It seems like we’ve been talking about a potential Amazon smartphone ever since the company launched its Kindle Fire tablets a few years ago, and rumors about such a device have been picking up steam over the past year. Today, we were finally shown the product we thought Amazon was hiding up its sleeve — the Fire Phone.
For the most part, the Fire Phone rumors were dead on. It’s a smartphone running on Amazon’s modified version of Android, Fire OS. And it’s got a bunch of different cameras, which it uses to create a 3D effect on-screen. But it’s what we didn’t get from Amazon’s new smartphone that I want to talk about; the goodies many had hoped would arrive with the set that were nowhere to be found at the unveiling. Here they are.
At $199, Amazon’s Fire Phone costs the same as the 16 GB iPhone 5s and the Samsung Galaxy S5. Not many companies have been able to price toe-to-toe with Apple and compete (with Samsung being the exception). Some thought Amazon would sell a phone at a much lower price and make up for the costs through its ecosystem (Kindle e-books, videos, Amazon.com purchases, etc.). By coming in at the same price point as every top-of-the-line smartphone, Amazon risks its first-ever phone getting lost in the shuffle.
Amazon had another opportunity to make a name for the Fire Phone by changing the game for mobile data. Data plans are the killer cost for smartphones these days, and it seems that’ll be no exception with Amazon’s smartphone. Had Amazon offered some kind of subsidized data plan, or if the company had worked out a deal to allow free traffic to its services (Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music), the Fire Phone could have been a force to be reckoned with. That won’t be the case; it’ll cost you just as much to use Amazon’s phone as it will any other top-tier smartphone.
Low-Cost Carrier Freedom
Along with the above two advantages, Amazon really could have made the Fire Phone more desirable by selling it both cheap and unlocked. Instead, customers can sign a two-year agreement with AT&T to get the $199 price; otherwise, they can pay $650 for the unlocked model. Interestingly, this is the same path that the iPhone first took when it launched, though Apple later expanded to most major carriers, as well as several regional carriers and prepaid providers. Today’s AT&T is much better than it was in 2007, but by limiting itself to that carrier, Amazon is shrinking its potential customer base. That’s the opposite of what it needs.
Right away, Amazon’s Fire Phone faces an uphill battle. It’s the new product in a very crowded market. It costs just as much as more established products. It sports hardware that is capable of some neat tricks, but none of it feels must-have. And even if you’re heavily invested in Amazon’s ecosystem, you can choose a different smartphone and still access most of, if not all, of your content. And if you’re not into what Amazon offers, you can spend $199 elsewhere and get a better-looking phone, or a more open phone, and not feel like the manufacturer is trying to steer you toward buying something at every turn.
Have some thoughts on other things the Amazon Fire Phone is missing? Drop us a line below.