Rumors that Amazon is working on a smartphone have been making the rounds for at least as long as rumors about Amazon’s TV box. So a week after the Amazon Fire TV was launched, it’s not surprising that there’s a new report suggesting Amazon’s first smartphone is on the way.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is already testing the device and will release the smartphone in the second half of 2014.
Amazon already offers a line of tablets powered by Fire OS, the company’s custom version of Android. The Fire TV also runs a version of Fire OS, and there are over 200,000 apps available in the Amazon Appstore.
So Amazon already has many of the pieces to the puzzle. But the smartphone space is a bit more mature than the TV box or tablet spaces were when Amazon jumped into those markets… so Amazon is reportedly trying to come up with ways to make its smartphone stand apart.
For instance, there have been reports that the phone will use retina-tracking technology and a series of embedded cameras or sensors to track your eye movements and display a 3D user interface that looks a bit holographic.
Amazon doesn’t make a lot of money from hardware sales, and instead sells Kindle eReaders, Kindle Fire tablets, and Fire TV boxes at prices that are probably pretty close to what it costs to build the devices. They’re basically conduits to get you to buy apps, music, movies, and eBooks from Amazon and to sign up for Amazon Prime (which will make you a bit more likely to buy other products from Amazon thanks to the free 2-day shipping perk).
So it’s likely that Amazon’s smartphone won’t be particularly expensive, even if it does have top tier specs and unusual features like a 3D display. But what remains to be seen is whether Amazon will partner with wireless carriers to offer the phone at subsidized prices to customers who sign a 2-year contract, or if it’ll be sold as a carrier unlocked device the way Google Nexus phones are.
The Wall Street Journal reports Amazon will officially introduce the phone by the end of June and start shipping devices to customers by the end of the summer.