Did Amazon really only sell 35,000 Fire Phones?


fire phone software

We’ve spent the past few years wondering how Amazon would look to take their first stab at the smartphone market after a successful outing in the tablets scene. That question was answered with the launch of the Amazon Fire Phone (review), a device that they hoped would pack enough “innovative” features to rope folks in. (And, really, we all assume their true end goal is to get more eyes on their content ecosystem.)

So how has it fared in terms of sales? The official numbers haven’t been made public, but recent web traffic data from Chitika could shed a fair bit of light on the Fire Phone’s performance. Hint: it isn’t great. According to them, Amazon Fire Phone accounted for just 0.02% of web traffic since the 20 days of its launch. That puts it just ahead of the Motorola DROID Ultra, a phone that launched around this same time a full year ago.

The Guardian took the liberty of finding the amount of smartphones currently swimming around the United States (about 175 million) and crunched some numbers to determine that Amazon probably hasn’t sold more than 35,000 units. This takes into account indexing figures that would inflate or deflate web usage for a particular phone (such as a situation where there are more Galaxy users than iPhone users, but iPhone users make up more traffic). It’s sad to say that 35,000 appears to be a very generous estimation for Amazon.


Amazon’s best selling list would have you believe their phone is selling like hot cakes compared to Samsung and LG devices, however it doesn’t take into account that you can only find the Fire Phone at one of two places  — AT&T or Amazon’s own site — while the others are available at a multitude of retailers and carriers. It also doesn’t hurt that Amazon can push the Fire Phone as their featured phone however much they want. And trust us, they do.

We don’t want to take these numbers as total gospel just yet, but it wouldn’t be hard to believe Amazon has had trouble selling their smartphone. Their launch was marred by a couple of big blunders that would be enough to stamp the “dead-on-arrival” label onto any smartphone:

  1. It launched at a whopping $200 with a two-year contract. The price isn’t that bad for what you’re getting — Snapdragon 800, 2GB of RAM, 13 megapixel camera and more — but it’s kind of tough to sell people on it when you can get more powerful and feature-filled smartphones for the same price.
  2. It was made available on just one carrier. Long story short: this isn’t the iPhone. The Amazon Fire Phone can’t get away with launching as a carrier exclusive when it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The iPhone did. And the iPhone was available in more countries than just the United States.

Of course, there are many more variables that factor in (such as a limited apps ecosystem and an operating system that is designed to get you to spend money more than providing a quality smartphone experience), but these seem to be the biggest and most obvious.

Amazon did their best to load the Fire Phone up with features that could justify its bloated price tag, but those features turned out to be little more than gimmicks that don’t add much to the overall experience. We contend Amazon might have been much more successful by looking to undercut the big dogs with a more reasonable price tag as they do on their current crop of tablets.

fire phone display

Amazon also had to sell people on buying into an ecosystem with limited support. The Amazon Appstore has grown quite well since its launch, but developers have made it clear that the Google Play Store is going to be their top priority.

The prospect of an Amazon phone was rather exciting back in 2011 when rumors first began, but in this day and age it seems out of place. The veteran manufacturers of the smartphone industry continue to take steps forward which capture our interests and convince us to want to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade to new smartphones each year, but Amazon seems to be lagging behind like a startup that hasn’t gotten their feet onto solid ground. Perhaps that’ll change with future iterations and better decisions in how they launch and market the device, but the ship may have already sailed for their first attempt.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. It should had Google apps.

  2. It’s like Amazon’s Virtual Boy.

  3. Amazon tends to cripple these products. My mother bought a kindle fire (despite me telling her not to) and doesn’t use it because you cannot cast netflix. It had the feature and then decided to cripple the service. Tried using other versions of the netflix app and casting is still not an option.

    1. What are you trying to cast to? Did you try Chromecast or Allcast?

      1. Netflix from the netflix app. I also tried mirroring after I used the chromecast app and it is also not an option. Didn’t try all cast but that would be to complicated for my parents.

        1. You should be able to cast from Netflix using Chromecast (assuming you have a Chromecast receiving device, of course). Chromecast app needs to be sideloaded, though.

          Edit: weird, I just found an Amazon discussion about the issue (http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle/ref=cm_cd_pg_next?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdPage=2&cdThread=Tx3ZNFKPI7VLUE). I didn’t know people were having the problem. Maybe try uninstalling Netflix and sideloading it from a source that isn’t Amazon App Store.

          Edit 2: here’s another thread with a couple of possible workarounds: http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=Tx39NO3J8KSKJVD

          1. I sideloaded chromecast app, and reinstalled netflix from both the Amazon store and via sideload and neither way presented the option to cast. My N5 found the device and cast just fine. Their computer found the device and cast just fine. The chromecast app found the device just fine. The netflix app didn’t have the option to cast and the chromecast app didn’t have the option to mirror (probably because the underlying android build is older).

          2. To be fair, Chromecast mirroring is in beta and is only supported on a few specific phones right now.

          3. No, he is casting from the APP, which has been around since the Chromecast was released (there was even a 3 month credit for Netflix bundled with them).

            So either the Netflix in the amazon store is ancient or their forking broke the functionality. Either way it proves his point, its not worth the trouble (especially at full price).

          4. I was replying to his last sentence about mirroring and why that part wasn’t supported.

          5. Doesn’t Chromecast depend on Google Play Services now? Maybe if he sideloads that, it will work?

          6. Unfortunately, my folks live about 6 hours away so I can’t just shoot over there and try work arounds. The problem is when you spend money on a product, they shouldn’t deliberately remove features that are standard with the base that it is built on. For amazon to butcher Android is a shame because hardware wise, its really nice. All I know is I would not recommend amazons hardware because the software is limited.

          7. Or you could just not buy a fire phone, get one that is not forked and, to borrow a paraphrase of something Jobs almost said:

            “It just works.”

  4. Their ad campaign is horrible. Those kids are super annoying.

    1. Right? Not sure what they are going for: “Look, these kids can work it… you dumb adults should have no problem using this device”

    2. I thought they stole the Verizon girl.

  5. Remove the only, add more incredulous surprise.

    “Whaaaaa? 35,000 people BOUGHT the Fire phone?”

    1. I know right, what were they thinking?

      1. Jeff Bezos bought 34812 himself. The suprise is the other 188 buyers, who the hell are they?

  6. Amazon has a lot of potential in the phone market. The problem is their execution is majorly flawed. The apps in their app store almost always lag behind updates in Google’s Play store. They haven’t marketed the unique feature to the Fire Phone well enough to let people understand why they should get it over the competition.

    The biggest problem: EXCLUSIVE TO AT&T. Does no company ever learn from history? If you’re trying to get into the cell phone market, you better damn well get the device onto every major carrier. The “Facebook Phone” flopped in part due to only being on at&t. The popularity of the iPhone skyrocketed as soon as the exclusivity to at&t ended.

    Amazon needs to learn the failures here and go for round 2.

    1. It’s like they took Motorola’s approach with the Moto X, but managed to screw it up even more. Terrible ad campaign (that bearded dude was just weird) and MotoMaker exclusivity (but at least you could buy the phone on other carriers). I think those two things, and other missteps, really hurt sales of the X.

      1. And lack of availability elsewhere for a good six or seven months. By the time the Moto X made it to the UK, I was sick of waiting and had already gone ahead and bought an N5. Moto better not pull the same stunt this year, or I’ll buy the N6, more than likely. It’s like they don’t even want to make money outside of the US.

  7. It’s a shame really. I love my Fire Phone. Switched from a Galaxy Note and it’s been a joy. Gmail, Google calendar, etc all work fine on my Fire and Amazon’s one handed operating system is easy and intuitive to use once you get used to it. The video streaming is fast and photos are gorgeous. Sure the phone makes it easy to shop on Amazon, so what? Turn off one click and use Firefly for other stuff… I use it to ID addresses in garage sale ads & zap those to the GPS in my car. One click to add contacts to my phone with Firefly. Get creative. If you hate AT&T then this isn’t for you and I agree, Amazon misjudged there and alienated a huge swathe of the potential market.

    1. But that nasty gross Fire UI….

  8. Wow, who could have predicted the market for a phone with no Play Store was going to be very limited… Oh wait, everyone with a brain already knew this.

  9. I doubt they sold that much. Probably more like 1-2K.

  10. Whoever designed this needs to get a boot.

    1. No, they need to be fire-d.

  11. amazon renames Fire Phone to FAIL Phone

  12. Haha

  13. Called it. Just like the Facebook phone this failed because people want Google. Only apple and plus store offer them Google.

  14. All they had to do was look as the market to see that they weren’t going to gain a ton of market share, failing that, they could have examined why they were doing this in the first place. It’s almost exactly what FB did. You can’t create something that by design, doesn’t bring anything to the table in a crowded marketplace. It serves as little more than an Amazon Android based marketing tool for Amazon Prime. Just as the FB phone was a modern day Motorola Cliq to promote the FB brand. Add that to the fact that they sliced their market by at least a 3rd by making it exclusive to AT&T, and it’s a recipe for disaster. In all honesty, they would have been a lot better off trying to buy out RIM and enhancing the Blackberry. At the very least, the market is already established and whatever they brought to the devices would only augment them. With Android, iOS, and Microsoft defining their OS’s with different phones to take advantage of either the openness or the function of the platform, Amazon tried to force customers into thinking they needed yet another spin on something that existed well to begin with. The key word being forced. At least Apple is good at making people believe they need something new every year. At least Android is great at offering choices to people every 6 months. At least MIcrosoft and RIM are great at being tools in the business markets. Another “different” Android phone good for online mall shopping and video watching is just over kill.

    1. I agree that they would have been better off buying out RIM.

  15. They sold that many?

  16. *starts slow clap

    1. *slow clapping intensifies*

      1. *slow clapping dies*

        1. *quickly*

          1. *just like Amazon’s phone dreams*

          2. *and anybody who bought it

  17. While I support Amazon appstore as alternative competition to Play, to only offer it makes no sense whatsoever.

  18. I’m kind of glad TBH… if you don’t have easy access to all of Google’s apps and the Play Store it’s not a real Android. Plus maybe this will convince Amazon of how hideous their ecosystem looks.

  19. Also, since this phone is so integrated with Prime, and only includes 1 free year, it also comes with a future extra cost of $100.

  20. That’s 35,000 more than I thought they’d sell.

  21. The only way this *might have* worked if Amazon sold this phone on all carriers for 179.99 unlocked. Moto G should have served as a benchmark on how to sell an affordable mid-range phone.

  22. The only people I knew who bought Kindle Fire tablets were older Grandma’s who didn’t have enough money to spend on an iPad. That audience might buy a bunch of tablets – cell phones not so much.

  23. I never liked how amazon forked their ecosystem so the play store wouldn’t work on it. I understand why they did it but I never liked it. I wonder how big of a factor that is. I wonder if AT&T sales reps are persuading customers to try other phones. In the tablet space it seems the sales reps aren’t always as knowledgeable.

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