Amazon Shoots Down Rumors of Free Smartphone

Amazon stated on Tuesday that the company has no plans to release a smartphone in 2013. Furthermore, the rumored device would definitely not be free despite a recent report by Wall Street Journal reporters stating otherwise last week. Of course, Nvidia's CEO previously said his company wasn't working on a tablet, yet one such 7 inch Tegra Tab has appeared on the FCC. Denial, it seems, is just standard practice.

Sources said last week that the company is shooting for a completely free device, meaning there may not be any financial "contracts" like a two-year wireless carrier commitment or a required Amazon Prime subscription commitment. This device would be handed out directly to consumers through the Amazon website, although sources added that the company has also approached wireless carriers about carrying the device.

The "free" phone was believed to be one of two Kindle smartphones that Amazon supposedly has in the works. The other is reportedly a premium device using glasses-free 3D tech possibly provided by HP. Sources have stated that the device will feature retina-tracking software that will make images seem to float above the smartphone screen like a three-dimensional hologram, complete at every viewing angle. Users will reportedly be able to navigate through content by merely using their eyes.

But given that Amazon is shooting down rumors regarding a free phone, the company's two-pronged premium/discounted device attack on the smartphone market will now have to face Apple's just-launched iPhone 5S and the cheaper iPhone 5C, the latter of which is the long-rumored "lite" model sporting a plastic shell reinforced by a steel frame. The 16 GB model will cost a mere $99 on September 20, a very impressive price indeed.

But even with Apple's new phones out of the equation, Amazon may still have difficulties in penetrating the Android smartphone market. While its Kindle Fire HD tablets are doing well, they're not exactly killing the competition either. In 1Q13, Amazon only commanded 3.7 percent of the tablet market, falling behind Asus at 5.5 percent and Samsung at 17.9 percent. Apple commanded the quarter with a 39.6 percent market share and 19.5 million units sold. Microsoft only had 1.8 percent.

The problem Amazon may be facing is the possibility that consumers don't want a forked version of Android. Solutions provided by Samsung and Asus are powered by nearly-pure versions of Android "Jelly Bean" containing ODM specific services and apps. They also support Google Play whereas the Kindle Fire HD tablets do not: they rely solely on Amazon's App Store. If a smartphone takes the same Kindle approach, it won't have Google Play support, which may turn away many potential customers whether it's free or not.

All Amazon Kindle smartphone hardware is supposedly being developed inside Amazon's Lab126 facility in Cupertino, Calif., sources claim, known as Project A, B, C and D, and collectively as the Alphabet Projects (two phones, music player, set-top box). This is also the same facility where the company was recently testing its own wireless network. The spectrum used in Amazon's testing is supposedly controlled by satellite communications company Globalstar Inc.

For now it seems that Amazon is focusing on a new wave of tablets for its 2013 hardware release, and may be pushing its smartphone release schedule back into 2014. Talk of the Kindle smartphone has been around for several years now, so it won't hurt to tack on another 12 months.

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  • I bought and used a KFHD 7" for a few months. It was a dreadful experience (usually a standard android user, but I wanted to try their tablet offering out of curiosity). Everything was buggy. Even their native home-built apps were buggy. The device was exceedingly slow at everything, and only got slower with use. Then using it felt like I was looking at a regular Android tablet by looking through a tiny straw, only getting access to a few things.

    I do not like Amazon's OS. I get their reasoning for it, for funneling you into their ecosystem and to get you to buy their stuff. But their experience is crap. I was hoping for something more.

    Couldn't fathom using a phone under similar circumstances; hopefully they work their stuff out first.
  • I know that it was reported in the Wall Street Journal, which lends a tinge of credibility, and I know the default of companies is to deny they're working on something when they really are. However, it seems too far-fetched that Amazon would give away a phone for free with no financial attachment on the end-user. Buy a Kindle and get a phone, or something like that might make sense. And when I saw the original story I noted that they could potentially end up in a legal morass if they make a fairly high-end phone and give it away un-subsidized, free of charge.
  • Deja vu, deja vu... why do I have this feeling?

    Oh yeah, I read about this last week on every other tech website.
    Nothing is really free, so it should not have come as a surprise.