Amazon’s Fire phone was a commercial and critical flop. But Indian tech news site Gadgets360 reports that Amazon may take another crack at smartphone hardware.

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 Fire Phone

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.

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7 replies on “Why would Amazon launch an “Ice” phone?”

  1. If they still can’t figure out how to sell 7 inch Fire tablets in Canada, I don’t know how the heck they think they can sell a phone in China or Brazil.

  2. I don’t think the Fire phone failed due to features. For anyone who handled the thing, it’s a sturdy device, quick as heck vs. most Android phones at the time with most that you’d want or need at your fingertips. You didn’t NEED Google services, really, as there are plenty alternatives out there.

    Personally I feel the phone failed because of the exclusivity deal with ATT. Apple can manage to do exclusivity deals because they already have a huge, loyal fanbase. Google got away with it with the Pixel phones because they weren’t truly exclusive, they were just sold hand-to-hand through Verizon. Anyone could still buy them through/from Google directly, unlocked.
    The Fire phone was only offered, locked to ATT’s network.

    I feel that a phone offered by/through Amazon should be unlocked and either available through all carriers or just through Amazon. Whether it comes with Google services or not shouldn’t really be a dealbreaker, but having them on there would be better than not having them and they should offer a mid/high end and budget device. Since Alexa is now a thing, voice control/feedback isn’t an issue.

  3. I’d buy one of these if the price was right, but No Deal if it costs over $200.

  4. I could not see how this could be any worse than the fire phone… unless they caught fire.

  5. I think Amazon’s path is pretty easy actually. Offer pay-as-you-go without unnecessary minute purchases.
    Typically MVNOs make their profit by forcing people to update their phone every 30 to 90 days regardless of whether they need more minutes or not.
    Amazon could offer unlimited time frames for Prime members. I know for my father that would make Amazon Prime a no-brainer. Like many elderly people he likes to have the cell phone but doesn’t use it that much. He has to update regularly though to keep it active so he has like a few thousand minutes he will never use. And it costs him about $80/year to do that.
    Getting Amazon Prime instead and updating only when he needs minutes would not cost him much more and he’d get the other Prime benefits.
    As with most Prime gimmies, Amazon would make their money due to the fact that Prime members shop more at Amazon. That simple.
    Meanwhile they could push their Alexa platform through the phone.
    Frankly I’d prefer they do this with stock Android but they never would. They’d be too tempted to put their own “OS” on it, if you can even call it that. This would be the one way they could mess it up.

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