Amazon phone release date, news and rumors
9th May 2013 | 23:24
Will Amazon release a smartphone? More and more signs point to yes
Release dates, rumors, and more
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.
Amazon's strategy of putting all its media content directly into consumers' hands has worked out well so far, so wouldn't the Seattle company take the next logical step?
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, so it would be 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.
Amazon working on two phones, one of them 3D
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. That's the latest rumor coming in over the wire.
Beyond that, apparently one of the handsets will have 3D projection capabilities, sans glasses. That sort of technology has been a success for the Nintendo 3DS, but remember the LG Optimus 3D and HTC Evo 3D? We hardly do either, which makes us wonder what the online retail giant is planning.
Evi to be the Amazon Phone's Siri?
Back in January, 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.
Amazon hires Windows Phone 7 head honcho
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 to hedge its bets with a reasonable 4.7-inch 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 S4 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 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 (around £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.
Amazon Phone release date
In CitiGroup's original 2011 report, the firm predicted that the Amazon Phone release date would fall in Q4 2012, though that's looking less and less likely the more time passes without a peep from Amazon.
That doesn't mean it's not going to happen, of course, but other rumors since then have been somewhat less optimistic about the Amazon Phone release date.
Less than a week after Bloomberg's report that Amazon and Foxconn still had their collective noses to the grindstone, another source (this one from Amazon's component suppliers) told the Wall Street Journal that the bookseller was already testing Amazon Phone prototypes.
That report claimed that the device could go into production during the second half of 2012, and that the Amazon phone release could fall in late 2012 or early 2013.
Amazon Phone price
From the beginning, speculators foretold that an Amazon Phone would hit the low end of the price spectrum.
In part, 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.
Every pair of hands holding an Amazon Phone comes with eyes, ears and a wallet, after all.
CitiGroup analyst Kevin Chang said in 2011, "For a normal brand like HTC, they need to price the product at $243 to make 30 percent 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 or even $150, though Amazon would surely make up the difference somehow - just like it does with the Kindle Fire.
Amazon Phone specs
There's been little speculation about the Amazon Phone's specific hardware features, considering there's yet to be any official word - or even a measly leaked prototype image - to go off of.
But the WSJ's source claimed that the Amazon Phone's screen size would fall somewhere between 4 inches and 5 inches, placing it right in line with top Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 andHTC One X.
The Amazon Phone would at least need to perform well enough to reliably stream content and be integrated with Amazon's various media and cloud services, and the better the resolution, the more attractive the device would be for streaming video.
Battery life will be another important factor, as nothing will turn the average consumer off faster than being interrupted in the middle of "Real Housewives" by a pesky low power warning.
Will the Amazon Phone run Android?
An Amazon Phone is almost dead certain to run on some variation of Android, as Google and Amazon, despite occasionally finding themselves at one another's throats, can just as often be found sitting snugly in one another's pockets.
According to some reports, the retail giant has even considered stocking Google tablets like the Nexus 7 in its stores, indicating that their rivalry can't really be all that heated.
Besides, Windows Phone is sat firmly in Nokia's camp, at least for the lifespan of Windows Phone 8 - Microsoft's not about to throw away years of build-up just to hop in bed with Amazon.
That leaves BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, who - to be fair - is rumored to be shopping the BlackBerry 10 OS around for a licensing deal.
But there's a chance BB10 will be more or less dead on arrival, and either way, an OS swap at this point would just be too risky for Amazon, who'll already be tossing the dice with a smartphone gambit in the first place.
Furthermore, Citigroup's initial Amazon Phone report from 2011 claimed that the bookseller would have to pay royalties to Microsoft, all but spelling out that the phone would be another Android device.
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.