I Believe We Will See a Kindle Smartphone Sooner Rather Than Later
Rumors have been circulating for well over a year now that Amazon is working on a smartphone. I’m not sure how many of the rumors true or even vaguely accurate but I do think that even the untrue rumors are circling around a real product.
Yes, I think Amazon is working on a smartphone.
This topic came to my attention today as a result of new rumors posted by Techcrunch. They say they found and verified an anonymous Hacker News post from some Amazon insider. I’m still not convinced that the technical details are real, but they’re saying that:
Amazon is planning two devices, the first of which is the previously rumored ‘expensive’ version with a 3D user interface, eye tracking and more. Both devices were under the ‘Project B’ moniker before the news was leaked on WSJ earlier this year. The expensive model’s code-name has since been changed to ‘Duke’ and now ‘Smith’ — and a release is not planned this year.
The ‘Smith’ project includes a device that sounds like a bit of a hardware beast. The screen itself is not 3D but the device features four cameras, one at each corner of the device that will be used to track eye and head motions in order to move the interface around to ‘give the impression’ of 3D. Instead of using the phone’s internal sensors, like Apple does with iOS 7, it would base the movements off of the user’s point of view. Theoretically, this will provide a more accurate 3D representation of the screen’s contents.
The Smith smartphone sounds like the hardware is so complicated that it might never see the light of day. And if that doesn’t kill it, the anonymous Hacker News source says that the development team has been having problems with retaining staff:
They wanted to have it launched already but had difficulties with both software and hardware, and then lots of key players left the company – a common problem at Amazon is retention, having the lowest record of any tech company.
But even if that smartphone never sees the light of day I still think we’ll see a Kindle smartphone. That’s what the original anonymous source says and I believe it.
My belief in a Kindle smartphone stems not from rumors but from 2 widely available facts:
- Amazon sees their gadgets as a means to sell more stuff, and
- More and more stuff is being bought from smartphones than ever before.
Tell me, have you ever read an interview of Jeff Bezos? One thing you’ll find in almost every interview is a statement along the lines of:
Bezos said Amazon does not make money on the devices themselves, but the company does hope they will usher users toward Amazon’s main business: creating and delivering digital content, like Kindle e-books, movies, TV shows, and music.
"We think we’re better aligned with our customers if we make money when people use our devices, not when they buy them," he said. (source)
That’s been Amazon’s policy ever since they dropped the price of the Kindle in mid-2010, though I don’t know for sure that it was an expressed policy until the Kindle Fire launched in late 2011.
And when you combine that policy with the latest news about mobile purchases the conclusion is obvious:
Mobile transactions on Adyen’s third-party payment platform grew 27 percent from May to August, as the Amsterdam-based company reported that such transactions now account for 17.5 percent of all worldwide digital purchases processed via its global payment solution.
Worldwide purchases originating on mobile devices represented just 13.8 percent of all digital purchases on the Adyen platform at the end April, the company said.
Amazon is working on a smartphone. In fact, I’m kinda surprised that we haven’t seen one already.
After all, it wouldn’t take much effort for Amazon to license a smartphone design and slap their logo on it. It might not work too well, but that didn’t stop the Kindle Fire, did it? Furthermore, Qualcomm is on good terms with Amazon and they are used to licensing their smartphone designs to hardware companies. I’m sure they would be happy to help Amazon build a decent cheap smartphone.
And yes, I know that in the past I have denied or disbelieved the rumors. That was before I knew for sure that Amazon could make money by selling stuff via the smartphone. It was the piece of the puzzle that was missing.
I half expected to see a Kindle smartphone at last year’s launch event, but was disappointed. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason why I expected to see it but now I think I know.
It just makes too much sense.
fjtorres October 3, 2013 um 8:44 am
"That’s been Amazon’s policy ever since they dropped the price of the Kindle in mid-2010, though I don’t know for sure that it was an expressed policy until the Kindle Fire launched in late 2011."
I don’t think it *was* a policy in mid-2010. Moving eink readers to near-cost pricing was B&N’s idea; Amazon merely responded and adjusted. When they saw how well it worked out for them it likely sparked the policy.
Similarly, the whole "premium products at sub-premium prices" policy is a result of the way the first Fire sold: a lot early, with a big slowdown afterwards, showing a need for something better than generic hardware. Which is probably what is driving those high-end phone experiments: they are looking for useful differentiators that can be delivered cheap.
Amazon is a learning company; their policies tend to be driven by consumer behavior more than "religious" conviction.
Nate Hoffelder October 3, 2013 um 9:27 am
If generics are such a bad idea then how do you explain the KF2? Amazon relaunched the original Kindle Fire as a (very) slightly improved model, and I think that tends to prove you wrong.
You could be correct about the need to avoid junky generics, but that wouldn’t stop Amazon from licensing a good design from Qualcomm. But this might explain why Amazon didn’t launch the Kindle smartphone last year or this year; they wanted to offer something good.
fjtorres October 3, 2013 um 10:01 am
The new KF HD? Classic loss leader. Only 8GB after saying last year that anything with 8GB was DOA? They needed something to fill the crap-pad price slot.
I could see them shipping a loss-leader generic phone beside their higher spec model for the same reasons: "Kindle Phones–from $49.99."
Xendula October 6, 2013 um 7:21 pm
What they should make is an iPod Touch and Nano contender. Something equally thin and sexy that allows Audible and Overdrive download and is tiny enough to use when exercising. With phone screens getting bigger and bigger, my iPodT and Nano are the only devices I can run with comfortably nowadays.
There just is nothing else besides Apple’s devices – all Android PMPs have outdated software and hardware and resemble bricks in comparison to Apple’s products.
Nate Hoffelder October 6, 2013 um 10:57 pm
Give it a 2″ screen, have it run full Android, and let 3rd-party accessory makers make wristbands for it and you also have a smartwatch contender.
Hey, if people are going to call that POS Samsung Galaxy Gear a smartwatch then a Nano clone has an excellent chance of succeeding as an accidental smartwatch.
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