Aug 26, 2014 · 2 minutes

Amazon's Fire Phone is a disappointment. Reviews of the device all pose a question Pando has been asking since the device first became something more than an oft-repeated rumor: Is this really something that consumers need -- or even want -- to spend hundreds of dollars on?

If the latest report from the Guardian is to be believed, the answer is a resounding "no." The report, which is based on data gleaned from the Chitika advertising network and comScore, states that Amazon has managed to sell no more than 35,000 of its Fire Phones to consumers.

James Robinson predicted this in April, when the Fire Phone was revealed to be more than just something Amazon employees whispered about to eager reporters when they got bored:

Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s strategic genius so far has been in entering Amazon into new consumer verticals, lowering its price and waiting out competitors. As a smartphone manufacturer coming up against Apple and Samsung, who between them have over two-thirds of the market sewn up, its strengths are comparatively meeker. Amazon is a giant of commerce, but as a device manufacturer, it is just one of the pack.
Selling just 35,000 devices despite giving it prime real estate on the homepage of one of the most popular online marketplaces places Amazon firmly in the "just one of the pack" category. Anyone hoping for the Fire Phone to be an instant success should probably avoid gambling any time in the near future.

The Guardian is careful to note that its estimate is based on separate sets of data which might not be as accurate as hoped, but its conclusion is the closest we'll get to a definitive answer to the question of the Fire Phone's popularity with consumers, thanks to Amazon's own silence.

That silence leaves the rest of the world guessing as to Amazon's long-term goal for its phones. Does it harbor any delusions of grandeur, with the ambition to overthrow Apple or Samsung? Is it simply looking to expand its hardware business? Or is it just trying to avoid disruption?

It's unclear what exactly Amazon is hoping to prove with the Fire Phone, but that's almost irrelevant. Unless the company is trying to show that even it can't dominate every market it enters, despite its increasing power, none of its goals can be realized if its phones don't sell. And with "no more than" 35,000 devices sold so far, the Fire Phone isn't a hot commodity.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]