After the first look of Amazon’s Fire phone in June, a lot of scepticism and speculation have crept in among techies, about the device’s chances of success. Let us here take a look at some of the main problems with the newly launched phone.
Last month, the well-hyped Amazon Fire phone was unveiled by company CEO Jeff Bezos. The initial response among buyers has been surprisingly tepid though, with the device failing to excite users worldwide – as any new flagship Apple or Samsung device does. A closer analysis of the Amazon handset does suggest that it is probably not geared to be a big hit. Here are a few reasons why the Fire phone might prove to be a flop:
- The platform pales in comparison with iOS and Android – Amazon’s decision to go with Fire OS for its smartphone is undoubtedly a brave one – but only time will tell whether it has been a wise move. Mobile app developers and analysts point out that the lack of adequate number of applications on the Amazon platform might prove to be a problem. Google Play Store and iTunes have approximately four times the number of apps as Amazon does.
- Unattractive build of the phone – At a time when every handset-maker is coming up with slim and stylish smartphones, the physical structure of Amazon Fire has a tacky feel to it. It is significantly heavier than other handsets in the same price bracket – and the overall dimensions (particularly, the thickness) are not focused on user-convenience either.
- The Firefly feature does not offer anything new – Those at Amazon might be screaming their lungs out about the uniqueness of the Firefly feature. The fact, however, is, there are already plenty of iPhone apps that allow users to simply point their devices at any product (at select stores) to purchase it. Firefly would give the overall Amazon product sales figures a boost – but for that, the phone needs to have a large enough user-base, which, for the moment, does not appear likely.
- The pseudo-3D functionality disappoints – Apple had already made an unsuccessful attempt to introduce parallax scrolling in some of its earlier handsets. With its much-publicized ‘Dynamic Perspective’ feature, Amazon Fire phone is planning to go the same way. According to a report published in Ars Technica, this feature tends to malfunction whenever two or more objects (e,g., faces) are placed close to the phone. If Amazon had decided to give this feature a miss, probably the phone would have been priced at a much lower level.
- Way too expensive – Amazon Fire phone is a classic example of a mobile device which does not justify its price tag. For its off-contract price of $650, users can go for either Samsung Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5S – both of which boast of much superior tech specifications. If you opt for the 2-year contract option with AT&T, you will still have to shell out $199 for this device. The Kindle Fire Tablet could not create much of a ripple, even though its selling price was lower. Amazon, clearly, has not learnt a lesson from its previous failure.
- Lack of Google services will hurt – Amazon Fire phone comes with ‘Mayday’ – a feature via which your contacts can ring you up and ask for solutions to their tech queries. That, however, not does not come even close to being a decent substitute of good ol’ Google search. With mobile web access on the rise across the globe (both in terms of duration and number of users), Fire has every likelihood of being viewed as a backdated phone.
- Will the free membership to Amazon Prime be lucrative enough? – Amazon clearly wants people to buy more from its stores – and the one-year free membership offer to Prime is a clear indication of that. At the time of the device’s launch, Bezos harped on the impressive retention rates of Prime – which would be available for free to all new Fire phone users. However, mobile marketing analysts feel that it would have been more prudent if the phone had come as a bonus with a paid Prime membership – and not the other way round. In any case, it’s a limited-period offer, and is not going to sustain the sales of Amazon Fire over the long-run.
- Absence of a real point of difference – Firefly and Dynamic Perspective are not features (at least in the form they have been included in the Fire phone) that people are going to go ga-ga about. The 3-D effects on the display are not real – and what’s more, this feature places an excess pressure on the phone batteries. There is nothing about the Amazon phone that would actually convince potential users to believe that it is worth buying.
- Amazon Fire phone will not serve as an extension of the company’s website – With easy and enhanced mobile shopping support, Bezos and his team had strategized for a phone that would double up as an extension of the Amazon online shopping portal. What was not taken into account was that – the high price tag would practically defeat this purpose. For successful implementation of this strategy, what Amazon needed was a budget phone with the same features, not an exorbitantly priced one.
- Processor – While not one of biggest factors that would stand in the way of the Fire phone’s popularity, this issue also deserves a mention. Instead of including the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor in the device, Amazon has gone with the older 800 version. Couple that with the 2 GB RAM space and the 1280×720 resolution level – and you get a perfect ‘mid-range’ phone, not a premium device.
- Contract with AT&T will not guarantee success – If it did, Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitious ‘Facebook phone’ would have still been around. It had to be pulled out within a couple of months of its launch – and experts from many app development companies are apprehensive of the Amazon phone suffering the same fate. AT&T cannot shore up a phone that is, in itself, not good enough.
- Targeting the wrong end of the customer spectrum – Given the specs of Amazon Fire phone, it had a chance of carving a niche for itself in the middle to lower segment of the market. Instead, the company has decided to gun for the premium segment – with its supposedly ‘high-end’ features and of course, the stunningly high price. There is a high probability that Fire will not be able to gain a foothold in the sector where iOS and Android already have a strong clout.
- Camera features are nothing extraordinary – Everyone knows that megapixel-count is not the only thing that determines the quality of a mobile camera. Even then, general expectations were that Amazon Fire phone would have a 16MP camera, just like the Galaxy S5 (after all, it is only $100 cheaper than the latter). Instead, Fire phone comes with a slightly ho-hum 13 MP lens. To give where credit’s due, it takes decent-quality snaps in relatively weaker light – but that cannot really put Fire’s camera at par with the camera on the leading smartphones at present. Even LG G3 has a 13 MP camera.
- Buyer-loyalty could be a crucial factor – While the brand-presence and fan-count of Amazon is nothing to be scoffed at, it cannot hold a candle to that of Samsung or Apple Inc. Everyone is looking forward to the launch of iPhone 6, even after the dismal show of iPhone 5C. Similarly, it really does not make much of a difference to Samsung if any of its new handsets is not well-received. In the mobile phone market, Amazon does not have that much leeway.
The Amazon Fire phone was in the making for more than five years – a telltale indication that developers were unsure about the features to include in it at first. Yet another factor that seems to have been overlooked by Jeff Bezos is that, Amazon services are accessible at present on most other top-bracket smartphones. The Fire phone could have succeeded if it had released 7-8 years earlier and had been similarly priced as the Nexus 5. In its current form, chances of it finding many takers look bleak.
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