Should Amazon stop making high end devices?

Should Amazon stop making high end devices?

This is a time of year when people are typically more willing to buy luxury items…to give a gifts.

In addition to managing a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I managed a game store. We carried $500 chess sets…and we figured we were very unlikely to sell one, except during the holidays at the end of the year.

Based on that, it would be reasonable to expect that Amazon’s top of the line EBR (E-Book Reader), the

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

would be doing relatively well right now.

To be clear, it doesn’t mean that it should be the bestselling Kindle EBR. If Amazon’s profit on the Voyage is twice what it is on the least expensive

Kindle, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and it sells half as many, they are equal.

Note that the Voyage costs more than twice as much the least expensive Kindle…but there are also certain costs which will be constant between the two (they both have delivery expenses, customer service expenses, that sort of thing).

I decided to take a look at the

Amazon Electronics Bestsellers (at AmazonSmile*)

to see what was selling best.

I was also curious about other Amazon devices.

When Amazon got into the device business in 2007, it was with a Kindle EBR. Many people thought (and said) that Amazon shouldn’t get into hardware…that it wasn’t their area of expertise.

They said the same thing when Amazon was expanding into tablets.

When they released the Fire Phone…well, okay, that one wasn’t a success. 😉 I do use one every day as my SmartPhone, though.

With the

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

tech writers had learned more caution, I think…they didn’t simply reject its market possibilities because it was from Amazon.

Here are some of the rankings for Amazon devices right now (and it can change every hour):

#1 Fire TV Stick (the least expensive Amazon TV option)

#2 Fire 7″ tablet (the least expensive Amazon tablet option)

#3 The Kindle Paperwhite (interestingly, this is the middle priced option) with Special Offers

#4 Fire 7 tablet without Special Offers (ad-supported devices, which are less expensive to purchase in exchange for viewing ads, are generally more popular than their full-priced, ad-free counterparts)

#5 Amazon Echo

#7 Fire 6″ HD tablet with Special Offers

#8 The least expensive Kindle with Special Offers

#9 Kids Fire Edition

#10 Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote

#13 Fire 8″ HD with Special Offers

#14 Another Kids Fire Edition

#15 Fire 10″ with Special Offers (the most expensive Fire tablet model)

#16 Amazon Fire TV

I’m going to skip a lot of other configurations of these devices, to get down to the Kindle Voyage at…#79.

That does show it trending upward to get to 79, by the way.

My guess on what this means?

People don’t think of Amazon as a luxury brand. When an Amazon device is relatively expensive, compared to competitors, it just doesn’t do as well.

That would include the Kindle Voyage and (when it was introduced), the Fire Phone.

Does that mean Amazon should just give up on high end devices?

I don’t think so.

While there are considerable costs involved (development, manufacture, marketing, support), there are probably public image benefits which aren’t directly reflected in the sales.

Also, having an expensive model like the Voyage will increase the sales of the middle model, in this case, the Paperwhite. People can justify buying the middle model rather than the lowest price model because off the money they “saved” compared to buying the most expensive model.

I don’t think there is an imminent danger that Amazon will discontinue the Voyage the way they did the Fire Phone…although, unlike diamonds, device models aren’t forever. 😉

What do you think? Surprised the Echo its doing so well? Did you think the Voyage would be doing better? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


18 Responses to “Should Amazon stop making high end devices?”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    I’m no wizard in finance, but I believe the reason the Voyage does not sell well is because there isn’t enough value added above the features of the Paperwhite to justify spending the extra money. For me the few extra features would not enhance my reading experience enough to even consider buying one. If the PW was not a great EBR then perhaps the Voyage would sell. What would it take for me to consider buying one? User replaceable battery, TTS and Audiobook compatibility (speakers and headphone), and a card slot for additional storage. Maybe even a way to check email and messaging. Since the K3 Amazon has removed a few of the features I used from their EBR’s; I’d like to see a few returned in the next iteration.

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      I’m with you on the return of abandoned features. I want text to speech and active content back. I have a Voyage, but I don’t consider it top of the line because of it’s lack of text to speech. They’ve made some improvements to text display to make it more readable, but the really need to tweek font sizes. They have too many teeny tiny font sizes and not enough larger sizes. It goes from too small to too large without a just right!

      • Phink Says:

        That right Lady Galaxy. I have said that on paper (I have never held one) the KOBO seems like the nicest EBR ever made. One of the reasons is it has something like 22 or 23 font sizes. I can’t tell you how many times on the Kindle one font size is too small while another is too large. I cannot believe they have never fixed this.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Phink!

        Every fix actually requires (or should require) quite a bit of effort. It has to be conceived, developed, deployed, and serviced. They have to prioritize things…I would guess the optimizers are the same people as the developers.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        TTS is a big deal for me…I did use Active Content, but I have less concern about that.

        I consider the Voyage the top of the line because I think Amazon positions it that way: higher cost, touted as better technology…the top of the line isn’t always the best experience. 🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thank for writing, Harold!

      I’m reading on the Voyage, but I agree…for me, it’s not that much better than the PW3, which is an excellent device…outside of not having Text-To-Speech (TTS).

      Personally, I don’t really care about a user replaceable battery…just not a big deal for me. As you know, I also don’t really care about Audiobooks (for me), and I don’t need a card slot (running out of memory is not an issue for me).

      I would like an EBR that tracks my eyes to know when to “turn the page” automatically…but I’m ready for Amazon to surprise me with a new feature. 😉

  2. Brad Bradsher Says:

    I bought the Voyage when it first came out, coming from the 1st Gen PW. I really like the voyage, the automatic dimming, etc. Would buy it again. Also bought the Echo when Prime had it for $99 and am very pleased with it. Hope they continue to add to it!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Brad!

      I’m pleased with how the Echo keeps expanding its capabilities…and there is a lot more coming!

  3. Tom Semple Says:

    I appears that Amazon is not making high-end devices, and I think there are precedents that suggest they won’t do so in the future.

    I doubt there is a Kindle Voyage production line running somewhere in China, and at current sale rates, they probably have at least several months of stock on hand. Similarly most of the Fire HDX tablets are still available, though production probably shut down many months ago. Prior to that, there was the Kindle DX, which saw only modest improvement in the v2 iteration, and was the ‘luxury’ Kindle of its day. Yet new devices were available for years afterwards.

    Fire Phone is a special case. Expectations for premium smartphones are high, nobody will buy a new one that’s much more than a year old at the price they were charging, and support costs are higher as they are more complex. Once the trend was clear, Amazon did what they could to sell them out as quickly as possible and move on. You and I may still be using one a year from now, but most people will find other options by then.

    Through such painful experiences, I think Amazon has understood that there can only be one Apple (though they may have peaked), and everyone else selling high-end devices doesn’t get to make much profit on it, and that they can make more money selling the high end devices that other companies make.

    So absent some significant improvement to e-ink display technology, I don’t think we’ll see a Voyage 2. And no successors to Fire HDX.

    It would be interesting to see Amazon come out with an under-$100 Fire Phone, in fact I think the only way the Appstore can ever improve is if they have a high-selling smartphone in the lineup: Android developers target smartphones first, tablets afterwords. There are plenty of games, of course, but what’s missing are banking apps and business-oriented apps, and their absence was a contributor to Fire Phone’s demise. If they do try this, I trust they will make sure to have as many of these apps as possible available on launch day, even if they have to subsidize the publishers to get them to do so.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      I don’t know enough about Amazon’s supply line. I always thought of the as more of a “just in time” company…producing to short term projected need, and sometimes getting it wrong (leading to items being out). Maybe they tried to adjust to that and overproduced on the Voyage, in which case you would be right.

      Amazon would have to be careful in introducing a phone device…calling it a Fire Phone would carry a lot of baggage. That’s why I think what we might see is a different form factor and/or a different name…

  4. Tuxy Says:

    I honestly think that many people may not be buying the voyage for the same reason that I am not buying it this holiday season. It has been out for well over a year, which in electronics terms, means that it is ripe for a new version. If I’m going to spend nearly $200 on an ereader, I’m going to do that when it first releases, not when it has been out for over a year.

    The other issue is that honestly with the paperwhite 3, there isn’t that much difference between the paperwhite and the voyage — yet another sign that the voyage is due for a new version…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tuxy!

      That is an interesting point! Looking at the bestsellers I listed, the top ones were all either new or refreshed this year.

      That’s a very short sales cycle, but you could certainly be right! Should Amazon be refreshing (or eliminating) every model every year? Perhaps…

  5. Phink Says:

    I finally broke down and bought the Voyage a few weeks ago. I thought it would probably not be worth the extra money so I waited a long time but bought the 3G no ads version when they were on sale.

    I will never be happy with a PW again. Things I thought would not be a big deal wound up being a big deal, at least to me. I love the glass feel when touching the screen. That surprised me. Now, the PW feels gritty and almost dirty. I am also surprised to find I like the flush glass much more than I thought I would. I also like the page turn buttons. Anyway that’s how I feel now and doubt I’ll ever buy another PW. However there are plenty who would disagree with me which I can certainly appreciate.

    One reason I always get the no ads version is because then there is no swipe needed when you open the case.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I appreciate that perspective!

      I don’t mind the swipe, but I can see how it does change the experience quite a bit.

  6. Karen Says:

    Just got my second Echo a couple weeks ago and love having one in the bedroom. Talk about spoiled…I walk in and pretty much go thru this routine: turn on lamp, set alarm, play Christmas music, turn off in 30 min. I get in bed, settle in and, turn off lamp. What’s extra nice is not having to have the music turned way up to hear in bedroom or moving it. I have 3 different tablets, 2 Echo’s, the original Paperwhite and Fire phone. I really couldn’t justify the Voyage but I’m sure there is at least a market share for it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      Some people report briefly seeing a menu choice for “routines” in the Alexa app for the Echo. Hopefully, that happens…and then you might be able to do all that with a command (with delay built into some steps).

  7. Phyllis Simpson Says:

    I love the HDX 7, please tell me they will keep making this model. It is perfect for my needs. I just bought a new Fire HD 8 with special offers. I think it is a big. Step down compared to my HDX 7. The glass is always dirty and full of smudges,though I am a frequent handwasher. Trying to get familiar with it it locked up several times and had to reboot it. Then I wanted to try the new bed time reading feature. When I decided I didn’t like everything being yellow it wouldn’t let me change back. I had to call tech. Support and talk to someone in Pakistan for help. I had to end up resetting it and start over. I bought it for the memory card and cameras, but I have decided died I can live without that. New features don’t always mean improvement. I hope they keep the HDX 7 for many years to come. I would be lost without it. Since I’ve had a stroke I really love the text to speech feature when I get tired. What plans do they have for it’s future?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phyllis!

      My Kindle Fire HDX 7 is one of my favorite devices ever…I use it every day (and it’s my nightstand clock).

      It’s been discontinued, though.

      I think, from what you are saying, you may have a later generation…do you know if you have a third or fourth generation HDX?

      Your experience doesn’t sound typical to me…did resetting it take care of the software issues?

      I’m also quite surprised that you would have spoken to someone in Pakistan. I’ve never had them identify where they are. Generally, I think I’m speaking with someone in Seattle, but I’m often using Mayday (unfortunately, that version of Mayday with the live onscreen support is not available on the HD8). If you call off business hours for Washington, it might make sense that you would get some somewhere else.

      You can return your HD8, normally within thirty days of purchase (but that may be extended right now, with the holiday return times).

      You might also want to consider a screen protector.

      As to the future of the HDX7…Amazon doesn’t typically give us a road map. We just have to wait to see.

      All of the current versions of the tablet have text-to-speech…I use it just about every day. I’m glad that the increased accessibility that e-books and current technology provide has been helpful in your situation!

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