Amazon not making a free Kindle Fire phone, but...

Amazon not making a free Kindle Fire phone, but...

Over the weekend - while everyone here at iMore worked feverishly to prepare for tomorrow's iPhone event - some noise surfaced about Amazon working on a phone, and one they could give away for free. Amazon has since denied the rumor, which is interesting from the "no comment on no comment" company, but the idea itself is worth some exploration...

Apple sells premium products. The upcoming iPhone 5s will be premium. The upcoming iPhone 5c will be less expensive, but like the iPad mini, still premium. One way to compete against Apple, historically, is by going cheap. That's hard for other hardware companies to do, because thinner margins means less profit. It's not viable long-term. For services companies like Google - and Amazon - hardware profits don't matter. In fact, devaluing hardware means more devices in more hands to monetize against services. It's in their best interests to make hardware as cheap as possible.

Amazon could certainly do in phones what they did in tablets - make a Kindle Fire Phone that's much cheaper than an iPhone, that's mainly a front-end to the Amazon store system, then they could leverage services and content, much like Google does, to keep it profitable.

Unlike Google, however, Amazon has so far been constrained by geography. They literally can't afford to sell their hardware in places that don't have Amazon digital content presence. That's why the Kindle Fire tablets are sold in only a handful of countries compared to Apple's massive multinational presence.

In the U.S., where Amazon is content rich, it could still be a smart play. In the increasingly important international markets, it's tougher to see.

With Nexus devices hitting those lower price points, however, it'll be interesting to see what the likes of Facebook and Amazon can and will do, and how Apple can and will respond. Anyone interested in a Kindle Fire phone?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Amazon not making a free Kindle Fire phone, but...


I don't think I'd get a Kindle Fire phone, mainly because of one thing that always bugged me about the Amazon Appstore in general: Updates. Not software updates in general, but specifically app updates. I don't know if it's been remedied but whenever an app was updated in Google Play, you'd get it right away. With Amazon though, you'd be waiting a while, sometimes a month or so to get that same update. It was kind of ridiculous.

It would be a tough sell because of the eco system. I learned the hardway when I bought my Galaxy S2, being in a split eco system is no fun (Android phone with an iPad). I can't see myself making the switch but possibly for my daughter when she comes of age. If it's a quality phone for cheap, It would be hard to beat for a kid.

I seriously almost went Kindle Fire HD, but in the end I "settled" for the iPad Mini. Why? Because of the app selection and performance. I don't think a Kindle Fire Phone would be much different of a scenario.

re: "Amazon could certainly do in phones what they did in tablets - make a Kindle Fire Phone that's much cheaper than an iPhone..."

And avoid competing directly against Apple. Good plan.
The side benefit to everyone (except Microsoft) being that Microsoft
will continue to be shut out of the high-end and low-end handset markets.
That leaves the mid-range, which doesn't really exist.