Amazon made a bold entrance into the smartphone market in 2014 with the launch of the Amazon Fire Phone. However, this phone was discontinued just over a year later after weak sales. Does Amazon currently make phones in 2023? Let‘s take a look at the journey of Amazon‘s Fire Phone and the company‘s involvement in the mobile space today.
A Brief History of Amazon‘s Fire Phone
In June 2014, Amazon unveiled the Fire Phone, its first smartphone featuring proprietary hardware and software. The Fire Phone aimed to differentiate itself with tight integration of Amazon services for shopping, media consumption, and customer service.
Some key facts about the launch and brief lifespan of Amazon‘s Fire Phone:
- Officially announced: June 18, 2014 at an Amazon event in Seattle
- Release date: July 25, 2014, exclusively on AT&T in the US
- Discontinued: August 2015, just 13 months after initial release
- Development codename: "Duke"
The Fire Phone represented Amazon‘s ambitious effort to expand its hardware offerings beyond Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets. Next let‘s look at the Fire Phone‘s specifications and features that debuted in 2014.
Fire Phone Specs and Features
The Fire Phone was designed to be a flagship smartphone that could compete with the iPhone and premium Android phones. Here are some of its key hardware specifications and software features:
- Display: 4.7" LCD 720p display (312 ppi pixel density)
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2 GHz quad-core
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 32GB or 64GB
- Cameras: 13MP rear camera, 2.1MP front camera
- Battery: 2400 mAh
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 2.6 x 0.35 inches, 160 grams
- Materials: Gorilla Glass 3, soft touch plastic, stainless steel
The Fire Phone had solid flagship-level specs for its time with a fast processor, 2GB RAM, and lots of internal storage. Design-wise, it used glass on both the front and back along with a rubberized plastic frame.
One unique hardware feature was its four front-facing cameras and infrared sensors to enable its "Dynamic Perspective" 3D effects. We‘ll get into those next.
The Fire Phone ran Fire OS 3.5, a forked version of Android, along with an ecosystem of Amazon services:
- Firefly – identify real world objects/media via the camera
- Dynamic Perspective – 3D effects and UI navigation using head-tracking
- Mayday – 24/7 live video tech support built-in
- ASAP – predictive delivery of TV shows and movies
- Second Screen – wirelessly push content to Miracast devices
- X-Ray – get supplemental info for books, videos, and more
- Amazon Photos – unlimited full-resolution photo storage
Fire OS was based on Android but did not include Google services. The focus was entirely on deep integration with Amazon‘s ecosystem. Next let‘s look at how the Fire Phone was priced.
Fire Phone Pricing and Availability
The Fire Phone was available exclusively from AT&T in the US. Pricing at launch in July 2014 was:
- 32GB model: $199.99 on contract, $649.99 at full price
- 64GB model: $299.99 on contract, $749.99 at full price
However, just weeks after launch on August 25, 2014, Amazon dropped the on-contract price to just $0.99 in an effort to boost lackluster sales. The full retail price also got slashed to $449.
In November 2014, an unlocked version appeared for $199 and the price continued to slide throughout 2015, ultimately being removed from Amazon‘s site that August after failing to gain traction.
Critical Reception and Consumer Interest
The Fire Phone received mixed reviews, garnering an average critics‘ score of just 2 out of 5 stars according to Metacritic. Reviewers praised innovations like Dynamic Perspective and Firefly but felt the phone was too gimmicky.
Consumer reception was tepid as well. According to market research firm IDC:
- Fire Phone sales were estimated at just 35,000 units in the first 20 days
- Amazon barely made a dent in the US smartphone market, capturing less than 0.1% share
Factors contributing to the lack of consumer interest included:
- AT&T exclusivity limited availability
- Pricing was similar to more proven iPhone/Galaxy models
- Heavy focus on Amazon services didn‘t appeal to all users
- Immature first-generation software and ecosystem
The Fire Phone turned out to be a rare misstep for Amazon in the hardware space. Next let‘s look at when Amazon pulled the plug.
The End of the Fire Phone
Despite price cuts intended to boost sales, Amazon discontinued the Fire Phone in August 2015. The timed exclusivity deal with AT&T had expired a month prior, and lackluster demand did not warrant further production.
In October 2015, Amazon took a $170 million write-down on costs associated with the Fire Phone‘s failure. The company‘s hardware efforts would refocus on more successful products like Echo speakers and expanding the Kindle/Fire tablet lineups.
So in summary, the Fire Phone was on the market for about 13 months before being canceled in August 2015. Amazon clearly listened to the market response and made a quick decision not to invest further in this failed smartphone venture.
Does Amazon Make Phones in 2023?
Amazon has not released another smartphone since canceling the Fire Phone in 2015. The company does not currently make any phones as of 2023.
Amazon‘s mobile efforts have focused on:
- Fire tablets – popular inexpensive Android tablets
- Kindle e-readers – dominant in the e-reader space
- Alexa – voice assistant experience via Echo devices
- Appstore – alternative to Google Play on Fire/Kindle devices
- Amazon shopping app – for browsing/buying on iOS/Android phones
So while Amazon has a strong presence on people‘s phones through apps and services, it does not manufacture its own-branded phones currently and shows no signs of re-entering the market.
The Fire Phone taught Amazon a tough lesson in just how competitive and saturated the smartphone space had become. Having successful lines like Kindle and Echo has allowed the company to thrive without taking another risky bet on phones.
Will Amazon Make Phones Again in the Future?
It‘s unlikely but not impossible that Amazon could take another shot at releasing a smartphone in the future. Possible motivations include:
- Dissatisfaction with dependence on Apple/Google mobile ecosystems
- Desire for an integrated hardware/software experience like Apple
- Development of differentiated features and services
- Expansion of Alexa voice assistant to new form factors
However, the challenges Amazon faced in 2014 around differentiation, distribution, and adoption for a new smartphone entrant still apply today if not more so.
Amazon would need truly compelling reasons and innovations to justify diving back into the fiercely competitive mobile phone space. But the company has surprised us before, so a future Amazon phone revival can‘t be ruled out entirely.
While the Fire Phone rapidly flamed out, it was a bold experiment by Amazon to control both the hardware and software experience in the vein of Apple. The product lacked true differentiation despite innovations like Dynamic Perspective. Critical reviews were mediocre and consumer reception was apathetic.
Amazon swiftly cut its losses on the Fire Phone, taking the feedback to heart. The company has not released another smartphone since this failure in 2014-2015. It continues finding mobile success by delivering apps, services, tablets, and e-readers optimized for iOS and Android.
The Fire Phone represents a rare stumble in hardware for a company that typically excels in this space. Only time will tell if Amazon rekindles its smartphone ambitions or keeps mobile efforts focused outside of manufacturing actual phones.