Hey Amazon, How About a Kindle Fire Phone?

By  |  Friday, November 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

Yesterday, after writing about Android fragmentation, I ran into a friend at a conference. He began ranting about a particular type of fragmentation: The way wireless carriers muck up Google’s operating system with junkware, promotional stuff, pointless tweaks, and general bloat that makes the operating system less usable. He got pretty worked up about it. I agreed it was a problem.

I wondered why no company has taken up the challenge of building…well, the iPhone of Android phones. Something that’s elegant, approachable, uncluttered, and respectful of the consumer’s intelligence. Any bundled services would need to be beautifully integrated rather than just shoveled onto the phone indiscriminately, as the apps on Android handsets often are.

And then it hit me: Why not Amazon?

Amazon is good at making things simple. Amazon has taste. Amazon has stores for movies, music, books, magazines, and apps, all of which are already hooked up to our credit cards and shipping addresses.

Most important, Amazon has already done a lot of the heavy lifting required to build a phone. It could simply repurpose much of the effort it’s poured into the Kindle Fire tablet, and then add phone-specific features.

As long as I’m daydreaming: Couldn’t Amazon buy wireless service in bulk from someone like Sprint or Verizon, then resell it in a form that’s designed to be as hassle-free as possible? (Wouldn’t it be cool to sign up for a wireless plan with pricing that was utterly free of mysterious charges?)

I’m not saying that a Kindle Fire phone would be an antidote to Android fragmentation. Actually, if it’s like the Kindle Fire tablet, it would be one of the most fragmented Android phones of all, since Amazon would utterly rework the operating system to serve its purposes. But the Kindle Fire, with its simpler interface and deeply-integrated services, is fragmentation with a point, rather than the random, unsatisfying fragmentation that otherwise pervades Android.

I have no reason to believe that Amazon is planning to make a Kindle phone. Then again, I’d be startled if it hadn’t at least pondered the possibility. I’d consider buying one–would you?

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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Vance McAlister Says:

    no, no, no!! An Amazon phone would just be the ultimate in an OEM "mucking up" the pure Android experience. I agree that all of the skins just diminish from the usability of Android (which is why I am in line for a Nexus), and you are proposing that Amazon do this to the extreme. Rip out all of the goodness of Android, which is the Google apps, the flexibility and customization, the complete freedom to install what you want from a wide open Market, etc, and replace it with a curated, and strictly limited, selection. With an Android phone right now, I can add in all of the apps from Amazon, and so be as usable as an Amazon phone would ever be, but not be LIMITED to that.

    Yes, if you are looking for a locked down, child-proof, claustrophobically limited experience (like the iPhone) then sure, Amazon is as good as any other to provide that "experience". But what that could ultimately do, if successful, is take development away from REAL Android phones and what makes them great.

  2. Koki Says:

    I understand where you're coming from, but I don't agree.

    What many people forget is that Android isn't just open to consumers, but to manufacturers as well. Android's openness policy is in favor of manufacturers and carriers tailoring the phone to their brands. This is why you see Motorola, HTC, and Samsung selling skinned phones, locked down, and pre-loaded with carrier-ware. It's completely fair game for Amazon to come in and strip Google's experience out.

    To call other experiences "claustrophobic" and "locked down" ignores that Android also cherishes these choices. If Amazon comes out with an Android phone with a custom experience, you don't have to buy their phone. Android phones, existing at multiple price-points in dozens of different software configurations, give consumers a good amount of available choice and helps differentiate brands.

    We're starting seeing Android being applied in other applications, such as watches, thanks to the ability to tailor the experience and lock down the device. We're also really interesting applications of software thanks to devices like the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color. A stock Google experience is only Google's interpretation of Android, and unless manufacturers experiment, it's unfair to say that REAL Android phones are worth investment over alternatives with software decisions that may offer better experiences.

  3. @keithdickens Says:

    Listen, I'm an Android fan but the last word I would use to describe Android is "pure". Android is a mutt. 100% genuine crossbreed. An amalgamation of "best case" and "standard". Android is the melting pot. If you're going to have Amazon make a phone, why not use Android? Even if they lock it down and turn it into 100% proprietary garbage, at least it's based on something as lovable as a mutt, right?

    Android is meant to be a mile wide and an inch deep unlike the iPhone which is more like an inch wide and a mile deep. The fact that Amazon could make an awesome phone is independent of what OS they use for it. It's not like an Amazon Phone would be the last Android phone ever. It's not like we won't have a million choices of Android out there. Go for it Amazon. I likely won't buy it (unless it really is the best for my needs, of course), but that's what makes Android great.

  4. daleyt Says:

    Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but aren't you describing the Nexus line of phones?

  5. The_Heraclitus Says:

    IF there is a market for this. It WILL happen. Apple = 1 choice. Android, as many as the market demands…

  6. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Wow. Anonymous down rate by an Apple fan boi. Musta struck a nerve.

  7. Johnny Says:

    As daleyt pointed out, such a phone (or phones) already exist as the Nexus line. If Amazon were to produce a phone, then hopefully they would do the right thing and rescue — er, purchase webOS from HP. Then Amazon would have the most elegant phone OS right out of the gate.

  8. @Jeffington Says:

    I'm on the fence about Amazon (or anyone else) forking Android OS. On one hand I may end up having to maintain very different application bundles for the same app, but it could be argued that it's a separate platform with the benefit of being able to reuse almost all of my code.

  9. Jim E Says:

    I wouldn't buy one for me, but for my wife this would be the perfect introduction into smart phone technology

  10. Man Machine Says:

    Google's own Nexus is not the iPhone of Androids – at least it weren't (couldn't be) before Ice Cream Sandwich. Instead I believe HTC comes closest to this claim, with its HTC Sense.

    Regardless of whether Ice Cream Sandwich makes a barebones Android like Nexus much more palatable, or HTC Sense continues to provide the friendliest Android experience, I most definitely agree Amazon will most certainly not be a contender.

    Heck, Amazon is trying to splinter Android, not unite it. Remember Amazon devices are restricted to bloatware markets and can't access the regular Android market. Let's hope Amazon will be forced to realize their products will have to be opened up to all android apps in order to succeed. (Note: I'm not hoping Amazon will fail with its gizmos; just that their Microsoft-like attempt to embrace and envelop android will fail utterly)

    So my answer would be HTC Sense.

  11. Dave Says:

    "The way wireless carriers muck up Google’s operating system with junkware"

    This has got to be the most overblown criticism of Android. First, none of the interfaces are THAT bad. Second you can replace them all in 30 seconds with Launcher Pro or your other favorite UI. Just stop already with fragmentation this and fragmentation that. It makes no difference in the ordinary use of an Android device with 2.0 and up.

    This is the equivalent of 100s of articles on how the iPhone browsers don't have the ability to word wrap.