Amazon might have a phone in the pipeline

After gaining a firm foothold in tablets and e-readers with its Kindle product family, Amazon may now have its sights set on the smartphone market. At least, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that, in the not-too-distant future, Amazon will unveil some type of handset.

Bloomberg was first to break the news last week. It said Amazon was working with Foxconn on an upcoming phone, and it added that the e-tail giant had acquired wireless patents to "help it defend against allegations of infringement." (Given the fierce patent infringement lawsuits going on between Apple and other handset makers, I guess that’s probably wise.)

The Wall Street Journal chimed in yesterday with word from its sources that Amazon is, indeed, "working with component suppliers in Asia to test a smartphone." The Journal noted that the Amazon phone has a 4- or 5-inch display, and it said production of the device could kick off either late this year or early in 2013.

Now, blogs are linking to a Windows Gadget News story, which reveals that a former Windows Phone executive has defected and joined Amazon. Robert Williams used to be Senior Director of Business Development for Premium Mobile Experiences at Microsoft, but his LinkedIn profile now lists his employer as Amazon. His latest Twitter post also says, "At work (Checked in at Amazon.com Inc)." According to Windows Gadget News, Williams was "responsible for the depth of the applications that are available on Windows Phone."

An affordable smartphone could help Amazon’s online content business by spurring music sales—after all, a pocket-sized device is much better for listening to music on the go than even a 7" tablet. I wonder what kind of software the device will run, though. Bloomberg said last week that the Amazon phone would "vie with" the iPhone and "handheld devices that run Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android operating system," which suggests the device might not run a plain version of Android. Perhaps, like the Kindle Fire, the device will simply feature a heavily modified version of Google’s OS.

Comments closed
    • ludi
    • 9 years ago

    Just what the world needs: a low-cost, unlocked phone with no external volume control buttons.

    • blastdoor
    • 9 years ago

    A few thoughts —

    I’m reminded of the early to mid 80s when everybody thought they could sell their own variety of PC — Atari, commodore, Tandy, Franklin, Texas instruments,…. Even coleco.

    If amazon wants to avoid becoming another coleco, they need to really differentiate themselves in the only way left — by disrupting the carriers. How about sell a cheap, no contract phone that can work on AT&T, tmobile, Verizon, and sprint, then let users select the best deal, month to month. The carriers would hate it and fight it, but amazons response should be to sue them for collusion. None of the current big phone players would do this because they are all in bed with the carriers at this point. But amazon has nothing to lose and everything to gain — amazon would become everybody’s hero if they could pull this off.

      • bthylafh
      • 9 years ago

      Dual-standard and multi-frequency handsets might be expensive and a bit bulky. Wouldn’t surprise me if something like that goes for north of $600.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 9 years ago

      I don’t see why the carriers would go for this.

        • blastdoor
        • 9 years ago

        They wouldn’t, but sue them and/or petition the FCC to force them to go along with it.

        • mutarasector
        • 9 years ago

        I suspect Amazon would try to go around the carriers. Why would they really need them anyway? Amazon doesn’t exactly need them to sell/distribute its own phone.

          • NeelyCam
          • 9 years ago

          Well… cell phone connectivity would be considered a plus in a cell phone..

            • squeeb
            • 9 years ago

            lol

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      At best there would be two variants – one for AT&T and T-Mobile GSM with LTE, and one for Verizon and Sprint CDMA with LTE (the Sprin version would be best with WiMax in the short term but that’s a dying technology.) Having all radios is extremely unlikely and would be expensive as bthylafh says.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 9 years ago

        I’m probably an idiot, but why is it difficult or expensive to have a radio work on all frequencies? Can’t it be turned to work with any of the companies?

        I understand why each of the carriers would want a phone that only works on their system, but I don’t understand why there is a technological barrier.

          • Corrado
          • 9 years ago

          Its not just all frequencies, its different protocols. Its like saying ‘Why can’t my WiFi chip connect to this bluetooth receiver?!’

            • blastdoor
            • 9 years ago

            And yet, aren’t there chips that actually can do that? I thought Broadcom had chips that combined functionalities that way. Also, I thought that the iPhone 4S had a baseband chip from Qualcom that makes it a “world phone”, allowing it to connect to both GSM and CDMA networks. Am I confused about that?

            • MadManOriginal
            • 9 years ago

            “world phone” means GSM, which is what the majority of the world uses. CDMA is mainly Sprint and Verizon, there may be other small ones in some places.

            I’m pretty sure there are two versions of the iPhone, one with GSM and one with CDMA. There’s no technical reason there couldn’t be a true all-network phone, it would just be more expensive (die space, more antennas, possibly more licensing cost?). Since most of the world is GSM, with only stupid Verizon and Sprint on CDMA, manufacturers can make one phone for most of the world, and another one for those two. (T-Mobile requires a 1700MHz radio on top of AT&T frequencies for 3G and non-LTE 3.5G/’4G’ on its network. So you can use AT&T/world phones on T-Mobile but won’t get the highest data speeds.)

            *edit* There is an iPhone with GSM and CDMA I guess? [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16875100040[/url<] It looks like it's more expensive than those with just GSM, but strangely it still lists only AT&T (GSM) as the carrier. *edit 2: I think that Newegg listing is just incorrect. Apple's webiste says "The unlocked iPhone includes all the features of iPhone but without a contract commitment. You can activate and use it on the supported GSM wireless network of your choice, such as AT&T in the United States.* The unlocked iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S will not work with CDMA-based carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint." In the tech specs, the footnote for CDMA support says "4.CDMA available only if iPhone 4S is sold and activated for use on a CDMA network." Soo..I'm not 100% sure whether a CDMA iPhone is also GSM-compatible or swaps GSM for CDMA, but if it doesn't have a SIM slot it definitely can't be used on a GSM network.

            • blastdoor
            • 9 years ago

            I think perhaps I’ve found the answer:

            [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/4971/apple-iphone-4s-review-att-verizon/2[/url<] Scroll down to the table "iPhone 4S - Network Support". You'll see that the baseband is Qualcomm MDM6610 and that it supports GSM/EDGE, UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA, HSDPA/HSUPA, and CDMA2000 1x/EVDO. And that, i believe, is just about everything except LTE.

    • Ashbringer
    • 9 years ago

    Here’s hoping they make a phone with a physical keyboard. With HTC vowing to never make a phone with a physical keyboard again, it really limits the choices for those who want such a feature. Would also be great if you could get this phone without a contract, and not breaking the bank account either.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 9 years ago

      Motorola has really dropped the ball with their Droid line. I can’t even tell what the meaningful difference between the Droid 3 and 4 are other than only the 4 will get ICS at some point in the future.

      I am curious to see what Google comes up with when they get integrated.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    [i<][b<]If[/i<][/b<] - and it's a huge 'if' - they want to differentiate themselves in the market, i.e., truly 'own' the ecosystem, they may want to look at Open WebOS.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 9 years ago

      I doubt they want that much differentiation. Being able to run apps written for Android is a pretty huge feature.

        • dpaus
        • 9 years ago

        [quote<]Being able to run apps written for Android is a pretty huge feature[/quote<] Apparently, the new build of Open WebOS can do exactly that. They were pretty close to each other 'under the covers' to begin with (ssk: get your mind out of the gutter!!)

          • sweatshopking
          • 9 years ago

          don’t worry. there’s no mind here to put in the gutter!

      • blastdoor
      • 9 years ago

      How is that any different than having their own forked android? What limits are placed on them with forked android that would not exist with webOS?

        • mutarasector
        • 9 years ago

        The theory is that under an open WebOS, one wouldn’t be as locked into Amazon’s app store as with their tablet. While I like dpaus’ idea, I don’t see Amazon going this route unless the existing kindle app store apps work under webOS as well.

        I think a better idea might be one dpaus and I discussed here over a year ago (regarding HP): Buy RIM, and get QNX for use in its own cloud service, BBM for a distinct platform advantage over the others, and RIM’s IP portfolio as a hedge against traversing the IP minefields of Apple/Microsoft/Google.

          • blastdoor
          • 9 years ago

          So that sounds like a good deal for users, but not for Amazon, right? I think the whole reason Amazon sells these things is to lock users into their various stores.

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