Personal Tech

You're FIRE-D: Amazon quietly extinguishes its failed smartphone

That is, the Fire Phone is sold out – but it won't be coming back, either

By Neil McAllister in San Francisco

8 SHARE

The saga of Amazon's star-crossed Fire Phone looks to have ended, at last.

The device, which was launched to much hype in June 2014, is now listed as "currently unavailable" on Amazon's e-commerce sites.

A note on the Fire Phone's official product page says, "We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock" – and you'd think Amazon would know.

So has the Fire Phone line actually been canceled? An alternate explanation would be that Amazon has merely cleared out its inventory in anticipation of launching a new model, a tactic often used by consumer tech outfits like Apple and Samsung.

That's not the likeliest explanation, though. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had laid off "dozens" of engineers at its hush-hush Lab126 facility in Sunnyvale, California, where madcap ideas like the Fire Phone are born.

Lab126 is thought to employ a total staff of around 3,000, and Amazon has reportedly kept pouring millions into it despite the Fire Phone flop. Its more recent creations include the Amazon Echo always-on two-way speaker and Dash, which lets you reorder frequently used items from Amazon's online store with the push of a button.

But while Amazon doesn't release much in the way of sales information about its gadgets, they're generally thought to be selling slowly. If it produces any more major flops, Lab126's future could be in jeopardy.

The Fire Phone itself obviously bombed. Its highly touted pseudo-3D screen didn't capture customers' imaginations the way Jeff Bezos – who reportedly pushed for the feature – seemed to think it would, and within three months of its launch Amazon had slashed the price of the 32GB model to just 99 cents with a two-year contract.

Someone apparently bought it, though. An Amazon spokeswoman told El Reg via email, "We have confirmed that we have sold through our Fire phone inventory and do not plan to replenish supply at this time. We will, of course, continue to support our Fire phone customers."

She would not comment, however, on whether Amazon plans to launch another Fire Phone model. Late last year, industry sources were buzzing that Bezos was 100 per cent committed to the project and that Amazon would "iterate" until it found a winning formula – but that it would take its time in doing it.

The spokeswoman also would not comment on the future of Lab126 or Amazon's gadget plans generally. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily

8 Comments

More from The Register

Amazon can't or won't collect sales tax in Australia

How much can a koala bear? Aussies forced to shop in inferior Amazon AU

Amazon warns you have 30 days before Music Storage files bloodbath

Jeff Bezos will do to your MP3s what he did to your bookstore

Konichiw-aaaaargh! Amazon's Japanese HQ raided in antitrust probe

Bezos Bunch under the microscope of anti-monopoly cops

Amazon adds cloudy Linux desktops to encourage developers to code for EC2

Running Amazon Linux 2, which just scored long-term support

Town wants Amazon's new HQ so much it plans to split off new town called 'Amazon'

At last, the leadership America desperately needs

Amazon staffers protest giant's 'support of the surveillance state'

Letter to Bezos: 'We refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights'

Amazon: For every dollar of op. profit going into Bezos' pockets, 73 cents came from AWS

It's pretty much a cloud provider with a gift shop on the side

Amazon tweaks its word processor for easier online Office edits

Which is just what you’d do if you planned to compete with Microsoft, perhaps?

French gov files €10m complaint: Claims Amazon abused dominance

Probe found unfair contracts for sellers

Amazon scam trio primed for prison stretch after million-dollar fraud

Defected goods hustle brought in big bucks – for a while