Amazon Fire Phone Slashed To 99 Cents Ahead Of UK Launch

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Amazon has begun accepting pre-orders for the Fire Phone, but sluggish US sales have prompted a price cut

Amazon has begun accepting pre-orders for its Fire Phone smartphone in the UK, due to arrive at the end of this month, just ahead of the expected launch of Apple’s iPhone 6 on Tuesday.

However, the US version of the handset has reportedly attracted little interest since its launch in late July, prompting Amazon on Monday to cut the price of the entry-level version from $199 (£123) to 99 cents.

Amazon fire phone 3D

Price cut

The 32GB Fire Phone will now sell for 99 cents with a two-year contract in the US, with the 64GB version selling for $99 (£61.43), down from $299 (£185.53), Amazon said.

The Fire Phone faces steep competition from the likes of Apple, Sony, Samsung and HTC in the smartphone market, and recent market research data suggested only 35,000 of Amazon’s devices have been sold to date. Industry analysts had initially predicted it might sell between two million and three million units in the US by the end of this year, compared with an average of 2.7 million worldwide for Apple’s iPhone during its most recent quarter.

Amazon hasn’t released Fire Phone sales figures, and said in its most recent quarterly earnings report that it might not do so.

Reviews of the US version have criticised the Android-powered handset’s sluggish performance, poor battery life and the fact that it relies on Amazon’s own app store, which has a fraction of the software available via Google Play.

However, Amazon said the handset offers solid value, as well as giving access to Amazon features that competitors can’t match. The Fire Phone comes with one year of Amazon Prime membership, which includes free shipping and access to video programming and e-books. It is due to arrive in the UK on 30 September.

Software upgrade

The company said it has seen submissions to its app store double since the Fire Phone’s US launch, and said software updates have improved the device’s battery life and performance. The UK version of the handset will feature the phone’s second major software update, customised voice recognition for British accents and software from the likes of BBC Sport, the Met Office, Just Eat, Time Out and Yplan, Amazon said.

Custom software uses a front-facing camera to monitor the position of the user’s head and create a simulated 3D interface, while Amazon’s Firefly application recognises products photographed by the phone’s camera, enabling the user to quickly buy them from Amazon’s website.

The handset will launch exclusively with O2, with a range of tariffs including a £32-per-month 2GB plan and a new 20GB 4G data plan.

The device also launched in Germany on Monday, and may be available elsewhere in Europe soon, Amazon said.

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