With mediocre-at-best reviews and availability only through AT&T in the U.S., it’s probably not surprising that Amazon’s Fire Phone isn’t making huge waves in the smartphone market. Despite being the bestseller on Amazon’s own cellphone site for awhile, the phone doesn’t account for much web browser traffic, according to a new report from online advertising network Chitika.
Chitika says web usage on the Fire Phone has only risen to 0.02 percent in the first 20 days after the handset launch. By comparison, the LG G3 — a similarly priced high-end handset that has earned favorable reviews — had triple the web traffic on Chitika’s network in its first 20 days. In addition to a better display and faster processor the G3 wasn’t limited to a single carrier, which surely helped the handset’s uptake.
Illustrating the point of exclusives potentially hurting sales growth, Chitika’s report also shows web usage data for the Motorola Droid Ultra, which launched in 2013 as a Verizon exclusive. That phone saw the same 0.02 percent of web traffic over its first 20 days as the Fire Phone. It’s worth noting that the $199 Motorola Droid Ultra was actually one of three new Motorola Droid phones launched simultaneously: The $99 Droid Mini and $299 Droid Maxx shared shelf space and sales were likely split between the trio.
Exclusive phone launches can work, of course. Apple’s iPhone was limited to AT&T in the U.S. for several years, but that’s an extreme example. The iPhone helped revolutionize the current smartphone era and it took competitors a long time to make comparable devices on other platforms. The Amazon Fire Phone is no Apple iPhone in this regard.
Yes, it has some unique features but uniqueness doesn’t necessarily equate to a “must-have” feeling. The phone interface and performance still has room for improvement; even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said the company must be patient with its first smartphone effort. To that end, Amazon released its first software update for the Fire Phone earlier this week. That’s a start, for sure, but it might have helped if Amazon had debuted the phone on multiple carriers instead of just one.
Note that Chitika gathers data from websites that show its advertisements, so it should be seen as a proxy for the mobile web. With ads on 350,000 sites accounting for hundreds of millions of impressions, however, the data offers an idea of the market as a whole.