Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kindle Smartphone Rumors: Could a Phablet Be Coming Soon?

by Cindy Gunnin

Reports across the web that Amazon is working on a smartphone based on a custom Android platform and destined to compete head-to-head against the iPhone gathered strength on April Fool's Day when former Microsoft, now Amazon, executive Charlie Kindel (Yes, that's really his name!) blogged about his new job at Amazon.

The mock press release claimed Kindel was in charge of developing a new home server for Amazon that would be called the Kindle Charlie. Kindel prefaced his joke post with the phrase " Part of the following is true," leading to much speculation that he is the head of development for the smartphone/tablet combo.

Reports in March said the new product will be Amazon's very own phonelet, with a 4.7-inch screen, making it smaller than most tablets and bigger than most phones. Supply chain insiders say the screen size is not finalized and the phone won't release until 2014. 
The primary rumor is that Amazon has been working with Foxconn International Holdings in its smartphone development. Foxconn makes the iPhone for Apple.

Other tech sites claim that the new phonelet will be released in the second quarter of 2013, so releasing between now and July 1. Business Insider claimed in March that delays in screen production will keep the phone from mass production until June.

The rumors about an Amazon smartphone have been circulating since the summer of 2012 when Bloomberg reported that people in the know said Amazon was working on a smartphone.

The story almost died after the release of Amazon's new slate of tablets including the Kindle Fire HD. In fact, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was asked about an Amazon Kindle phone, his cryptic answer was to "stay tuned."

However, detailed reports speculating on everything from the release date to the idea that the phone might include Bezos' patented idea for airbags to protect the phone when it is dropped. Those reports indicate the initial price of the phone will be about $200 and that Amazon has pre-order five million phones.

Further speculation about the new Amazon smartphone is that it will be relatively inexpensive. Industry analysts expect Amazon to use the same marketing strategy for the phone as it has for its tablets. That is, keep the cost of the product as low as possible, just covering costs, and make its money through apps and other products sold for the devices.

The various reports indicate that initially Amazon had considered a more traditionally sized smartphone, but observed the increasing popularity of the larger screened phonelets and opted for the 4.7-inch screen. Their reasoning is probably sound. At least two-thirds of smartphone buyers said that the size of the display was very important in their purchasing decisions.

Whether Amazon is actually close to ready to launch a smartphone is unclear, but with this many rumors circulating, it seems likely that they are at least working on it.

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