After poor reviews and lackluster sales, Amazon is essentially giving away its recently launched Fire Phone for free to customers who commit to a two-year service contract — a move coming 24 hours before Apple is expected to bow next-generation iPhone models.
The e-commerce giant in June launched the Fire Phone, touting whiz-bang features including a 3D-like display and auto-recognition feature for millions of items, originally starting at $199.
Now, Amazon is selling the 32-gigabyte model of the phone for a nominal 99 cents as long as customers sign a two-year contract with AT&T, the Fire Phone’s exclusive carrier partner in the U.S. Alternatively, the Fire Phone with 32GB is available for no money down and $18.75 per month (for 24 months) through AT&T’s Next 18 plan.
Also Monday, Amazon announced the launch of the Fire Phone in the U.K. with O2 (likewise for no upfront fee depending on contract) and in Germany with Deutsche Telekom (for as little as €1), with units to start shipping in both territories Sept. 30.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in launching the Fire Phone earlier this summer, touted the device’s unique features. Those include “Dynamic Perspective,” which uses four cameras to detect where you’re looking to present 3D views and provide gesture controls, and Firefly, which can ID identify any of about 70 million products and then add those to a user’s Amazon shopping cart as well as songs, TV shows, movies, email and website addresses, phone numbers and QR codes.
The Fire Phone “puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand,” according to Bezos. Indeed, it’s in large part designed to reinforce Amazon’s core e-commerce business and Prime program. The smartphone includes 12 months free of Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on certain products, access to Prime Instant Video and other benefits.
Tech reviewers generally were unimpressed with the Fire Phone. Critics dinged the product’s limited battery life, absence of key apps, lack of features available in rival products and the fact that it works only with AT&T, among other shortcomings.