So how would the company’s new phone or phones be different? If the first was Fire, the new models are “Ice.” Seriously, that’s allegedly the code name.
It’s best to take the report with a grain of salt though. Amazon hasn’t officially confirmed any plans, and the new Ice phone strategy is very different from the one Amazon uses to sell tablets, Kindles, TV boxes, and other hardware… although there are also some reasons the Amazon Ice phone concept sounds plausible.
Amazon sells Kindles, Fire Tablets, and other hardware at reasonably low prices in order to get customers hooked into the Amazon ecosystem. Have a Kindle? You’re more likely to buy eBooks from Amazon. Have a Fire TV? Then it’d almost be silly for you not to sign up for Amazon Prime to stream movies, TV shows, and music.
So it’s no surprise that the original Fire Phone shipped with Fire OS, a custom build of Android that also runs on Amazon’s Fire tablets. But without access to services such as Google Maps, Google Assistant (or its predecessor, Voice Search), and other apps and features that users might expect, the Fire Phone was a tough sell.
More recently, Amazon has taken a different approach to the smartphone space: in the US, the company has partnered with smartphone makers including Motorola, BLU, and Alcatel to offer “Prime Exclusive” variants of some phones. When you buy one of these special edition smartphones you save $50 off the list price… and get a device with lock screen ads and a suite of Amazon apps pre-installed.
That approach gets Amazon’s apps and services in front of users, without requiring a huge investment on hardware. And users arguably get the best of both worlds, since the phones also feature Google’s apps, services, and the Google Play Store.
So… what does this all have to do with the alleged Amazon Ice phone?
According to Gadgets360, instead of partnering with third-party phone makers in India and other developing markets, Amazon seems to be developing its own low-cost phone.
That sort of makes sense. There are already some dirt-cheap phones made for developing markets. Some are distinctly better than others though, and there’s certainly still an opportunity for Amazon (or any other company) to make a name for itself by offering a high-quality budget phone that offers a better user experience than you’d expect in that price range. Markets where people don’t already have a lot of brand loyalty to long-time phone makers might also seem appealing.
So while it’s unlikely that Amazon would try to sell a branded phone in the US or other developed markets after the failure of the Fire Phone, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some first-party hardware from the company in emerging markets, offering the same kind of Google + Amazon software experience we already see on Prime Exclusive phones in the US.