Amazon Hangs Up on Fire Phone

Amazon's grand adventure in the smartphone market was short lived and disappointing. The online retailer has laid off the team working on its Fire Phone, and has scaled back some of its other hardware projects, too.

Amazon's Fire Phone lost its connection. Forever.Amazon's Fire Phone lost its connection. Forever.

Dozens of engineers have been laid off from Amazon's Lab126 center where the Fire Phone and other devices including the Kindle ebook reader were developed, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon jumped into the smartphone market in June 2014 with the Fire Phone. The phone shipped with a 4.7-inch display, 13 megapixel camera for photos and multiple cameras for facial recognition, a sort of 3D interface, and a US$200 price tag. Amazon also threw in a year of Amazon Prime which regularly costs $99.

Fire Phone sales were so poor that after only six weeks Amazon cut the price from $200 to $0.99 for a few hours, and then dropped the price to free. With the Fire now extinguished after a little over a year on the market, it seems Amazon couldn't even give them away.

At least part of Amazon's problem was that it designed a phone to serve its needs and not customers. Fire Phone was a platform to sell products first and a smartphone with some clever features second. To be fair, Kindle is an Amazon selling platform, too, but it gets the feature balance right and is a good ebook reader where Fire Phone didn't adequately nail any of its features.

Amazon is reportedly scaling back other hardware projects, too. The company's plans for a large screen tablet are on hold, for example, its stylus project is on hold, and plans for a wall projection system are in limbo, too. Plans for a computer that manages your kitchen, however, are still on the table.

The products Amazon is selling now, or has in development, are all designed to drive sales through the company's online store. That's understandable since Amazon's primary business is selling all the things we want—but it's also unfortunate because the company has talented engineers who're hobbled because they have to focus on driving sales instead of building really cool products.