Why Amazon’s smartphone is a Mis-Fire

After much hype and speculation, Amazon have revealed their new smart device, known as the Amazon Fire Phone.

While that sounds a little like something you’d use to alert Brazil’s emergency services to a jungle blaze, nobody in Brazil will actually be able to use the device for now as Amazon has rather short-sightedly opted to launch it solely in the US – and with just one operator.

The device will be available exclusively via AT&T on a 2 year contract, priced at $199 for the 32GB version and $299 for 64GB. A launch offer for both devices will provide 12 free months of Amazon Prime, worth $99. Without a contract, the Fire Phone will retail for $649.

The device certainly has its perks, with higher end tech specs (including a 2.2Ghz quad core Qualcomm processor, 2GB RAM, Gorilla Glass 3 front and back, and Dolby Digital Plus stereo speakers), predictive caching for video, a 3D-style interface created with its multiple cameras, unlimited cloud storage for photos, and the Firefly app, which is the phone’s USP.

Nonetheless, it feels as though Amazon has made a few missteps. For a new player up against the likes of Samsung and Apple, the pricing is bold and perhaps relies too heavily on Amazon’s brand. However, it’s the failure to target the device at other markets that feels particularly myopic.

It goes without saying that smartphones are in demand in emerging markets – China has over 700 million smartphone subscribers. Amazon is present in massive markets such as China, Brazil, India and Mexico, and so could have leveraged its brand recognition to woo new smartphone adopters with an affordable alternative to the established devices.

However, it has for now chosen to focus on the US with a perhaps ill-advised strategy. Tech consumers in the US are often fiercely loyal to their chosen brands, with affordability often a secondary consideration when it comes to new devices. Amazon has waded into an already crowded market without significantly undercutting its competitors or offering a particular edge.

It will be interesting to see how this strategy pans out for Amazon, and even more interesting to see how quickly the firm moves to bring its Fire Phone to other markets. The retail giant ignores the spending power of consumers in emerging markets at its peril.



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