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Acclaimed critic rips apart Amazon’s Fire Phone, calls it ‘dead on arrival’

Published Jun 20th, 2014 12:00PM EDT
Amazon Fire Phone

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Bob Lefsetz is best known for his commentary on the music industry, but he branches out from time to time. The acclaimed critic’s analyses on consumer tech are most interesting to us, of course, and on Thursday night he set his sights on Amazon’s newly announced Fire Phone.

FROM EARLIER: Amazon just unveiled the most innovative smartphone of 2014 – here’s its biggest problem

BGR reported nearly everything there was to know about the Fire Phone over the past few months, so the device didn’t come as much of a shock when it was made official this past week. What did come as a shock, however, was the fact that the phone offers precious little compelling differentiation that might woo consumers.

Amazon’s phone is highlighted by its deep integration with Amazon’s online store and its Prime and Kindle services. It also features nifty 3D effects and motion controls made possible by a unique combination of front-facing cameras and internal sensors. What the Fire Phone doesn’t include, according to Lefsetz, is a reason for people to purchase it.

“Cool, disruptive, cheap. Pick one,” Lesetz wrote in his most recent Lefsetz Letter. “Pick two and you’ve broken the paradigm. Pick all three and you’re a ubiquitous product that eliminates all comers and has established companies scratching their noggins in the dust. The Fire Phone has none.”

He continued, “The Amazon phone is not cool. It takes branding to extremes. Never a company you wanted to broadcast an affiliation with, especially now that they’re beating back rights holders, does Jeff Bezos really expect us to advertise his enterprise 24/7? Most people are going to be embarrassed if they whip out this phone, the subject of ridicule.”

Letsetz wrote that the phone does have some nifty features, but as we noted in a recent analysis, they are likely not features that will draw consumers away from iPhones or Android handsets.

“But if the Fire was free. Or if it came with free data… Then there’d be an incentive to buy one,” he said.

Lefsetz concludes that the Fire Phone is not a bad product, per se, but pricing it in line with the iPhone and high-end Galaxy smartphones was a fatal mistake. He also slammed Amazon for its decision to make the Fire phone an AT&T exclusive, and said that the new handset is effectively “dead on arrival.”

Amazon’s Fire Phone is available for pre-order now starting at $199.99 with a two-year contract, or $649.99 off contract. The device will launch on July 25th.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.