together, and, hence, the Fire Phone. So that’s why the FirePhone came into existence.

Amazon Fire phone

Now that we know the history behind the Fire Phone, let’s take a closer look at what this phone really was and why it failed so miserably. The Amazon Fire Phone ran on a Qualcomm 2.2 gigahertz processor, with Adreno 330 graphics, and two gigabytes of RAM. The connectivity features included LTE, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth. In a time when phones were looking at 2K resolutions, or at least 1080P, the display resolution of the Amazon Fire Phone was just 720P. The Fire Phone had five cameras on the front panel of the phone and one on the rear, giving you six cameras altogether. However, you were only allowed to use two of the six cameras to take pictures, more on that later. But for a phone released in 2014, the cameras were okay. Not excellent, but okay. Hardware-wise, there was nothing spectacular about the build of the phone, especially when compared to other phones that were on the market at the time.

Software and features of the phone

Amazon Fire Phone FAILURE: $170 Million Wasted!

Now let’s talk about the software. The Fire Phone was built on Fire OS, which is a forked version of Google’s Android. Now, this isn’t anything new. We’ve seen Samsung’s One UI, OnePlus’s OxygenOS, and Xiaomi’s MIUI. However, the difference is that while these other companies add something to Android, Fire OS actually stripped it down even more bare-bones than it already was. Also, instead of spending time creating unique apps with added features, Fire OS simply gave users a knockoff version of Google’s stock apps. But the Amazon Fire Phone wasn’t built to be the best phone, it was simply built to be the gatekeeper of the Amazon ecosystem. And it did that job well with two main functions. One, users of the Fire Phone got unlimited storage for photos, which got automatically synced to the Amazon Cloud. And this is before Google did something similar with Google Photos and the Pixel. And two, there was the Firefly feature. This feature lets you take pictures of items in your local market, or anything around you, and find that production on Amazon immediately. Unfortunately, this feature was reported not to be as useful and accurate as advertised, but you get the idea. Amazon wanted you to be able to just simply take a picture of something and instantly find it and buy it on Amazon, instead of the store that you were currently standing in. Now the other features that Amazon put into this phone were useless at worst and gimmicky at best. The most prime example, pun intended, is Dynamic Perspective. So remember when I mentioned earlier that you could only use two of the six available cameras to actually take photos or videos? Well, the remaining four cameras on the front of the phone were used to power Dynamic Perspective. Dynamic Perspective tracked the movement of the head using four or five of the cameras in front of the phone. This allowed you to move icons, scroll pages, and even see parts of images that weren’t visible just by moving your head or tilting the phone.

Why exactly did this phone fail?

Amazon Fire Phone FAILURE: $170 Million Wasted!
Photo by Ron Lach on

Now Jeff Bezos poured a lot of time and resources into the making of this phone. Now, why exactly did this phone fail? Especially, seeing as the Fire Tablet and Amazon Kindle have done pretty well. Now there are five main reasons why the Amazon Fire Phone failed.

1. Let’s start with the first one, Fire OS. Fire OS offered users unlimited access to all the items in the Amazon ecosystem, purchasing items from the store, renting and streaming, all approved media, and maximizing Amazon’s Cloud Storage became exceedingly easier on a Fire Phone. But take the ease of access to Amazon’s ecosystem out, and there wasn’t much to their OS and what it offered.

2. Okay, the second reason the Amazon Fire Phone failed, it was used as a tool for aggressive marketing. Under each of the apps, the system would display related items to get from the AmazonStore or, in some cases, other apps you might like. It was like having the Appstore plus the Amazon Store as your home screen. Even though you paid for the phone, you were getting advertised right from the home screen, which really rubbed customers the wrong way.

3. Third, there were not a lot of apps developed for the OS. Building a new OS is really difficult because it requires developers to put in the extra work to optimize their apps for the new OS. However, developers will only do this if they know your OS is gonna be popular and a lot of users will be using that OS with their apps. And, unfortunately, even at launch, the Fire Phone just wasn’t very popular.

4. Furthermore, this phone didn’t have any Google apps, like Gmail, Chrome, Google Maps, and a lot of other Android apps that people depend on. So converting an Android app to be compatible with Fire OS, was gonna require a lot of third-party integration, something that many developers simply didn’t wanna do. Even with all that set-aside, Amazon just didn’t offer the variety and quality of applications you got from the Android store. If you’ve ever used the Amazon Appstore, you’ll see just how many apps are lacking. And sure you can download an APK and run it directly, but that kills the seamlessness of the whole phone experience.

5. Next up, is the price. The price point of the FirePhone is the next reason I think the idea failed severely. The starting price was so high that potential customers just couldn’t wrap their heads around paying so much for what was essentially an Amazon billboard or, in this case, a phone board. Everybody knows that the primary reason Amazon is so loved is this tradition of providing excellent products at great prices. So most of consumers and analysts expected them to tow the same line with the Fire Phone. This strategy had already worked with the Kindle and the Fire Tablet, so I’m not sure why they didn’t just go down that same route. With the Fire Phone, Amazon got too ambitious with the price, trying to sell it as a major flagship smartphone with a price tag of $650. Now to put that in perspective, the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which were Apple’s bestselling smartphones, were released in the same year at about the same price. Pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus hit over 4 million units within 24 hours of release, which was a record-setting figure at the time. Fast forward three days later, and over 10 million devices were sold. The Fire Phone, despite being released months before the iPhone, could barely hit 35,000 devices sold, and you can clearly see why. It’s been six years since the release of the iPhone 6, and if you look around, you’ll still see people using that same phone comfortably because it was so good. Now, this isn’t just because Apple has managed to develop, what some people will call a cult, with a devout customer base. If you actually compared the price to value ratio of both phones, the Apple iPhone completely throws the Fire Phone right off the ledge.

6. Next, let’s talk about the gimmicky features. The next big reason I think the Amazon Fire Phone was such a big failure is the primary focus of the phone. The objective of the phone was all wrong. It seemed like Jeff Bezos wanted more distinctive features than features that the consumers were actually interested in or would use. Based on the highly advertised features, it was evident that the concern was more about making a unique product than something alluring enough for consumers to hold onto as their main device. For example, the dynamic perspective feature I talked about earlier in the video. Now onstage during the announcement, they made so much fuss about this. But when people got their hands on the device, the users just didn’t care much about it because it was virtually useless. Apart from these main five issues, there were a few other problems that further contributed to the burning down of the Fire Phone. Things like the bland design of the phone, the restricted ecosystem that made iOS even seem like heaven at the time and just the very mediocre specs.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering, “Just how big was the fire Phone disaster?”

Well, in October 2014, the company reported that it had a $170 million write-down that was primarily related to the expenditures on the Fire Phone. They also had over $83 million worth of phones sitting in their inventory that were never sold. Surprisingly though, this failure did not affect other aspects of the Amazon business. They remain one of the most popular brands in the world, thriving in their online store sales and sales of their web services. What I might call a silver lining in this experience is that the company knows what not to do the next time they come out with a device. Knowing Amazon, they probably already have something in the works, up to their sleeve, and it may not be a phone. But I think Amazon has learned from the Fire Phone and instead has decided to go all-in on the next operating system that everyone will be using in the future, which is voice. As we’ve seen, Amazon’s Alexa was the first digital assistant to be released ahead of Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana, which has since been deprecated to almost non-existence at this point. Almost every smart home device that you see is compatible with Amazon Alexa. And five to 10 years from now, I’m betting that a lot more people are gonna have a lot more Alexa integrations in their homes, in their cars, and in their offices.

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