Amazon’s best-known side ventures have been consumer electronics devices like the Echo and Fire, but the online retailer is potentially looking into a redo of a product at which it has failed: smartphones. Amazon is developing a smartphone series named Ice, Gadgets360 reports.
The series will be powered by Google Android and intended to be a low-cost model for developing markets like India. Internally, the phone's specifications are expected to fit this mold. As Gadgets360 noted, one of the phones potentially will include a 5.2-inch to 5.5-inch display. Elsewhere, the phone will have a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, 16GB of internal storage and a rear fingerprint scanner. While the price of the phone has yet to be confirmed, it’s expected to be around $93.
Notably, Gadgets360 also noted the phone would feature Google’s Assistant program instead of Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. The move potentially could be a reflection of Alexa and Echo’s scope in regions it wants to launch Ice in — Alexa and the Echo family of home assistant speakers aren’t available in India yet, for instance — but Amazon could always bring Alexa to Ice down the road.
Previously, Amazon dipped into the smartphone market with 2014’s Fire Phone. The premium smartphone, which came on the heels of Amazon’s Fire tablets, sported high-end specifications and Amazon-specific services like X-Ray. However, the phone was dinged by critics for middling features and was discontinued the following year.
For Amazon, the move to the emerging market smartphone is a slight change in direction from its past consumer electronics announcements. Products like its Echo series of home assistants have generally been targeted at upscale users.
However, the developing market has been a point of interest for other tech companies and Amazon potentially is the latest to join the fray. Among them, Google has had a long-standing interest in maintaining both high-end and entry-level smartphones for consumers. In 2014, Google launched its own Android One program, which provides standards and hardware options for smartphones in countries like Kenya, Pakistan and India. Google Android head Sundar Pichai has said he believes smartphones in these regions should come down to $30.
The Amazon Ice series could benefit Amazon in other areas. For products like the Echo and Amazon Alexa, the online retailer has seen the upsides of expanding Alexa’s platform. Thanks to a growing user base and developer support, Alexa has been able to hop from the Echo to devices ranging from TVs to home appliances.
Amazon’s own app and hardware ecosystem took a small hit with the Fire Phone’s failure — Amazon’s physical device family is limited to its Fire and Kindle series of tablets and e-readers — but the Ice could be a way for the company to keep its foothold in the smartphone hardware space. And while the phone primarily will use Google apps, Ice can still be a way to introduce more users to other Amazon services down the road