How Would An Amazon Smartphone Change Android’s Trajectory?


Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal published a report claiming that Amazon is working on expanding its Android offerings beyond last year’s Kindle Fire and offering the company’s first hand-held smartphone. The Kindle Fire made quite the impression when it arrived, showing plenty of us how cheap Android tablets didn’t have to be the sort of Eclair-running pieces of junk we had seen emerge from some fly-by-night manufacturers in the past; we’ve observed the momentum from that release continue through the Android community, leading us to devices like the Nexus 7. If Amazon really is planning on coming out with its own smartphone, just what kind of influence could we expect this release to have?

An Amazon Smartphone, You Say?

These new Amazon phone rumors suggest the handset could land on the larger end of the size spectrum, most likely above four inches and possible even reaching up to Galaxy Note size. That makes a lot of sense, because for Amazon, this phone would be a way to get users accessing media, and a larger screen is just going to make them all the more likely to read a book or watch a video on the device itself. It stands to reason that Amazon would again look to a highly-customized Android release, as it did with the Kindle Fire, in order to make accessing and purchasing such media an integral part of the phone’s user experience.

But all that’s just common sense – of course Amazon would heavily lean on the presence that having its own phone affords the company in order to push its wares. How would that be so different than what Google does with the Play store, though? Well, Google’s a multi-faceted services company, while Amazon, though it offers many of those same types of services, is still largely a retailer, letting it be a bit more unabashed in its efforts to position Android as a means to an end: selling you more downloads.

Of course, Amazon’s not just into digital goods, and we could see its role in selling physical items also play a large part in how an Amazon phone would take shape.

Price Check On Aisle Two

Today, plenty of us use the company’s apps to help us price-compare, snapping pics of barcodes when we’re out in stores and checking if we could save some cash by ordering through Amazon, instead. A device the size of the Kindle Fire made it difficult for Amazon to take full advantage of that, but a smartphone’s just the right form factor to act as an Amazon price gun you carry with you everywhere you go.

What if Amazon really decided to capitalize on that, and built the phone with a dedicated hardware “scan” button? While it would be little more than a renamed shutter button, think of the possibilities: Amazon could make it so you wouldn’t even have to unlock your phone, just press the button to instantly wake it up, scan the barcode, and either give you results straight away or save them for you to review later. The marketing opportunities would be tremendous – the phone that saves you so much money it pays for itself.

So, What Would We Get?

Amazon’s Kindle Fire has been very popular with the development community; we’re already seeing Jelly Bean ROMs arrive for the tablet. In contrast to a device like the Galaxy Nexus, which is released with that sort of flexibility in mind, it’s hardly the role Amazon intended for the model. However it might get here, we expect an Amazon phone to continue in that role of a very consumer-focused device, with the priority less on flexibility and customization, and more on a feature-rich out-of-the-box experience.

We may not be talking about a full-on Apple-style lockdown, but that feels like the spirit, at least, of the direction in which we could be heading. The end goal: phones as tools to increase consumption. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you look at it, but an Amazon phone sounds less like a tool that empowers you to create, and more like one that invites you to sit back and watch.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!