Amazon Fire PhoneI’ve been reading the coverage on the various tech sites about the Amazon Fire Phone, and most of the articles say basically the same thing. The Fire Phone is an underpowered, overpriced phone that won’t sell very well. I think they are wrong.

Oh, not about the underpowered, overpriced part. They are probably right about that. However, I think the phone will sell well anyway.

Remember that the goal of Amazon is not to sell the phone to everyone. The goal of Amazon is to keep existing Amazon customers loyal and to bring in new customers for Amazon. The Fire Phone is simply one tool to do that. Tech writers (myself included) tend to get caught up on technical specifications. I think the Fire Phone is good enough. It’s not top notch, but it’s very good. The average consumer doesn’t sit down with tech sheets and look at CPU power, camera megapixels and the like. What they want to know is, “Will it do what I want?” and “Will it give me something interesting that a competing phone won’t?” Oh, and if you’re already an Amazon customer, “Will it make my Amazon experience better in some way?”

I think the Fire Phone hits all three of those points. It’s good enough to do what they will want. It’s got some cool features which I don’t think we are properly appreciating until we actually have phones in hand. For example, my husband is EXTREMELY resistant to being sold to. His reaction to Firefly? “I can see where I’d use that a lot.” This tells me Firefly has an appeal beyond just an easy window to Amazon. I also think Dynamic Perspective, in hand, is going to be the sort of thing people will show their friends, who in turn, will want to have it for themselves.

But, the app store! Users will be stuck with the Amazon App Store! Yes, they will. That’s my biggest reason for not buying one (even though I was mighty tempted). However, again, are the apps available that most purchasers will want? Yes. Remember, not everyone browses the Internet looking for the perfect app for every function. Most people use what’s on the phone, what they can get on sale and what’s easy to get to. Amazon, especially with their free app of the day, will work for most people.

What about the price? It’s priced the same as the Galaxy S5, iPhone 5 and way more (off-contract) than the Nexus 5. True, but, again, most consumers don’t buy off contract, and the $199 contract price tag won’t look that out of line with the other phones, especially considering the, I think, attractive features the Fire Phone has that other phones don’t. I suspect AT&T is going to use this phone hard in advertising to push the Next program, and it will probably work.

Amazon wasn’t creating a phone the tech crowd will love, so it’s not surprising that we don’t love it. They wanted to create a phone to appeal to their target market: people who are willing to buy from Amazon. I think they nailed it.

Which leads me to my opinion about their one mistake. I think the AT&T exclusive was a bad idea. Loyalty and love of convenience are two characteristics of the average Amazon customer, and both of those will work against Amazon when a potential Fire Phone purchaser has a contract with another carrier. I’m not convinced the phone is good enough to make people switch. We’ll know more next month. With AT&T in the picture, we may get more data out of them than we are used to getting from Amazon.


  1. The Amazon Fire is nothing new. It’s like every other cell phone, smart or otherwise, on the market. It’s rooted in a lousy ecosystem that seems to still think phone numbers mean rotary switches.

    As I was telling a salesmen at an AT&T store a few days go, there’s a host of easily implemented features that cellular providers, for all their gimmicks, aren’t providing. The most obvious are the ones that Google Voice provides badly. Why this mad one-to-one limitation on numbers and ringing phones.

    * I recently moved cross country. Why can’t my old Seattle number, which I’ve used for about 25 years, still ring a cell phone whose primary number is a local one. Having two numbers ring the same phone isn’t exactly man-on-the-moon science.

    * AT&T’s coverage here is lousy. They have two stores within three miles. Their closest tower is about seven miles away. Given that coverage in my home stinks, why can’t they offer a VOIP service that’d run on my Mac and ring at the same time my cell phone rings. No, their only solution is a device that costs $200.

    Amazon’s cell phone is a me-too phone in a market that’s filled with me-too phones. That’s where it failed. About the closest to good news is that AT&T salesman said that his company might support the phone-through-WiFi features of iOS 8.

  2. Does ‘being stuck with the Amazon App Store’ mean you can’t transfer apps already purchased from Google Play over to the Fire Phone (until it’s hacked, anyway, as it presumably will be)? Because I have as much money (and a good deal more time) tied up in the apps I’ve bought as I do in the hardware itself. If I can’t transfer them that’s a deal-killer for me.

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