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Amazon Shoots Down Rumors of Free Smartphone

By - Source: IT World | B 6 comments

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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  • 0 Hide
    teh_chem , September 11, 2013 8:39 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    DRosencraft , September 11, 2013 8:53 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    house70 , September 12, 2013 4:41 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    g00fysmiley , September 12, 2013 6:16 AM
    it would make sense for them to do a cheap/free device because ntohign gets users like a fire sale, think of the amount of hp/palm WebOS tabs that flooded the market after they went on sale. if amazon wants to keep competing with thier app store. i knwo i for one use the amazon app store more than the google play store not because of lack of apps but often jailbreaking a device i can still use amazon appstore. liek withmy levono K1 its a little older tablet and had android 3.2, but rooting it to load 4.0 meant google play would not load on the device hence being stuck with one option. they keep allowing all devices and make a free-cheap device like they have with the kindle fire series and i think they will have a winner
  • 0 Hide
    teh_chem , September 12, 2013 6:52 AM
    Quote:
    it would make sense for them to do a cheap/free device because ntohign gets users like a fire sale, think of the amount of hp/palm WebOS tabs that flooded the market after they went on sale. if amazon wants to keep competing with thier app store. i knwo i for one use the amazon app store more than the google play store not because of lack of apps but often jailbreaking a device i can still use amazon appstore. liek withmy levono K1 its a little older tablet and had android 3.2, but rooting it to load 4.0 meant google play would not load on the device hence being stuck with one option. they keep allowing all devices and make a free-cheap device like they have with the kindle fire series and i think they will have a winner

    Unfortunately for HP, the TouchPad fire sale was because the tablets were not selling, and HP announced they were discontinuing WebOS devices only 50 days after the touchpad went on sale and cutting their losses. Not really a positive decision. :D 

    Did you ever try to follow up with your K1 and other ROM's? That's such a weird thing to experience, surely someone in the mod community figured it out? Another option--a bit more laborious--is something I did when I had my KFHD; some apps I used I wanted from the GPlay store (vs. the amazon app store)--perhaps because I purchased a full version from GPlay, or because the app wasn't available in the amazon app store. So I had the app on my phone (or other android device), and with Astro File Manager I'd back up the .apk for the apps I wanted to xfer (this is an option in Astro), and then shared it with dropbox. I had dropbox side-loaded on the KFHD, and after that I could just install the GPlay app apk's on my KFHD. A bit of a process, but it allowed having the non-amazon app store apps available on my KFHD when I had it (got rid of it after a few months).
  • 0 Hide
    g00fysmiley , September 12, 2013 8:39 AM
    teh_chem the comparison to the WebOS tab was just to mean that they sold like hot cakes because of the low price not that it would fail, thank you for the adviice on the K1 though I had not tried side loading the apps as my phone a samsung galaxy nexus has no sd card, but the laoding through drop box or even my computer transfering files might work, thanks!