Feature Article

June 17, 2014

Will Amazon Announce a Cheap Smartphone?

If there’s one thing the tech industry can’t resist, it’s a good rumor about upcoming products. In this case, it’s Amazon with a possible smartphone based on its Kindle line.

Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is expected to announce the device on Wednesday. The major retailer had already advertised exclusive invitations to the announcement on its website.

Seattle Times technology writer Brier Dudley called it “Revenge of the Thrifty Nerds,” referencing the 1984 comedy movie “Revenge of the Nerds.”

“It starts out with cool California kids having all the fun before the geeks in Seattle get their turn,” he wrote. “Instead of competing for dates, they’re trying to win over consumers entering the next phase of the smartphone era.”

The selling point will apparently be the phones cheapness in regard to higher-end smartphones like the iPhone. The strategy worked for the Kindle Fire, which became popular for its low price in comparison to the iPad and even prompted Seth Meyers to quip on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update that it was expected to sell well among parents who “always bought the wrong thing” for Christmas.

A smartphone—if that’s what Amazon actually announces—wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the company. Amazon’s Kindle Fire line of tablets is based on a modified version of the Android smartphone platform. An Amazon phone would probably inherit much of the same features from the Kindle Fire line, including the “Mayday” feature to get live help from customer service.

Amazon would probably continue its strategy of selling the devices at cost and encouraging users to sign up for Prime. It’s also rumored to have a 3D interface.

Having saturated the high-end market, smartphones have started to move down into the lower end of the market, with budget MVNOs like Tracfone that have traditionally stuck to feature phones offering Android phones for around $100.

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