Spokesperson says no Amazon phone is coming this year, but the need for one is fading

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It feels like an “Amazon phone” rumor creeps up every year, and each and every year we end up disappointed. In case you thought 2013 would be any different, guess again — Amazon is apparently flat-out denying that they’re working on a smartphone for launch this year (one which we assume would run Android, considering their Kindle Fire lineup).

It’s interesting, though, as this would mark the first time Amazon has decided to address the rumors. Even more interesting is the fact that Jessica Lessin, the former Wall Street Journal editor who apparently spoke to an unnamed Amazon spokesperson, says Amazon specified that they weren’t working on a smartphone for launch “this year,” leaving open the possibility that one is definitely still coming.

Lessin is also reporting that should Amazon introduce a smartphone, they wouldn’t make it free as earlier rumors suggested. We can’t imagine Amazon wouldn’t make it amazingly cheap, though, as the company likes to keep the cost of ownership for Kindle devices down through optional advertising.

Do we even need one?

We’ve always been intrigued by the thought of an Amazon phone, but interest is starting to wane after a long period of it not happening. Even if Amazon were to heavily customize the user interface ala the Kindle Fire, it would have once been neat to own a phone that ties into every facet of Amazon’s e-commerce ecosystem. Movies, TV shows, books, music, apps, games, and all the physical products you can handle — what more could one want out of a smartphone?

But for us Android folks, the allure of the Amazon experience no longer feels special. We have Google Play books, movies, TV, magazines, music, apps and games, and it’s all just as good — if not (in some cases) better — as what Amazon has to offer.

Perhaps Amazon just doesn’t have a good enough reason to take the jump anymore. For starters, the smartphone market is highly competitive, and it’s quite understandable for a company to be hesitant to jump in too fast. Amazon wouldn’t have much of an issue when it comes to visibility in their own store, obviously, but their best chance for success will be to get in good with the world’s major carriers.

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Amazon’s motives typically revolve around trying to sell products, and there’s no good reason they can’t do that on the millions of devices already swimming around the mobile ecosystem. Amazon has done a good job of bringing books and music to third party platforms, but there’s still room for more.

One big area of improvement is video — Amazon Prime members still don’t have an easy way to access Instant Video services on Android phones and non-Kindle tablets. Why not bring that functionality to the likes of Android and iOS, killing off the need for shoddy workarounds (which also makes for a clunky user experience)? This would make existent customers’ subscriptions even more valuable, and would probably give a lot of people who are sitting on the fence about Amazon Prime a reason to hop on over.

One might say Amazon is holding back in order to drum up more demand for an actual Amazon phone, but they would probably benefit a lot more from bringing seamless access to all their services on any platform. That said, we’re not sitting in the board rooms or cutting the checks, so we can only look on from the outside and wonder as we move into 2014. Will we finally see the Amazon phone next year? And, an even better question — would you buy it?

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  • CaffinatedOne

    “One big area of improvement is video — Amazon Prime members still don’t have an easy way to access Instant Video services on Android phones and non-Kindle tablets. Why not bring that functionality to the likes of Android and iOS…”

    Actually, Amazon has an app for iOS for viewing of prime instant videos, it’s just stock Android that’s been left out. One presumes that they’re using that as a lever to drive kindle fire purchases.

    • http://www.colossaldamage.com/ SuperMarino

      I have a Kindle Touch (e-ink), an android tablet, and Amazon Prime. It’s unfortunate for me, because I’m fully invested in their Kindle market, and use Amazon often. The fact that I can’t view Prime on my tablet stinks. I’m not buying a Kindle Fire, and I wouldn’t get an Amazon phone, because I have a lot invested in Android too, and don’t think I should need to do any workarounds to use the Play Store.

      I only see adding the Prime store to stock android as getting more people to subscribe to Prime and really just getting their video market out there for more people to use – as a complimentary alternative to the Google stores, just like their Appstore is. Unless someone at Amazon ran numbers and just doesn’t think it’s fiscally responsible to add that much overhead to stream to new android devices, I can’t see why they”d hold back.

      • Brian

        I don’t think most people buy a Prime membership for their free video selection. It only provides a small/tiny subset of their available online content. Unlimited 2-day shipping orders (and no $25 minimum) & the Kindle Lending Library are much more enticing reasons to subscribe.

        Me being someone who does 30+ Amazon orders a year, the 2-day shipping pays for itself (and also not all my orders are >$25). Also, there being wide adoption of the Amazon Video on consumer products (e.g. TVs, Blu-Ray players) over Play Movies is also a big motivation for renting from them.

        I do wish though that we had Android Tablet support from Amazon, but it’s probably the main feature keeping people on Kindle tablets instead of a Nexus 7/10

        • http://www.colossaldamage.com/ SuperMarino

          Amazon Videos aren’t just for prime members though, people can buy/rent videos without prime membership, and prime members can buy/rent the videos they don’t get for free. I probably shouldn’t have referred to it as the “prime store” but that was me being lazy. I just still don’t see a reason not to release it, especially when most of the programming should be done since it works on the android-based kindle fire. So they can make more money (or at least have the potential to) with little overhead increase, it seems like a no brainer – unless they really fear that this would douse the Kindle Fire.

        • ari_free

          My mom uses her kindle fire all the time for watching Prime movies. It works great for her but not for me since I’m more interested in apps than movies.

  • Carl Rood

    I like using Amazon because I like the idea that my music and movie purchases aren’t tied to a specific platform. That’s why, I’ll still by DVD’s and rip them rather than only buy a digital copy.

    I’ve recently signed up for Prime and I’m loving it. My Blu-Ray player has the built-in app, so I can stream to my 50″ TV as well as watch on the laptop. I’m having a lot of trouble with my Android phone. I have Flash and have tried both Dolphin and Firefox to play Prime videos, but it keeps telling me that it fails to connect to the video service. I’m on my home WiFi and don’t have trouble with the laptop or Blu-Ray, so it’s not bandwidth. I once got it to start playing for a few minutes, but then it locked up and wouldn’t connect again. My HBOGo app works fine, so I don’t think it’s the phone, either.

    An Amazon Instant Video app for Android would be a dream. Since there’s one for Kindle, this is just an unwillingness on their part rather than any technical or developmental issue.

  • allen markow

    Take your smartphone to bed in comfort as your phone floats in any position you want. Now sold here at Amazon . http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0074U2MAK
    Free Shipping and on Sale today

    • Dan

      this concept makes me lose faith in humanity

  • chumawumba

    I want to AirPlay instant vidoe

  • Alan Shearer

    No, I would not buy their phone. But I would pay 5 dollars fr amazon prime app that is nicely designed, fast, and works on near all android devices.

  • Charles Chambers

    No.