In a survey of 1,000 smartphone users, conducted by analyst Colin Sebastian of R.W. Baird, the Amazon Fire smartphone fared rather poorly. According to UberGizmo, iOS was at the forefront with 43.8%, followed by Android at 32.6%, then Blackberry (6.8%), Microsoft’s Windows Phone (5.3%), and finally Amazon Fire Phone with a mere five per cent.
Mark Mason, CEO of Mubaloo, mobile consultants and app developers for the enterprise market, said he understands why the Fire ranked so low in the survey. “The Fire phone came out at a much higher price than many expected it to. One of the reasons the Kindle and Kindle Fire HD sold well is that they were priced significantly lower than any other device of their kind,” he said. “Amazon was making a loss on the devices with the initial up front cost. They were able to make their money by people buying content through the devices, for the devices.”
Mason explained that phones are very different to tablets and eBook readers though, because phone users want to have access to the latest and greatest apps; something that the Amazon Appstore is lacking.
“The Fire phone is without doubt the easiest way to buy products from Amazon, but users can just as easily buy products via the Amazon website, or Amazon apps via Windows Phone, Android or iOS,” he said.
Mason added that the Fire phone also relies on gimmicks as an initial way to impress users, but unlike Apple they do not have physical stores where people can go to experience the phone. “If you also look at the reviews of the phone, many journalists admit that, whilst there are some nice features, the device isn’t enough to get people to switch away from the more established platforms,” he said.
Cathal McGloin, CEO of mobile app platform provider, FeedHenry, agreed, adding that “early indicators are that there’s more work to be done to excite consumers.” He said that there are many possibilities with Firefly, the Fire’s object recognition/shopping feature, but also some serious limitations. “A major limitation for business users is the lack of support for hybrid apps or iOS. Just betting on native Android will not cut it for most enterprises, which need the flexibility to develop for multiple devices,” he said.
McGloin went on to say that the core limitation is that the object recognition part has to be done by Amazon and cannot be extended. “What you can do is write plugins which are triggered when certain objects are recognised and then run business logic to retrieve additional information.,” he said. “Let’s see how the app developer community reacts and whether app toolkits will be developed for Amazon Fire that extend the support for it, only then is the Fire likely to find its way into the enterprise through BYOD programmes.”
Mason agreed, saying: “One of the most pressing points is attracting developers to create apps for the Fire phone. Developers go where the money, and the users are.”
Another issue for the Fire is pricing. “The Fire phone is playing in the premium market at a time when there are cheaper, good alternatives available on Android and Windows Phone,” he noted. “Apple dominates the premium smartphone market, so coming in with a product and operating system that can’t match what Apple has created since 2007 is an uphill battle.”
While the Fire is an interesting offering with some good features, it seems not to have captured the imagination of users who are opting for the more established Apple and Android options, for the most part.