Amazon has announced the end of the line for the Fire phone; the company says all inventory is sold worldwide as of last month, and it’s no longer being manufactured.
The revelation comes after the retail giant announced its first layoffs in its hardware division. The unit is also reportedly scaling back some of its ambitions for the Kindle tablet and e-reader, which is wildly successful. The company’s “Dash” button and especially its smart wireless Echo speaker have garnered good reviews and a following, if not massive sales.
This week the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon will launch a 6-inch Kindle Fire tablet for $50 in time for the holidays, half the price of the retailer's cheapest tablet. Much of the manufacture of the device has been moved to China and Taiwan to cut costs, according to the report.
That the Fire phone is done — extinguished, burnt out, any “fire” related verb you can think of — isn’t much of a surprise. The device suffered from an inflated price tag and a design meant to grow Amazon’s retail sales, not to mention a smartphone market dominated by the iPhone and increasingly by Android phones on the lower-priced end.
The bigger question is what Amazon is doing about its other hardware devices. Its layoffs in its hardware division are hard to read. Are they mostly to shift away from the phone, or were there other devices in the works from which the retail giant is also pivoting away?
Its Kindle devices are big sellers, for example, a fact that Barnes & Noble and its Nook division have grappled with to no avail. And its Echo and Dash buttons remain promising. Questions remain about its Fire TV; like the Fire phone, those are dwindling in supply. The expectation is that there will be a new Amazon TV, but is that also on the chopping block?
Probably not. Rumor has it that a new version will include a microSD slot and other features. Plus, that market is still in flux, with Apple, Roku, and Google all battling for control.
The smartphone market is a different landscape altogether, one that has hobbled Samsung and has even dinged Apple sales and market share, although Apple is still reaping profits from the iPhone like no other farmer in the field.
If it sits well with Jeff Bezos, Amazon may have to settle for a compelling if somewhat staid market for devices that enable the increasingly more prevalent Internet of Things.
“What Amazon makes are devices that are not too flashy, but they are inexpensive and they are simple to use,” IDC analyst Tom Mainelli told the Wall Street Journal. “Mostly they are another way to serve up content that Amazon can sell you. The next logical step for them is a fully connected home. With the data they have, they could soon be at the point where all the things you need just arrive at your home, without even asking.”