Interest in a potential Kindle Phone has been rising ever since Bloomberg reported that Amazon was in the middle of testing said phone. The logic behind the move is arguably sound for Amazon, which leaves people fairly certain that it will happen. After all, if there are customers to be gained and the sort of 24/7 connection that many people have with their smartphones can be tied into Amazon services then the hardware line is worth it even if it doesn’t generate a dollar in sales on its own. What is especially interesting about all of this speculation, however, is the idea that Amazon is on the verge of upsetting the smartphone market in a major way.
To really understand the potential impact of a Kindle Phone, we have to look at what they have already done with the Kindle Fire. Users get access to an affordable, functional consumption device that is tied into Amazon.com. There are no major optional features, none of Google’s default Android services, and no efforts are being made to pretend that it is anything more than what it is able to be. All the designers cared about was how to get people the best access to Amazon’s media at the lowest price.
Let’s carry that through to a phone. Obviously we would be talking about something highly affordable. That is how the company defines their products. It would have to be exclusively connected to Amazon’s own services, which means no Google interaction. In a market increasingly pushing for universal access to turn-by-turn directions, calendar alarm notifications, and constant digital communications access, this could be slightly problematic. Even the Email app that shipped with the Kindle Fire didn’t quite work right at first, so it is hard to imagine them solving every possible problem with a new, more complex Android implementation so soon.
This doesn’t rule out an Amazon phone, but it does place it in a certain bracket. Just as the Kindle Fire doesn’t try to directly compete with the iPad, perhaps a Kindle Phone would avoid trying to compete with the iPhone.
There is a great deal of exposure to be gained if they choose to go with a “pay as you go” device. A Kindle Phone with the ability to connect to WiFi networks could be sold cheaply to millions of budget-conscious consumers. Even if they didn’t need it as a phone, the iPod Touch has demonstrated in the past that there is a level of consumer demand for such hardware. The ability to add prepaid minutes to a calling plan would just add a level of functionality to make it marketable while avoiding many of the hassles inherent in dealing with a normal carrier.
There is too little information to go on so far, and it is still definitely possible that Amazon will come out with a whole array of new services to make up for the lack of Google integration by the time a Kindle Phone sees the light of day. It might even turn out to be a high end device that puts every Android smartphone on the market to shame. The Kindle Fire set the tone for Amazon’s Android hardware, however, and the theme there has been one of simplicity and affordability. I think it is unlikely to see that change just yet.