Amazon’s initial foray into the smartphone market went up in a fiery blaze with a $170 million writedown for the Fire Phone. While the hardware was better than most gave it credit for, and features like Firefly that identified a variety of media or physical objects and directed you to purchase them on Amazon were interesting, the overall package simply couldn’t hold up to mid-range offerings with Google software.
The price certainly didn’t help the Fire Phone, either. It started at an insane $650 and could not remotely compete with high-end offerings from Samsung, LG or HTC at the time. It fairly quickly fell to $449, but even this was a steep ask compared to, say, the Moto X, and the price freefall continued on until we eventually saw the Fire Phone at $130. It didn’t move that well even at that price, despite offering a year of Amazon Prime ($99 value).
Well, Amazon has learned its lesson and seemingly won’t be returning to the market with a Fire Phone 2, but they aren’t giving up on mobile completely. If a report from The Information is correct, Amazon is trying to convince some smartphone OEMs to more tightly integrate Amazon software beyond the simple inclusion of some Amazon apps that we see today.
While I can see why Amazon would vastly prefer this tact to risking its neck on another Fire Phone, it seems like a project that is ultimately doomed to failure given that any significant Android manufacturer will pass, as such a device would almost assuredly violate the agreement with Google necessary to ship devices with Google services. I don’t question that Amazon will be able to find some smartphone OEM that will do this, but for a company the size of Amazon, anything less than 1 of the top 10 Android OEMs (heck, probably the top 5) is going to be meaningless market share.
With that said, it is hard to bet against Amazon completely, so perhaps they have figured something out that we are missing.
What would you need to see out of a device with Amazon services tightly integrated to make you consider it?