Amazon says it won't offer a free smartphone, after all

A spokesperson for online powerhouse Amazon has denied reports that the company plans to offer a free smartphone to consumers, saying that no handsets will be released in 2013, and that it wouldn't be free in any case.

According to the Wall Street Journal reporters that broke the story originally, Amazon's statement was light on the details, with the company opting instead to keep its cards close to its chest.

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Jessica Lessin and Amir Efrati noted in the original story that one factor complicating Amazon's long-rumored move into the smartphone market is the number of manufacturers that have agreements in place with Google requiring them to build only Android devices approved by the search engine giant. It's thought that any smartphone developed by Amazon will use the same open-source version of Android as the company's Kindle Fire line of tablets, which don't include Google's proprietary core apps.

This is far from the first time rumors of an Amazon phone have made the rounds over the course of the last year or two, buzz about a supposed smartphone release has been nearly constant. As with the Kindle tablets, the idea would be to draw new customers into Amazon's content ecosystem streaming movies and TV shows via Amazon Prime, etc. rather than making a killing on device sales outright, a la Apple.

However, those tablets haven't made a substantial dent in the worldwide market, despite aggressive pricing, according to IDC. Part of the problem may be the Amazon App Store, which has failed to gain much traction, even with availability on non-Amazon devices and well-publicized free app giveaways.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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This story, "Amazon says it won't offer a free smartphone, after all" was originally published by NetworkWorld.

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