Amazon Fire Phone: It's Just Too Expensive

At an event on June 18,'s (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) legendary CEO Jeff Bezos announced the oft-rumored but heretofore vaporware smartphone known simply as the Fire Phone. Quite possibly the most surprising thing about this smartphone isn't the fact that it's basically a device whose primary purpose in life is to get you to buy things from, or even the "3D effect" teased in early videos. No, the big surprise is that the phone will cost $199 for the entry-level model with a two-year contract on AT&T.

Midrange phone, premium price?
The Fire Phone packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (not the recently released 801 or 805), a 4.7-inch 1280x720 display, 2 gigabytes of memory, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and all of the goodies that you'd expect from a phone at the upper end of "mid-range."

The problem with this pricing, of course, is that for that same $199 with a two-year contract, one could go buy an Apple iPhone 5s and enjoy the richness of the Apple software ecosystem, or the outright spec-fest that is a Samsung Galaxy S5 (which has access to the full suite of apps on the Google (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Play store, unlike Amazon's proprietary build of Google's Android).

But what about all of those nifty, unique features?
The Amazon Fire Phone does offer a number of features that your typical "mid-range" or -- heck -- even a high end phone doesn't have. For example, the pseudo-3D "dynamic perspective" feature that tracks the user's head in order to allow the image to "shift" based on the angle at which the user is viewing the phone.

Further, this device includes Amazon's Mayday tech support as well as Firefly, which can detect via the camera books, movies, games, food, and a bunch more. Indeed, not only will it detect these items for you, but it'll actually make buying these items from extremely easy.

The strategic benefit is obvious, but the pricing is still puzzling
This phone actually has quite a bit of strategic merit for Amazon. The phone comes packed with a 12-month subscription to Amazon Prime (which, as Bezos was so keen to point out, has very high retention rates) and -- as previously noted -- makes it really easy to buy things from Amazon. Fast, cheap shipping, tons of video/music streaming, and device that makes buying even more things sounds like a wonderful idea!

Unfortunately, the pricing is just too high. While a Kindle Fire tablet can often be justified because such a device isn't as personalized (i.e., the whole family can share it) and quite disposable (cheap with no contract), a phone is different. Usually, this is the device people use most and for most people, the phone they choose is the one that they're stuck with for the next two years.

How many people will want to buy a midrange phone with relatively limited app support (relative to full Google Play and iOS) to keep as their daily drivers for the next two years just because it has a "neat" depth effect and makes buying other things easier?

Foolish bottom line
If the Fire Phone were inexpensive without a contract, then it could definitely have had a shot at being a commercial success, particularly as competition for many of the low-end/mid-range Android devices. But as a phone designed to go up against established flagship devices in a high-end smartphone market that is already showing signs of saturation, the odds are really stacked against Amazon's Fire Phone -- cool as it may be. 

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 19, 2014, at 2:46 PM, MichalTod wrote:

    The phone should have been $400 off contract, free on contract. That would have been vaguely interesting.

    A better route could have had Amazon subcontract one of the big 4's network, and offer a whole package, including voice and data, to its customers. So you'd have the Amazon branded phone running on the Amazon network (powered by AT&T or Sprint). If they had something innovative on pricing (unlimited data, free voice over IP when wifi is available, disruptive pricing, etc) then this could have been very interesting.

    Instead we got an OK phone at a premium price on a less than average network that charges premium prices.

    Seems like a non-event to me.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2999845, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/1/2015 10:40:27 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Ashraf Eassa

Ashraf Eassa is a technology specialist with The Motley Fool. He writes mostly about technology stocks, but is especially interested in anything related to chips -- the semiconductor kind, that is. Follow him on Twitter:

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 16,171.39 -356.64 -2.16%
S&P 500 1,936.88 -35.30 -1.79%
NASD 4,688.06 -88.45 -1.85%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/1/2015 10:24 AM
AMZN $504.65 Down -8.24 -1.61% CAPS Rating: ***
GOOG $605.01 Down -13.24 -2.14%
Google (C shares) CAPS Rating: ****
GOOGL $636.37 Down -11.45 -1.77%
Google (A shares) CAPS Rating: ****