Amazon Fire Phone release date, news and features
28th Jul 2014 | 18:39
The Amazon phone is on sale now
Amazon phone: all the details
July 28 Update: The Amazon Fire Phone release date has come and gone, so if you're a US citizen you can up and buy the handset right now.
Be sure to check out Page 2 for anAmazon Fire Phone vs iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 vs LG G3 showdown to see which handset is right for you.
It's here! Meet Amazon Fire, the etailer's very first smartphone. Anyone out there nail its name?
- Know what else is here? Our Amazon Fire Phone review!
The Amazon phone is about what we expected on the spec front, but it's loaded with two features that Amazon claims help users "see and interact with the world through a whole new lens."
Those features are Dynamic Perspective and Firefly, which we breakdown further below, plus plenty of details on everything else the Amazon phone has to offer.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Amazon's phone event, besides the eye-catching 3D (which doesn't necessarily mean customer-catching), is the phone's heavy ties to buying. Amazon wants you to purchase things, and now it's come up with a way for you to do so from your pocket.
What are your thoughts on Fire? Is it everything you were hoping for and more? Or a let-down that can't hold a candle to the iPhone 5S, Galaxy S5 or other flagship devices? Is Amazon simply trying to sell you more stuff, or looking like it legitimately wants to succeed in the smartphone space?
Amazon Fire Phone price and release date
The Amazon phone costs $199.99 (about £117, AU$213) for a 32GB version and $299.99 (about £176, AU$320) for 64GB. Off contract, Fire costs $649.99 (about £382, AU$691) and $749.99 (about £441, AU$798), respectively.
The Fire Phone is an AT&T exclusive, and it's shipping now. Order it on Amazon.com or AT&T.com, or walk into an AT&T store to pick your new handset off the shelves.
AT&T customers with a Next early upgrade package can get away with paying $32.50/month for 20 months on Next 12 or $27.09/month for 24 months on Next 18 for the lesser storage flavor. A 64GB runs $37.50/month for 20 months on Next 12, while a next 18 option costs $31.25 for 24 months.
As an added bonus, customers who buy the Fire phone are being treated to 12 months of Prime membership free, but the offer is only running for a limited time.
We're still lacking early sales figures, but don't expect Amazon to panic if its first phone turns out to be a flop. CEO Jeff Bezos told The New York Times: "We have a long history of getting started and being patient. There are lot of assets you have to bring to bear to be able to offer a phone like this. The huge content ecosystem is one of them. The reputation for customer support is one of them. We have a lot of those pieces in place. It's our job to keep inventing and to be patient. One thing leads to the next."
In other words, the pieces are there for long-term success, Bezos believes. It's just a matter of sticking it out with the phone until it reaches that point.
Amazon Fire Phone specs
The device features a 4.7-inch screen, a size ideal for one-handed use, said CEO Jeff Bezos. It ranks with 590 nits of brightness and other goodies like an ambient light sensor and Dynamic Image Contrast to make your screen images sing in various viewing situations. The resolution sits at 1280 x 720 with 315ppi.
Gorilla Glass 3 is slathered on the front and back, the buttons are made of aluminum and stainless steel details and a rubberized polyurethane grip make for a chic profile.
On the inside, the Fire Phone features a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz processor, Adreno 330 graphics and 2GB of RAM. As expected, the Fire runs a forked version of Android, Fire OS 3.5.0.
As for cameras, we know it's fixed with a 13MP snapper on the rear, complete with OIS and a powerful f/2.0 lens. There's even a dedicated camera hardware key - press once to turn it on, twice to take a shot. Amazon is throwing in free unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive to sweeten the deal.
The front camera - the normal one - is a 2.1MP-er. Both it and the rear camera can capture video in 1080p.
Dolby Digital Plus surround sound speakers crank out the Fire Phone's audio. The Fire phone features global LTE and connectivity on nine LTE bands, four GSM bands and five UMTS. It features 802.11ac support, Wi-Fi channel bonding, Bluetooth and NFC. Note this is regular Bluetooth and not the LE kind that makes for wearable connections.
We suspect the device is going to need a lot of juice to run its 3D features, and Amazon only managed to put a 2,400mAh battery in to fuel the Fire. The company said in release notes that the Fire has 285 hours of standby time, up to 22 hours of talk time, up to 65 hours of audio playback and up to 11 hours of video playback. But running Dynamic Perspective and extensive testing is needed to see if these numbers are attainable.
Finally, a nanoSIM is pre-installed and the phone has space for a microUSB 2.0 and 3.5mm headphone ports.
Amazon Fire Phone apps and games
In the days leading up to the Fire Phone's release, Amazon made it be known that developers are flocking to flush out the phone's software offerings.
"In the week following the announcement of the device, the Appstore received more app submissions than any other weeks since it opened in 2011," the company said in a press release, noting developers are taking advantage of the Dynamic Perspective SDK and Firefly SDK in their apps. Companies like eBay, Groupon, Kik, Sega, Trove, TV Guide, the Wall Street Journal and WhatsApp are already using Dynamic Perspective and Firefly, Amazon said.
Other apps and games that will be available on the Amazon phone at launch include AirBnB, Angry Birds Epic, Badland, Cut the Rope 2, FOX Sports Go, The Room Two, ToDoist, Where's My Water 2 and Wunderlist. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Pandora, Pinterest, Spotify, Stubhub, Uber and WhatsApp are ready to rumble when the Fire Phone ships, too.
Amazon Game Studios is also serving up two Fire Phone exclusive titles in collaboration with other game makers. Saber's Edge and To-Fu Fury both use Dynamic Perspective as part of their game play, letting users peek around corners and objects inside the game, control gameplay with head movements and tilt the device to change direction or their view.
Microsoft made quite a big deal July 22 that Skype is headed to the Amazon Fire Phone. The app will be available at launch and will adopt some of Fire Phone's flare, complete with a 3D icon and notification badge. Thanks to a carousel widget, users can see chats and notifications at a glance, meaning they won't have to launch the Skype app to stay on top of their conversations.
The Redmond firm also came out July 24 with word that its OneNote note-taking and to-do list app is now available for the Fire Phone and Kindle Fire tablets. OneNote is free on the Amazon Appstore for Android. Unlike Skype, OneNote for Fire Phone isn't optimized for the device - it's just the regular Android version available on a new phone.
Also available for the Fire Phone is Slacker Radio, a music application. The app uses the Amazon phone's tilt controls, letting users learn more about a song, find similar artists and access recently played tracks.
Amazon Fire Phone 3D features
The Amazon phone screen has an interface called Dynamic Perspective that adjusts a 3D-like view of the screen to match users' head position. Lockscreens and wallpapers have a 3D effect, though that's not all.
Bezos demonstrated on stage how the device could render a building on a map in Dynamic Perspective. The building - the Empire State, to be exact - was rendered in a three-dimensional sort of way and moved as the user moved. It was a neat trick of animation, though not the reach-out-and-grab 3D of our youth.
Neatly, in maps, you can tilt the phone to see what's "tucked" information that lives on another layer, like Yelp ratings and reviews, and see under and around edges.
The fun doesn't stop there. Fire Phone also lets you one-handed tilt through a line-up of items you may be shopping for, like women's dresses, in the Amazon Shopping app. You can also auto-scroll through an article, a web browser or ebooks, and tilting in Amazon Music reveals song lyrics.
And Dynamic Perspective seems acutely tuned to games, making the images you see on screen pop out and forcing you to maneuver around them just by moving your head.
Dynamic Perspective is good at recognizing what's a human head and what's not, and there will even be an SDK for the feature so app developers can 3D-ify their games and offerings.
Bezos explained onstage in Seattle that in the early days of the Fire Phone, Amazon went so far as to make its own headset to emulate 3D effects. That's not really practical for real-life, Amazon concluded, which is perhaps a little jibe at Google Glass.
To solve the 3D issue, Amazon did indeed stick four front-facing cameras on each corner of its phone. No matter what angle it's being held at, two cameras will always be facing the user, Bezos claimed. They are of the infrared variety - ultra-low power, Amazon swears - so they work in darkness.
The Dynamic Perspective system also relies on four infrared LEDs on the front to compliment the cameras.
More Amazon Fire phone features
The Amazon phone is full of little touches, like swipes, to make it easier to use. Bezos and Co. seem very keen to make the Fire Phone as user-friendly as possible, probably hoping to keep their customer satisfaction rankings cozy in their No. 1 slots.
Following in line with the Kindle tablets, the phone features a dedicated Mayday button to connect to customer support. It will work over Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G, and is free.
Because video is so tied to the Amazon experience, the company has included a number of video features with its first handset. IMDB's X-Ray is headed to the Fire Phone, and Second Screen lets uses Miracast video from their Fire phone to their Fire TV. ASAP, another Fire TV feature, is also making it to its phone-y cousin.
The Kindle Store, Audible, Kindle Newstand and the recently purchased Comixology are accessible on the phone.
Taking advantage of Amazon's digital content library, the Fire provides "instant access" to over 33 million songs, apps, games, movies, TV shows, books, audiobooks and magazines. Prime members will get unlimited streaming access to movies and TV episodes at no extra chard. The same sort of deal applies to Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Prime Music members.
An enhanced carousel features "active widgets" that show you the last several messages, emails or alerts in your various communication and organization apps.
The info pops up right on the home screen and users can deal with it without ever wandering away. Third-party apps can come up with their own uses; USA Today flashed headlines that are relevant to a user while Zillow popped up property information based on location.
The Music app features a "three-panel design," with the left for navigation, the center for various controls and the right with lyrics.
Amazon Fire Phone Firefly
Amazon also unveiled something called Firefly. By pressing and holding a dedicated button, the Fire Phone can recognize printed phone numbers, email and web addresses, business cards and much more. Firefly even works at a distance, so you can capture a phone number on a sign from across the street, for example.
The idea is to be able to send an email, make a call, save a contact or go to a website without having to type it all into your phone.
It doesn't stop there though; Firefly can also recognize songs, TV episodes, art, magazines, movies, music, QR codes and bar codes. iHeart Radio and StubHub build their own apps with the Firefly SDK to make it easier for customers to start a new radio station or find concert tickets.
Users can pull up info on items like books or a painting, potentially making it a handy information tool.
By the numbers, Firefly recognizes 245,00 movies and TV episodes, 160 live TV channels and 35 million songs. It can supposedly ID 70 million items (over 100 million all told), such as books, DVDs, video games and CDs, and even work around issues like folds, glare and curves. Users can then read product details for these items, add them to their Wish List, and order them on Amazon.com.
Translation - it's easier to buy things with the Fire Phone.
Amazon is releasing an SDK for the feature, meaning third-party developers can take advantage of its item-recognition abilities in their apps, too. The SDK is available immediately.
Amazon phone vs iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5 vs LG G3
The Amazon Fire Phone hasn't hit store shelves yet, but that doesn't mean we can't look at how it stacks up next to the competition.
On the design side, Amazon didn't skimp on its first phone. The 139.2 x 66.5 x 8.9mm device with a 4.7-inch screen is heavier than the G3 and features a rubberized frame, Gorilla Glass on the front and back, CNC aluminum buttons, polished button chamfers, and injection-molded steel connectors.
The iPhone 5S has the smallest screen of the lot at four inches and a very light 112g frame. The Galaxy S5 matches more closely to the LG G3 in dimensions but also takes the distinction of being the only waterproof handset.
As for the display, the Amazon Fire Phone's 1280 x 720 resolution screen with 315 is, on paper, the weakest of the group. The iPhone 5S' packs 326ppi in its 1136 x 640 display, the Galaxy S5 houses 431ppi and 1920 x 1080 of resolution and the LG G3 has QHD going on with a 2560 x 1140 res with a staggering 538ppi.
Numbers aren't everything, however, as the Fire Phone does feature an IPS panel that should produce better than average colors. Plus, its Dynamic Perspective capabilities are certainly unique among the field.
Dynamic Perspective isn't quite 3D, but rather a depth-of-field view of the phone screen that provides a more animated view. Integrated with maps, Dynamic Perspective adds a visual layer so users can see information "tucked" underneath such as Yelp ratings and reviews. Lockscreens, wall papers and app icons will also have a Dynamic Perspective effect.
On the spec front, the Fire Phone is stuck in the past with an older-gen 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU while its Android competitors are already rocking a 2.5GHz Qualcomm quad-core chip. All three snap up 2GB of RAM, though 3GB is available for the 32GB LG G3 variant. Graphics-wise, the Amazon phone ascends to an Adreno 330 GPU while the S5 and G3 stick with the Adreno 300.
The iPhone 5S, meanwhile, is in its own, older class of hardware with Apple's own 1.3GHz dual-core A7 chip, a PowerVR G6430 GPU and 1GB RAM.
One area where the Amazon Fire Phone stands out is in the camera department. The phone technically has six in all, though four are for tracking users faces and not picture-taking. For the standard set, the handset is equipped with a 13MP rear-facing camera with an industry-leading f/2.0 lens.
It's wider than the lens found on the LG G3's 13MP rear camera and the Galaxy S5's, though that phone's snapper measures 16MP and can shoot 4K video. The iPhone 5S, meanwhile, has a 8MP camera with a f/2.2 lens. Despite lacking in mega megapixel numbers, the iPhone 5S is considered to have one of the best phone cameras available.
The Amazon phone also includes a new breed of gesture controls thanks to some beefed-up accelerometers. Tilting controls engaged while listening to music bring up extra info like song lyrics, or auto-scrolling when reading something on the web.
Samsung has implemented similar camera-based, touch-less controls like Air Gestures and Smart Scroll, while LG lacks face tracking and any motion-based commands beyond accelerometer-controlled games. Apple has its parallax effect, but it's not quite the same as Dynamic Perspective.
Amazon's phone is full of additional bells and whistles, like the Firefly button for scanning, identifying and purchasing items, as well as songs, books, magazines and other types of media. It also has a Mayday button to connect users with customer service 24/7. None of the competition has anything close to either offering.
Finally, as well look at the price, there's not too much difference between most of these phones on-contract. The Fire phone will sell for $199.99 through AT&T exclusively, a price that matches the Galaxy S5 and LG G3. The only exception is the LG G3 on Verizon, which is going for the low price of $99.
The iPhone 5S in similar storage configurations is a heftier $249.99.
Previous Amazon phone rumors and reports
Update, June 18: Launch day is here, but where the Amazon phone is released remains a matter of concern. The reason? It seems it's destined to be an AT&T exclusive, continuing on with a partnership the US carrier has regarding data for Kindle tablets and e-readers.
Even rival carriers are complaining of the exclusivity, ostensibly confirming that indeed, the Amazon phone will be a one US-carrier pony.
Update, June 16: The smartphone campaigning is in full swing. Amazon announced two days before its device launch event that its proprietary Appstore has nearly tripled its offerings year-over-year.
The Amazon Appstore now boasts 240,000 applications and games, is available in nearly 200 countries and across numerous devices. A smartphone is never mentioned in the release, but you can connect the dots.
Developers are also doing quite well for themselves in making Kindle Fire money, with 65% of those surveyed saying the total take in was equal to or better than other platforms (*cough* iOS and Android *cough*). The survey was sponsored by Amazon, so take its results as you will.
Amazon's reason behind the announcement? It wants you to know its phone won't be an app-less piece of plastic and developers, you know you want to make apps and games for it, right?
Update, June 13: Amazon is being quite the tease with its June 18 device launch event. Copies of the children's book Mr. Pine's Purple House are arriving in journalists' (physical) mailboxes, along with a note from CEO Jeff Bezos.
"Enclosed is my favorite childhood book … I think you'll agree that the world is a better place when things are a little bit different," the note read in part.
Mr. Pine's Purple House (available on Amazon, by the way) is about a man who comes up with a solution to make his house stand out amongst "FIFTY white houses." Bezos, it seems, is hinting that we're in for a device that will have something unique to offer amongst a perceived sea of sameness.
Update: This looks to be it. Amazon is hosting an event in Seattle on June 18. While we lack confirmation from the e-tail giant it's truly smartphone time, reading the tea leaves gives us a pretty good inkling the phone will finally show its face then and there.
A video posted alongside the event announcement features a number of "Amazon customers" gob smacked by an unseen device in their hands. Phrases like "awesome," "oh whoa," and "I've never seen anything like this" float from the people's mouths, but what's most telling is the swaying of their heads that suggest a glass-free 3D UI is present on the device.
One woman says, "It moved with me," a description that falls in line with what we've heard about the phone's interface before.
You can watch the video for yourself below, and if you really want to be one of the first to see the Amazon phone, fill out this form for a chance to snag an invite to the launch event.
With the runaway success of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet - the media-happy device owns over half the Android tablet market - it seems only natural that the company would turn to smartphones next.
Like the Kindle Fire, an Amazon smartphone would be a veritable home-shopping network - replete with Kindle books, Android apps and Amazon Prime video - only as a phone, making it (in Amazon's eyes) the only device users would really need.
Given the anticipation that's built up around a product that's not even certain to exist, we figured it wise to compile all the rumors and speculation in one place.
What does the Amazon phone look like?
Several purported images of the Amazon phone have leaked. The first, outed by BGR in mid-April, revealed a possible prototype. It's not official, but several sources are reporting that the 4.7-inch handset pictured here is Amazon's smartphone. The display is reported to be 720p, with a Snapdragon processor of unspecified power, and 2GB of RAM.
The phone also has a whopping five front-facing cameras, with four likely related to previously rumored features such as head tracking for 3D effects and gesture controls.
Then, on May 1, BGR was back with a render of the Amazon phone - sans protective armor - that was supposedly developed for internal graphic design use.
The device shown looks an awful lot like a cross between a Samsung Galaxy S5 and Apple iPhone, and an older iPhone at that. Hopefully its rumored tilting, gesture and head-tracking controls make up for what it lacks in aesthetic revolution.
We think our 3D video render is far more exciting:
What will the Amazon phone be called?
The codename for this device is said to be Duke. Duke is pegged as the flagship model; a cheaper budget option may come along at some point.
Amazon may take cues from its other hardware and call it the Kindle Fire smartphone. This is pure speculation on our part, but it seems possible.
Amazon phone price
Rather come in at the top of the price tier, Amazon might clean up on the bottom. Rumors peg Amazon's phone as a budget device. Cheap has always been the name of the Amazon phone price game, in part because it's assumed that Amazon would sell the device wholesale (or maybe even at a loss) in order to further expand its digital content distribution.
That doesn't mean it will be a hunk of junk though; Amazon's Kindles are all bottom dollar devices with great builds and peppy internals.
CitiGroup analyst Kevin Chang said in 2011, "For a normal brand like HTC, they need to price the product at $243 to make 30% gross margin. If Amazon is actually willing to lose some money on the device, the price gap could be even bigger."
That means the Amazon Phone price could sink as low as $170 (around £101, AU$181) or even $150 (about £89, AU$160), though Amazon would surely make up the difference somehow - just like it does with the Kindle Fire.
We wouldn't be surprised to see the phone drop to $99 (about £58, AU$105) if it means Amazon can get more eyes on its hardware (and by design its accompanying software).
No, the Amazon phone won't be free
We've heard of free shipping and low-priced phones on a two-year contract, but one rumor was simply ridiculous: Amazon was tipped give its handset away for free.
The company quickly put that theory to bed though. In 2013, Amazon said at the time it had no plans to release a phone that year, and if it does make a handset, it "would not be free." Sorry, cheapskates.
Amazon phone release date
The phone's release date has been anticipated for two years now, but with a June 18 event scheduled, it seems Amazon is finally ready to put the thing to market.
We wouldn't be surprised if the Amazon phone release date was the same day as its unveiling with sales starting on Amazon.com, however the company may wait a few weeks to get everything right. When you're working with new features like a 3D UI, you want to guarantee it's done right.
As for regions the Amazon phone may head to, it sounds as though this will be a US-only offering to start.
Amazon phone display
According to DigiTimes, so called "industry supply chain sources" have put a ruler to the Amazon Phone. They say the handset will have a 4.7-inch display, which would put it in between an iPhone 5 and a Galaxy S5 when it comes to visual real estate.
This supposed fact, combined with a rumored low asking price, suggests that Amazon is going for the casual smartphone user, one who does not want to spend a fortune and would like to be able to carry the phone in their pocket with ease.
Amazon phone specs
As mentioned, the Amazon phone seems set to arrive with a 4.7-inch screen at 720p. The phone's processor will likely be a Snapdragon from Qualcomm, though how powerful it will be remains to be seen.
2GB of RAM will reportedly make it into the Amazon phone, and we have no word of internal storage options.
Cameras will place a key role in the Amazon phone, and it's said to house six in all. The main rear camera seems to have settled on 13MP and a standard-issue front facer stands guard ready to take selfless, facilitate video chats and access Amazon's Mayday live tech support service.
Beyond taking regular photos, the Amazon phone's back camera is said to have special optical character recognition software that can interpret and convert text captured with it.
Using this function you might snap a photo of a business card to have the phone automatically add information to your contacts, or be able to quickly translate signs written in a foreign language.
When users go to use the Amazon phone, they reportedly will only need some tilts of the device to perform the actions they want (or at least some of them) and not touch controls. What's more, tilting the Amazon phone may reveal information about things like IMDB and Yelp ratings, icon descriptions inside apps and much more extraneous yet useful goodies.
Amazon phone 3D features
The standout feature of the rumored handset looks to be its unique 3D interface that follows users around as they move. The best part? No glasses required.
The phone's other four front cameras are where the 3D magic happens. Situated on each corner of the Amazon phone's front, the cameras are actually low-power infrared snapper that work with sensors to track users' faces and eyes. Tracking helps the phone's software make constant adjustments to maintain the 3D visual effects.
Unlike the Nintendo 3DS, there won't be a parallax barrier that stands between users eyeballs and the LCD panel.
Because 3D is the device's standout element, Amazon has apparently included it wherever possible. Look out for special wallpapers that offer a shifting, three-dimensional effect, app icons that jump from the screen and other areas of the phone's UI that have a little something extra. Even the Amazon phone maps app is said to change the view of objects on display. Third-party app makers have also been offered the chance to make use of the phone's 3D abilities, BGR reported.
Finally, the Amazon phone's 3D powers will find a willing participant in Amazon's virtual marketplaces. Manipulating the position of the handset will reportedly give users a 3D look at product images, letting them see sides invisible in a 2D space.
Amazon phone operating system
It's hard to believe the Amazon phone will run anything other than Android, but true to its approach with the Kindle Fire tablets, this will be a highly forked flavor of Google's mobile OS.
While there may be hints of Android KitKat, look for a device laden with Amazon's own touches and a secure way to purchase goods via Amazon.com and video through Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Could we even see some sort of tie-in with Amazon Fire TV? Anything seems possible.
Evi to be the Amazon Phone's Siri?
Back in January 2013, Amazon acquired the startup behind a natural voice search engine similar to the Apple's Siri. Now the scent on the wind is that Amazon will be putting a chat-to app called Evi on its Amazon Phone .
It sounds logical, because Amazon would need this technology to be competitive, and it would be great on Kindle devices, too. Imagine yelling at those lock screen ads that you don't want Fifty Shades of Grey.
Will HTC make Amazon's phone?
Will Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC lend Amazon a hand with its upcoming phone? That's at least one thread of speculation on the streets.
It's the kind of job HTC has been up for in the past, crafting the HTC First for Facebook. While that phone was a fizzle, HTC know how and Amazon clout could be a killer combo. This rumor has us intrigued.
Amazon is actually working on two phones
We've debated whether it will be called the Kindle phone, Amazon phone or something else, but now it seems that Amazon is working on more than one device.
The one we're likely to see on June 18 is the higher-end variant while an entry-level version with lower-end specs and a highly competitive price will arrive later on.
That's the word coming from BGR, which has been the source for many of the Amazon phone's rumors.
Alex Roth contributed to the creation and upkeep of this hub page
Older Amazon phone news and rumors
Amazon hires Windows Phone honcho to go after 'totally new area'
Amazon has added Microsoft's ex-Windows Phone General Manager to its stable of talent. Could this be a big name hire for developing the Amazon Kindle phone?
The former Microsoft man is named Kindel, Charlie Kindel, so we'd say he has the proper pedigree to help Amazon break into the market with an Amazon Phone or Kindle Phone, whatever the name ends up being. And despite the naming coincidence and the news breaking on April 1, we're confident there's nothing phony about this story.
"I'm building a new team going after a totally new area for Amazon. I'm hiring cloud and mobile developers and testers, program managers, and product managers," Kindel commented, immediately sending the internet into a flurry of rumors and sidelong interpretations.
Amazon phone will miss rumored Q2 2013 release date, still looking like a Foxconn product
It's all still the stuff of rumors, but previous rumblings pegged the Amazon Phone (or maybe Kindle Phone) as arriving in the second quarter of 2013. Now it looks as though that deadline will make a delightful whooshing noise as it blows past.
Somewhat infamous manufacturing mogul Foxconn is said to be on deck to produce the dirt cheap device. Its subsidiary Ensky Tech made the original Kindle Fire and now produces the Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Paperwhite, so it would be no shock at all to see the two collaborate on the project.
As far as what's causing the delay, a report at Digitimes blames the "engineering verification test period due to issues related to its mobile platform," saying that the process, "has not been as smooth as expected."
This is surprising, given the great deal of experience Foxconn and its partners have in this field. It has us wondering what Amazon could have up its sleeve that's making the phone such a bother. As always, rumors are like cheap takeout; they just leaving you hungry for more.
Foxconn to manufacture Amazon phone for summer 2013 release date
This might be the most concrete rumor yet regarding the Amazon phone. Supposedly the online retail giant has inked a deal with Foxconn to manufacture its first smartphone. Industry insiders also expect a summer 2013 release.
According to the reports, the phone may also have a dirt-cheap asking price of $100-200 (about £60-120/AU$95-190). This would fall in step with Amazon's strategy with its Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite line, devices sold at highly competitive prices in order to get customers investing in Amazon's media library.
While the involvement of Foxconn is not surprising, since the company has become a prolific manufacturer of all things electronic, it is somewhat troubling given its reputation for overworked, striking employees. Maybe the Amazon phone will be one of the first devices assembled in American Foxconn factories?
Amazon Phone rumors catch fire
Rumors of an Amazon Phone started to catch on in late 2011, when analysts began predicting the Amazon Phone's existence, despite a lack of hard evidence.
That hard evidence, by the way, still hasn't made an appearance, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning away.
Kicking things off, analyst firm CitiGroup reported that it discovered the existence of the then-unheard of Amazon Phone through its "supply chain channel checks in Asia."
Analyst Mark Mahaney led the Amazon Phone charge, proclaiming that the bookseller was in cahoots with infamous Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn to build the device.
Other analysts agreed: "A smartphone would be a logical next step for Amazon," ABI Research's Aapo Markkanen told Wired in May.
"The lock-in effect of a great content ecosystem shouldn't be under-estimated," he continued.
Bloomberg fed more fuel to the Amazon Phone fire in July, when its anonymous sources ("people with knowledge of the matter") confirmed that Amazon and Foxconn remained hard at work on the smartphone.
Further, the same report claimed that Amazon is busy hoarding as many wireless patents as possible to defend itself from the inevitable infringement suits that follow any modicum of success in the market.
Windows Phone executives board the good ship Amazon
The summer heat must have helped the Amazon Phone fires spread, as July gave birth to yet another bout of speculation when two Windows Phone vets joined Amazon.
First Brandon Watson left the Windows Phone team to become Amazon's director of Kindle cross platform, then Robert Williams, previously Windows Phone's senior director of business development, joined Amazon as its app store director.
Of course, the mere fact that the two previously worked on Windows Phone in no way proved that Amazon had brought them on to work on its own phone - but then again, it's not that far of a stretch, is it?
To further stoke the flames, it appeared toward the end of July that Amazon's innovation center - Lab 126 - had been hiring workers to develop new mobile devices that would run on wireless carriers' networks.
In other words: an Amazon Phone. Imagine that.
Alex Roth contributed to the creation and upkeep of this hub page
Amazon phone: 10 things we want to see
TechRadar's Amazon Phone wish list
We at TechRadar aren't immune to the charms of an Amazon Phone, even if it does only exist in the imaginations of analysts and tech bloggers at the moment.
That's where this wish list of Amazon Phone features came from, as well, after all.
On the list are such far-fetched notions as an at-cost Amazon Phone price point, something that's basically been assumed all along, as well as slick cloud and streaming integration, a refreshed app store, exclusive shopping discounts, and killer hardware features like NFC.
Whether any of that will actually come to fruition - or whether the Amazon truly even exists or really is just a figment of a thousand overactive imaginations - will be seen only when Amazon decides to step out of the shadows and into the firelight.
Here are 10 things we'd like to see in the Amazon phone, in order for it to make a dent in the smartphone space.
1. Discount the Amazon phone price
Amazon was willing to sell Kindles at a loss in order to grow the device's base from zero to hero.
Just how far is the online retail giant willing to go to cut the Amazon phone price in order to entice customers?
It's hard to justify a brand-new smartphone purchase at non-contract prices. What can Amazon do to sweeten the deal for upgraders and off-upgraders alike?
2. Tie in services
It goes without saying, but Amazon's going to have to do a superb job integrating its cloud storage, web-based MP3 service, and streaming video collection into a phone.
These service gems all sound like familiar offerings from Google, Apple, or Microsoft: To be different, Amazon has to raise the bar with what it offers (more storage!) or how it allows users to interact with its other services.
3. Play nice
We get it. Amazon wants to use Google's operating system as the base for its phone (or so the rumors go), but Amazon doesn't want to allow users to easily tap into Google's goods and services.
Competition is fair.
But, please, for the sake of usability - don't just throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Amazon might not like Google Play, but that doesn't mean it has to ditch every Google-branded app out there, especially if they exist in a market that Amazon doesn't play in (Maps?)
4. Update the appstore for Android
Sorry, Amazon. Your appstore leaves a lot to be desired.
Refresh the interface, quicken it up, allow users to more easily navigate through apps that they might want to try out, and consider adding some social features to help one's friends recommend diamond apps in the rough.
Or, feature weekly rotating lists of must-have apps that are worth downloading based on editor feedback, not just because they're inexpensive.
5. Integrated discounts
Free apps. Amazon's Gold Box. Shipping discounts for Amazon Prime members. Affiliates.
There's a lot of magic surrounding many of Amazon's core services and cold, hard cash.
Amazon, extend these options to your phone.
Court larger developers to offer better free applications.
Offer rolling discounts for apps (people actually want to use) in special time-limited sales that you tease throughout the week.
Allow users to make money by recommending apps to their friends, colleagues, and peers.
Bring the mercantile magic of Amazon dot com into Amazon Phone (or whatever it'll be called).
6. Primed for Prime
Here's the big one: What benefit do Prime subscribers get if they pick up an Amazon phone?
Big discount? Increased access to services (like streaming video)? More storage space?
Prime is Amazon's big change to sell its phone on the cheap and incentivize owners to pay more, annually, for a more exclusive slice of Amazon's pie.
Make the bonuses killer, and you've just locked in a user for an extra $160 (or so) over the course of a two-year contract.
7. Ignore exclusivity, choose and stick to a release date
Well, for carriers at least. Nothing would hurt Amazon more in its quest to establish a foothold in the smartphone market than allying itself with a single carrier - worse, a carrier that isn't the top in the market for good ol' 4G LTE service.
Amazon needs to capitalize on its brand recognition and, as the saying goes, "go big or go home."
Pick one chip that supports GSM and CDMA for non-4G LTE service and allow customers to switch carriers without hassle (unlock that phone!)
And as far as a Amazon phone release date, pick one and stick to it. Don't keep it pushing it back like other carriers.
Think worldly, Amazon.
8. Consider prepaid plans
The big buzzword today is "prepaid" smartphones, but the concept does come with a bit of hassle – the smartphones cost a bit more, might not be as good as some of the top-shelf items you can purchase, and prepaid providers just don't have as good of a reach as the cellular industry's big guns.
If Amazon were to somehow flex its clout and get the main carriers to work more harmoniously with prepaid service plans (or the smaller carriers that support them)… that would be quite an eye-opener, wouldn't it?
9. Amazon phone specs need killer hardware
It goes without saying (again), but Amazon might not want to slink into the smartphone market with a low- to medium-powered device.
You can't just Kindle Fire your way into the market from absolutely nothing. To make a dent, Amazon will have to make a splash.
It's unclear how Amazon would go up against some of the market's leading manufactures and their speedier, faster, larger, and more feature-packed devices (that release on a more consistent timeframe).
But there's a little thing called the iPhone 5 that's going to start capturing a lot of attention as we inch closer to the end of the year.
Amazon needs to capture the buzz with, quite simply, a "cooler" phone.
10. NFC for you and me
Amazon's an online shopping powerhouse.
So, turn the phone into a powerhouse shopping device: Give users a super-easy method for comparing what they're looking at against products in Amazon's database to determine whether they're getting the best possible deal.
Or, better yet, incentivize users who price match with their devices by giving them a small discount on Amazon.com purchases itself.
Help users remember what to buy and where to buy it (if not from Amazon).
Tie in Amazon's reviewing service so users can recommend, on the fly, Amazon-hosted alternatives for items they might want to buy.
And then there's the biggie: Tie NFC payments to one's Amazon account and allow users to pay for products using their phones, not their wallets.
Transform the offline shopping experience with a smartphone the same way you transformed the online shopping experience with Amazon's.
Alex Roth contributed to the creation and upkeep of this hub page