Amazon has cut the price for its unlocked Fire smartphone by 69% just four months after the phone first went on sale.
The company also just deleted thousands of negative online customer reviews of the smartphone on its website.
The latest discount first appeared on Amazon.com on Tuesday, dropping the unlocked 32GB price from its original $649 to $199; the price still includes one year of Prime service, worth $99, and is good through Cyber Monday (Dec. 1).
In addition to the price cut, Amazon deleted thousands of customer reviews of the product, leaving up only reviews posted since the price cut went into effect.
Just one review appeared as of noon ET Wednesday: "Dan" gave the Fire four stars out five and called the $199 price "awesome," adding that he wished it ran pure Android. (It runs the Fire OS, an Android variant.)
An Amazon spokeswoman said there weren't more reviews because the revised unlocked version just launched Tuesday on its Web site. She said it has been upgraded with added features such as text translation, a secure corporate VPN and user interface and performance improvements; those added features will be rolled out to existing Fire customers over-the-air in coming weeks, she added.
By comparison, customer reviews back in late October scored the device with just 2.4 stars out of five, based on nearly 4,000 reviews.
Various negative complaints included access to too few apps and concerns that the Fire got hot to the touch. Some users called the phone "gimmicky," pointing to various innovative features like Firefly for instant access to information on products and objects, customer support with Mayday and a sensor system with 3D-like capabilities called Dynamic Perspective.
Before Tuesday's change, Amazon had already slashed the price (in September) from $649 to $449. That same month, the locked -- or subsidized -- price with AT&T on a two-year contract went from $199 to 99 cents for the 32GB model. That price continues today.
Why the change? Poor customer response, bad initial pricing and a highly competitive smartphone market.
The numerous early negative customer reviews speak for themselves. Reviewers and analysts immediately slammed the phone for adding features like Firefly that make it seem mainly as a way to funnel buyers to Amazon's Web site for purchases.
AT&T's Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega put it in perspective at a June launch event, noting, Firefly's "only danger is clicking one too many times to buy things."
The Mayday button, however, got the most praise, for making it simple to connect with video access to customer support in 15 seconds.
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