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Amazon has no plans to release a free smartphone

Ian Paul | Sept. 10, 2013
After a hot rumor blazed about a free Kindle phone being released in 2013, Amazon moved quickly to douse the flames.


There are two big mythical beasts in the smartphone world that no one has ever seen: a vendor or carrier offering a completely free flagship smartphone and an Android handset from Amazon. So why not combine both rumors into one tantalizing report? That's what reporters Jessica Lessin and Amir Efrati did recently, but Amazon says it ain't gonna happen—at least not right now.

Reporting on Lessin's site on Friday, the two former Wall Street Journal scribes said Amazon was planning to release a high-end, off-contract smartphone for the amazingly low price of absolutely nothing.

A couple of days later, Amazon denied the rumors, according to a follow-up post by Efrati. Amazon told the duo it has no plans to release a smartphone in 2013, and even if it did launch a smartphone in the future, a theoretical Kindle Phone would not be free.

Non-denial denial
Amazon is not a company that is fond of speaking to the press or providing much comment beyond its press releases, so Amazon's correction to Lessin's and Efrati's reporting suggests the company feared that expectations of a free Amazon handset would spoil a possible smartphone launch sometime in the future.

Rumblings about an Amazon smartphone have persisted since at least late 2011. Amazon helped stoke the fires of those rumors by opening the Appstore for Android in March 2011, but without a handset to go along with it.

Since then, Amazon has rolled out several iterations of Kindle Fire tablets, but still no smartphone. Before the latest rumors from Lessin and co., The Wall Street Journalreported in May that Amazon was working on a futuristic high-end smartphone with a 3D display and eye tracking technology, as well as a low-end device.

The Journal warned that Amazon's smartphone plans could be shelved for any number of reasons including financial or device performance concerns.

Nevertheless, an Amazon smartphone would certainly fit with Amazon's current strategy. The company's Kindle Fire tablets are not just affordable Android-based slates, but also storefronts that make it easy and enticing to consume the company's digital content.

Amazon's "give away the razors to sell the blades" approach to dishing out content was so appealing that Google copied it for the Nexus 7 tablet. A mythical Kindle Phone could also be an equally convincing storefront similar to Amazon's tablets.

Purchasing on Kindle Fire devices isn't just for digital content either. Amazon recently unveiled new software tools that let developers sell (and get a cut) of Amazon physical items sold inside their apps. The new system, which is only for Appstore apps, is an extension of Amazon's popular affiliate program for Website owners and podcasters.

Will we finally see an Amazon phone in 2014 or beyond? Possibly—but it won't be free.


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