Amazon’s Fire Phone was, by any reasonable metric, a colossal failure. Amazon took a $170 million write down on unsold inventory and contracts with its suppliers, and the phone’s $649 starting price tumbled below $200 in just four months. The Fire Phone's reputation was mostly deserved—Amazon’s fork of Android cut it off from the Google Play ecosystem, and its hardware was built around a couple of gimmicks that didn’t actually address actual needs. Talk of a follow-up phone persisted for a while, but no phone ever surfaced. Until now.
Amazon is getting back into smartphones, but instead of dumping money into R&D and maintaining its own forked OS and ecosystem, the company is taking a page from its e-readers by slapping ads and preinstalled apps onto existing budget-friendly phones. In exchange, buyers get a $50 discount on a handful of already-inexpensive phones, assuming they’re already paying $99/year for an Amazon Prime subscription (one could conceivably skirt this requirement by signing up for a Prime trial and then canceling).