back to article What's MISSING on Amazon Fire Phone... and why it WON'T set the world alight

Having a headline piece of consumer tech crash and burn in the US market is every company's nightmare – and that's exactly what happened to Amazon’s Fire Phone, whose price has just PLUNGED from $449 to $199 Stateside. Amazon Fire Phone top and bottom bezels. Pic: Alun Taylor Hefty bezels: Amazon's Fire Phone is pretty …


  1. Cuddles Silver badge

    Crap screen, crap hardware, crap apps, crap price.

    I'm truly amazed this hasn't been selling well. At a more sensible price this... still wouldn't be particularly attractive since there's plenty of competition in the low-to-mid end of things and this doesn't appear to have anything to make it stand out. But at the same price as one of the best high-end phones currently available? It's like they're deliberately going out of their way to make this fail.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      This will be the Palm Pre all over again.

      O2 put the Pre as a premium phone at a similar price point to the iPhone. (3GS I think). Was anyone surprise that people bought the better known and supported iPhone rather than the Pre?

      It does not matter how good the phone is O2 and Apple will heavily promote iPhone, People have Apple apps bought, and while Amazon may have deep pockets, the fact this is an O2 exclusive it will probably see it smoulder on for a while then burn out.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        ye gads how much? So decide between an iphone, note 3, s5 or this?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm

          or as pointed out, the Sony Z3....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm

        The Pre was ahead of the iPhone in some ways. It had decent multitasking, some of the people who worked on it were ex-Apple.

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm

          "The Pre was ahead of the iPhone in some ways."

          Kinda missed the point there AC.

      3. bjr

        Re: Hmmm

        You're being really unfair to the Palm Pre. Palm OS was way ahead of anything else at the time, it's multitasking was better than today's version of Android let alone anything in 2009. The Pre came out a month before the first Android phone (it was supposed to come out 8 months before but Palm was chronically incapable of executing, if they had met their schedules the world might be different today). The Pre was a ground breaking product, the Amazon Phone is just a medocre phone at a high price (although in the US they are have a fire sale, $200 unlocked, bet they don't sell any even at that price).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm

          Sounds like Betamax cry-babies to me.

        2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm

          You've touched in the thing that absolutely drives me further into my insanity is this; some modicum level of multitasking. In the early to mid-eighties and I had a real simple requirements list: Multitasking, yes, WIMP, if possible, software including games, nice to have but I'm willing and more than able to DIY. In the January issue of Byte featured the Amiga 1000. It had the real deal, true preemptive multitasking, and dit it with style. And it could take the workload of all me mainframes, no problem.

          So, I'm irritated as frag all that this device I've got in my hand (Nexus 7) can barely multitask in userspace after modifications that should wake any OS. Hell, to die for in the Windows world to die for. Remind me again how long it's been since those heady days.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm

          Sorry you missed my point.

          I wasn't saying the Pre was good or bad, simply that as an O2 exclusive it saw far less marketing and exposure against the iPhone, the iPhone was on all networks and so being heavily advertised by the networks and Apple.

          All I remember of the pre was the waving people advert, a triumph of obliqueness, I knew what the phone was, I suspect that thousands didn't.

          The Pre (or the Kindle phone) could be the best in the world but confining it to a network will be contractually obligated to promote rival devices is not going to win anyone over.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm

          The trouble was the hardware on the Pre was poor. The Pre 2 was a lot better (I still have one and it works), but the Pre 3 was really either a year too late or with inadequate processor, memory and screen, depending on how you looked at it.

          Being owned by HP didn't, I imagine, help. In those "Teach the elephant to dance" management courses of the late 90s, HP was the horrible warning not the shining example.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm, your timing may be out?

          I bought a HTC magic (not the first android phone) because even I, a PalmOs stalwart, had got sick of waiting for the pre to hit the UK stores.

      4. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        As with O2 there, so with AT&T here or more accurately with myself. Give the phone gratis and I'd ship it back out of pocket.

        It still begs the question, why the exclusive arrangements? I actually like the idea of the Fire Phone and I'm not committed at all to Amazon. (Newegg, &c, yeah) The instant lookups would suit the extended families just fine. Betcha I'd want a commission on each additional phone. No AT&T, period, from all of us to all of Amazon. I conducted a survey.

        1. Kepler

          "It still begs the question, . . . ." (Re: Hmmm)

          Raises the question, Jack of Shadows, not begs!

          Begging the question is a logical fallacy — essentially, assuming one's conclusion. But it has become all-too-common today for people to say "begs the question" when what they actually mean is that such-and-such raises the question.

          You also refer to a January issue of BYTE without bothering to specify a year. (Plus if my guess is right, you actually mean August of 1985?*) But since you mention the Amiga and distinguish real multitasking from pale imitations, all is forgiven. You're all right.



    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No Guardian App!

      So you admit to being a Guardian reader!

      Just say it as it is, the phone is crap value, stop being wishy washy.

  2. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Amazon should lower the price

    They may be taking a loss on the hardware if they do, but then they've pretty much ensured that the buyer is wired into their ecosystem, which should pay dividends well beyond any loss on the phone. They should market this one dirt cheap, follow it with a better sequel once a significant number of people have bought in, then it might stand a chance. This is likely what they're going to be stuck doing anyway if they have a warehouse full of these.

    1. Sheep!

      Re: Amazon should lower the price

      Agreed, this is the approach everyone (including El Reg for a while) thought that MS was going to take with the Surface. They didn't, they priced it to compete with the iPad and then had to take a write-down of $1 billion on it. I've got a Kindle Fire (mother bought one thinking it was a Kindle e-reader, so I got her a paperwhite and took the Fire on) and rooted it and it's an "ok" tablet, seriously lacking in features (no GPS, no bluetooth, no expansion, crap on-board storage but with an ok screen and reasonable speed as long as you don't have an app or 2 running in the background) but the Amazon app store is pretty awful, I crowbarred the Play store on there but it's very hit-and miss as to what apps think they're compatible, side-loading is also seems quite hit-and-miss. Unfortunately this review seems to confirm that that the Fire-phone is much like the Fire tablet - overpriced and not containing enough value even to those who've invested heavily in Amazon wares.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Amazon should lower the price

      Now available in the US for $199, unlocked, including a year of Amazon Prime. If you're a big Amazon user that could be a good deal, since the year of Prime would be quite valuable.

      Doesn't do anything for me,1 but I know a number of Amazon Prime customers who could do much worse than buy the unlocked Fire for a couple hundred dollars. In effect they're getting a decent2 subsidized phone without a contract.

      1I don't buy enough on Amazon for the free 2-day Prime shipping to be worthwhile - and if I really need something delivered quickly, I have my wife buy it with her Prime account. I'm not interested in streaming video or audio so no Prime benefit there. And I wouldn't buy the Fire anyway because it doesn't have a physical keyboard, removable battery, or SD card slot.

      2I know, not by gadget-freak standards. Plenty good enough for most people.

  3. 0laf Silver badge

    I has originally thought that this would be much like the original Kindles - decent hardware discounted because it's effectively an extension of the Amazon store.

    But it's not. Why would I want to pay through the nose to be effectively locked into the Amazon ecosystem?

    1. Captain Queeg

      > Why would I want to pay through the nose to be effectively locked into the Amazon ecosystem?

      That's a really good point, but Apple seem to have been able to achieve it and if anyone should be able to, it should be Jeff?

      Maybe the iPod>>iPhone migration path is just more compelling than the Kindle>>Fire Phone. Certainly the kindle seems less like a natural feed to a phone than the iPod classic does, but not massively so.

      The thing that puts me off is Firefly - very clever for sure, but the idea of paying Bezos top money to allow me to buy more from him more easly just grates.

      1. M Mouse

        Chalk and Cheese

        How can you compare Amazon with Apple, when one considers the range of apps available for iOS and Android, vs the Amazon cut-down range? It's easy to see the iPhone is likely to be popular with a range of people, partly because of the hype and the higher cost making some think they have a better product.

        I have a number of iMacs but none is less than 5 years old - I think Apple pricing is a rip-off for new items, which is shown in their current market value. As for Amazon, this not-too-hot phone might have sales at 199 GBP but 399? Not when I could buy a 4G or dual-SIM (mutually exclusive for now) Moto G, or go for the Moto X, instead.

  4. JDX Gold badge


    I don't even follow why the price is high. They have done brilliantly with the Kindle by keeping the cost low and the Kindle Fire range also offers a great spec for the cash. The idea with both being, you then buy content from Amazon. So why not follow the same patter with the phone, especially after they saw it tanked in the US?

    1. goldcd

      Additionally, I can't find fault with the Kindle.

      Sure there are other ereaders out there, but if I ignored price, I'd still go with Kindle (love the worldwide 3G). Price of it's just the icing on the cake.

      On my regular android phone I have my amazon app, my kindle app (and I assume there's nothing to stop there being a Firefly app in the future).

      I am just completely bemused as to why Amazon even attempted to make this phone. There's absolutely nothing unique about this I want, and mediocre specs and insane price..

  5. Detective Emil

    Oldie but goldie

    Glad your subs are, um, mature enough to remember The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Or maybe they watch TOTP reruns.

    Hmm. Suppose I'd better RTFA now.

    1. unitron

      Re: Oldie but goldie

      Someone's* memory is a bit off, though, because I remember the line as "worked hard", not "fought hard".

      (* in the event that they are right and I am wrong, you'll see that the sentence still works)

  6. FartingHippo

    A free speaker worth £199

    Having seen (and heard it), I can promise you that it 'costs' £199, but it is far, far, faaaaar from 'worth' it.

    My icon has only marginally worse sound reproduction qualities.

    1. Marvin the Martian

      Re: A free speaker worth £199

      And what about the journalists' bribe?

      Is there a tech journalist that DIDN'T have Amazon Prime membership yet (except for possible refuseniks that will get very annoyed at the bribe)?

    2. D@v3

      Re: A free speaker worth £199

      also worth noting that you only get the speaker on 8GB or 20GB a month contracts, also, (perhaps tellingly) the speaker itself is not listed in the Kitsound area of the Accessories corner of the site, me thinks they have a few out back that need getting rid of (maybe that had been purchased and returned?)

    3. Halfmad

      Re: A free speaker worth £199

      What use is it though? I'm after a MOBILE phone so give me a speak? What the f..

      Might as well have given me 4 pints of semi skimmed milk, I can use that whilst attempting to use the phone too.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A well balanced and fair review, and I agree with all the comments so far: just baffling why Amazon ever thought this would sell well given all the cheaper and better competition.

    Who would buy a Fire Phone given the alternative of pretty much every other phone that's available? And why did O2 take it on? For sure, I don't expect much sense from O2, but even so, this is one exclusive deal too far.

    All I can think of is that this isn't really a phone per se, but really the physical manifestation of a very clever tax-offsetting financial derivative.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Baffling

      It would make sense for Amazon to make a really good phone and heavily subsidise it due to it being locked into their ecosystem.

      Instead they have done the lock up part, but not released a good phone.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apps stores.

    Whilst Amazon is crap compared to Google and Apple's offerings, it's still a million miles better than Microsoft's Windows Phone app store offerings.

    What saddens me, is no WIndows Phone review, from the inhouse Windows Phone reviewer ever dare criticise that.

    1. Darren Barratt

      Re: Apps stores.

      Reaching there, to take a jab at a completely unrelated device, aren't you?

      C'mon, show us on this doll, where the nasty Microsoft touched you!

    2. Robert Grant

      Re: Apps stores.

      Actually they do mention the lack of apps on WP here. And WP has the Guardian, Dropbox, at least my banks' apps, Uber and Foursquare. So when you say its app selection is better than Windows Phone's, what you mean is, it's way worse, particularly when looking at the list the reviewer mentioned.

      Or what you really mean is The Register doesn't automatically parrot 2010's news that WP Store has no apps, the way most sites you read do.

  9. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

    Briefly considered one

    However I decided to stick with my VirginMedia contract for another round - the S3 mini is dirt cheap and does the job well enough with a 32Gb microSD, especially when paired with the Kindle Fire HD.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Briefly considered one

      Eeewwww the s3 mini.....I have the misfortune of having one for work. Is your like everyone else's with a cracked screen when it slid out of your hand?

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

        Re: Briefly considered one

        Nope, first thing I buy for a phone is a sub-£5 case from ebay. That usually protects the phone from any knocks.

        In fact I have never broken a phone screen, I have dropped them, usually on a tiled or concrete floor but PU-leather is a good shock absorber.

        ...and no I didn't down vote you.

  10. Stuart 22


    No Lollipop, fewer apps and a price premium? I'm not the target market when I come to replace my 2012 Nexus 4 (just received 5.0) and Moto G 1st Gen (5.0 on the way).

    Is it just me who won't consider any device that doesn't have an 18/24 month os upgrade policy and/or a cyanogenmod escape route?

  11. sawatts

    How much? Still?

    Recently succumbed to a smartphone, only because there was no O2 signal where I am now living (and thought it would be nice to find the nearest chinese takeaway on the way home).

    Nice large device for £150 (new), and an all-you-can-eat data for £12 pcm (more minutes and txts than I ever use).

    Why are people spending so much on these things? Am I missing something?...

    1. M Mouse

      Re: How much? Still?

      Agree, but come on, spill the beans, which phone and network ?

      (Consider it an act of educating the people spending too much, if you like, but I'm just curios as to whether my predictions are correct. Probably a Moto G on Three AYCE. Some might have thought of Giff Gaff, but don't they piggy-back on O2...)

      1. sawatts

        Re: How much? Still?

        Correct on the network.

        The 'phones actually a "phablet" HP Slate 6 VoiceTab (purchased with a discount).

        I know you can get shinier devices, but frankly it does more than I need very well.

  12. Hellcat

    Amazon's business model confuses the hell out of me.

    Here they have a service company, that they could open up to other platforms and millions more subscribers - but they tie it down to a selection of in-house devices that are selling at a loss, and are likely not to catch on.

    Full disclosure - (grumpy) Chromecast owner and Prime subscriber.

  13. DrXym Silver badge

    Not hard to understand why it flopped

    It was overpriced, underpowered, underfeatured and running some funny OS called Fire OS. Some people might know Fire OS is a fork of Android but even they wouldn't see it as a good thing.

    About the only unique about the phone was also those cameras on the front - five(!) in total, four of which were for some headtracking 3D effect that few apps bothered with. A lot of complexity and cost for a gimmick.

  14. Dabooka Silver badge

    Didn't I read on here....

    That Amzon had slashed the price to 99c in the US of A to drive sales? Or did I dream that? I winder what the impact has been if indeed it were true?

    My search for a Razr i replacmeent continues.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Didn't I read on here....

      Currently it's "free" on a stupidly expensive phone contract - $87 a month(!) for 12 months or $80 a month for 24 months for a pathetic 2GB data plan. Two things to conclude from this are 1) Americans are *really* getting screwed by their phone providers and 2) having to dropping a grand to get the free thing isn't free.

      Without contract it's $199 which IMO is somewhat more palatable but in a market filled with cheaper, similar spec phones hardly a bargain.

  15. OffBeatMammal

    $50 and a month of Prime

    the outrage

    it's about ethics in Journalism (not journalists in Essex)

    1. A Known Coward

      Re: $50 and a month of Prime

      I'd assume this is pretty standard for all companies giving devices which depend heavily on paid content to reviewers. Are they expected to spend their own money buying content to test the device. The Fire Phone (and iphone), but particularly the Fire phone, is all about purchasing apps, books, music and watching subscription videos from Amazon, how can you really review them without doing those things?

  16. Misky

    Target Market?

    So you get a midrange phone that hooks you in to the Amazon eco-system and only the Amazon eco system, replaces a standard interface with a "learn how to use it all over again" interface and charge a premium price.

    Who are their target market?

    Even in the States they couldn't find enough people who wanted "One o' them 3D phone-i-ma-jigs"!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not as good as the current iPhones, it's not as desirable as the current iPhones yet it's not as cheap as other Android handsets = doomed.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The market is basically splitting into cheap, high volume, no profit Android or Apple.


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