May 13 AT 8:00 AM Taylor Wimberly 37 Comments

Rumor: Amazon has an “entire family” of Android devices coming this holiday

Amazon’s Android tablet is both the best and worst kept secret in the mobile industry. Everyone knows that Amazon is working on an Android device, but few know any of the specific details about its hardware or software. I recently took a break from blogging, but I had to come out of retirement for this post because it’s the most interesting Android topic that still remains a mystery. Read on after the jump to see what details I have dug up.

The Rumor

Amazon has an “entire family” of Android devices that will launch this holiday shopping season.

The Source

This tip came from an industry insider with direct knowledge of the project. The information was shared with me in a recent face-to-face meeting and I believe the source to be trustworthy. It was also confirmed by a separate source who has provided reliable information in the past. As with most of my tipsters, they wish to remain anonymous.

One Android Insider’s take on the rumor

I love writing these types of reports because there is always some truth behind the original rumor and additional details normally leak out after a post like this. People send a million rumors my way every week, so I only bust out the keyboard when I have information that I think deserves to be shared.

Rumors of Amazon expanding their hardware lineup beyond the Kindle e-reader go way back to last year. The New York Times first reported that Amazon’s research and development group, Lab126, had posted a flurry of job listings related to electronics hardware. That hiring spree has continued, as there are now around 180 job openings.

Then last September, MG Siegler of TechCrunch posted an interesting tip that Amazon was working on an iPad competitor. I agreed that it was obvious Amazon was working on an Android device when their app store was confirmed, but no new hardware details appeared for the next several months.

Things finally picked up again three weeks ago when Peter Rojas of gdgt said he was 99% sure that Samsung was building Amazon’s tablet. That rumor was quickly challenged when Digitimes said that several component makers reported Amazon has chosen Quanta Computers (the largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world) to produce their Android tablet.

Now most recently, I was told with a smile that there is not one tablet, but an entire family of devices in the pipeline. This surprised me at first, but Amazon is placing a huge bet on Android so it makes sense for them to launch several types of devices and see what gets the best reception.

So what kind of devices are we talking about?

I couldn’t get any details out of my source about which specific devices will launch first, but I’m speculating there will be several sizes of tablets and at least one smartphone.

Most of the Android apps in Amazon’s app store are designed for the normal smartphone screen size, so it makes sense they would bring to market a device with a 4 inch display. Their Kindle e-reader currently ships in 6 and 9.7 inch versions and I believe that would be the target size for any tablets.

There hasn’t been much talk about it, but I also believe Amazon might explore a set top box running Google TV.

How much will these things cost?

Current prices of the Kindle are $114 for a 6 inch with WiFi (some sponsored ads), $189 for a 6 inch with 3G, and $379 for a 9.7 inch with 3G.

Barnes & Noble has proven with their Nook Color that the sweet spot for a color tablet is around $249. Amazon could definitely match that $249 price point with a 6 inch color tablet, depending on what hardware components they choose. I would hope to see a 9.7 inch color tablet at $399 and a 4 inch phone for under $199.

Amazon truly has the power to hit whatever price point they want. They could subsidize part of the cost with advertising like the recent Kindle offer or just decide to take a loss on the devices. History has shown that the component prices will come down when the production ramps up and Amazon can afford to take a loss in the short term when they know they can make their money back by selling apps, books, movies, music, and more.

Who will supply the mobile data?

Just like the Amazon Kindle, I suspect we will see some Android devices with only WiFi and others with 3G/4G connectivity. Amazon has a history of working with both AT&T and Verizon, so either of those carriers could be potential partners.

The mobile data model you are most likely to see is a limited amount of free 3G/4G data, with the option to purchase additional data each month. Verizon worked a similar deal with Google to allow 100 MB of free data each month on their CR-48 Chromebook, so hopefully Amazon can do something similar.

What kind of display can we expect?

Digitimes reported that Amazon would use a Fringe Field Switching LCD display and touch panel from E Ink Holdings, but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently told Consumer Reports that color e-ink “is not ready for prime time…the colors are very pale.” He went on to say, “it makes a lot of sense for there to be a low-power, reflective color display. I think that’s something you could build a fantastic product around.”

When I checked around with my inside sources, I was told that Amazon would be using a Pixel Qi display like we saw in the Notion Ink Adam. It is possible that Amazon is evaluating multiple display technologies and has not decided on a final winner yet.

My gut tells me that Qualcomm’s Mirasol displays could be at the top of the list. These reflective displays do not require a backlight and offer a significant reduction in power consumption. I did not think they would be ready in time for Amazon’s tablet launch, but Qualcomm has been demoing their new front-light technology and claims they will be ready in the fall.

Whatever display type they go with, I expect Amazon will choose something ultra low power to differentiate their devices from the competition. The LCD displays of smartphones and tablets are normally the biggest source of power drain and one of these newer displays could greatly enhance the battery life.

Who will supply the CPU?

I know I’m a processor nerd, but I don’t really think it matters which CPU Amazon chooses to go with at this point. It will likely be an ARM-based dual-core CPU, which means it could be supplied by anyone.

My head tells me that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon might be the best fit since they could offer Amazon a sweetheart deal and price out the competition. NVIDIA could also be in the running with their quad-core Kal-El processor, which is expected to be available around Q3.

However, going back to my gut feeling I think Texas Instruments could be the big winner here. There OMAP3 powered the Nook Color and their new dual-core 1.5 GHz OMAP4 will be ready in the second half of 2011.

What will the software experience be like?

My sources tell me that Amazon has outsourced their software services to an embedded systems company that has experience with Android devices. Some had speculated that Amazon might use Android 2.3 Gingerbread so they could heavily customize the user interface, but I was told that Amazon will certainly use the latest version of Android.

Google has chosen not to release the source code for Android 3.0 Honeycomb until sometime in Q4 when Ice Cream Sandwich becomes available. I was given the impression that Google is actually working with Amazon on these devices, so it is possible that Amazon could ship their products in Q4 with Ice Cream Sandwich.

Andy Rubin told the press doing a Google I/O Q&A session that Android was meant to be customized and Google would not lock down the UI, so expect a heavily modified user experience on Amazon’s devices.

But would you actually buy one?

I’ve been a long-time Amazon Prime member, so I would definitely be interested in any Android device that Amazon might release. My phone of choice will likely remain a Google-designed Nexus product, but when it comes to tablets I would hand my money over to Amazon if they provided the best overall experience.

We tossed this idea around amongst the other staffers and here is what some had to say:

  • Edgar Cervantes: “I would not be very inclined to buy an Amazon phone… It seems like Amazon’s plan would be to separate itself from Google [and] Google’s services are very important to me. On the other hand, I think an Amazon tablet would be a better idea. Amazon is pretty much my favorite e-Reader provider, so if said tablet was optimized for Kindle, I would be more likely to consider it.”
  • Keivan Askari: “I think it would be an interesting device, and if they did a pilot program like the Google CR-48, it would be a great way to test the waters as well as build hype about the phone. I’m confident they could offer free data up to 100mb like the CR-48.”
  • Sean Riley: “I doubt that I would consider any of the products from Amazon, but these are bound to be targeted at the general consumer rather than Android enthusiasts. As consumption devices Amazon can certainly put together an incredible competitor with the ecosystem they have strung together in the last few months. The pricing should be their biggest advantage and considering the projections that the Kindle may go completely free for Prime subscribers by this Fall I think a $150-200 7″ tablet isn’t out of the question with the 10″ model running more like $250-300. I find the phone harder to believe, although certainly possible, but I can certainly imagine their going with a 4″ iPod Touch competitor at $99.”

What would it take to convince you to buy an Amazon smartphone or tablet?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • nEx.Software

    If I am being completely honest, I’m still not completely sold on the use case for a tablet. I personally don’t have any real use for one (of course, I will still play with my shiny new one I got at I/O) so I probably wouldn’t buy one regardless of who made or distributed it. Though, as the success of tablets thus far shows, there are a lot of people who don’t share my view and I believe that Amazon has a good a chance as any to really do well in this space.

    As for an Amazon phone, I wouldn’t be inclined to go that route.

  • http://Website triangle

    Good to see you back posting rumors, Taylor!

  • http://Website slbailey1

    I would like to have an Amazon tablet. The screen size needs to be 7 inches running Android 3.1 upgradable to ICS or running ICS right out of the box.

    • http://Website Slbailey1

      Also, an Amazon tablet needs to support NFC and have a standard USB port.

      • http://Website wshyang

        You forgot to mention the $99 MSRP as well, with an occasional $25 free Amazon gift voucher thrown in as a promotion.

  • http://Website Rayyan

    I miss these speculative articles you only find at androidandme!

    • http://Website androidcentral

      speculative? they are dead wrong most of the time!!!


    Great write up TAylor Good to have ya back… now get on the N3 rumors. Lol

  • http://Website AdamJ

    This is what I’ve missed about Android and Me! Please stick around Taylor!

  • Steve

    Don’t underestimate Amazon’s ability to come up with a ground breaking offering.

    By now it’s clear that Amazon is investing substantially in creating a complete ecosystem as well as in developing this new hardware / software package. Amazon doesn’t get the same credit as Apple for its product design capabilities, but the Kindle is considered by many to be a perfect design for its intended use as an e-reader, especially for such a reasonable price. Product pricing is another area where Amazon excels.

  • http://Website john

    mirasol display definately. im waiting my whole life to get rid of these lightbulbs and refreshrates.

    i just hope there’s no amazon slavery involved in the bundle.

    ty v much for sharing. you’re the best taylor, and you know it :-)

  • http://Website Tal

    Well are you kidding? A 6″ android tablet is going to be the ULTIMATE device so many people are looking for. We are the crazy people who like bigger screens on the go. 7″ is about as big as it can get, but a 6″ would be better in my opinion. Pocketable almost.

    Here are my requirements in no particular order:
    1. 6″ – you raised it – I love it. 5-6 would work too.
    2. Must have wifi + 3G.
    3. Higher rez – e.g. 1028×600.
    4. Full android exp – store – etc. as a prerequisite. If they block the regular store then – no Sir.
    5. PLEASE … include phone capabilities. That way we can make it our mobile phone too. That one could be SUPERrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
    6. Support at least 2.3.4 Gtalk capabilities for voice and video

    • Neil

      Make it a combined 6″ tablet/cellphone with excellent Kindle reading and I’m sold. It is the phone I’ve been waiting for. With bluetooth, it doesn’t matter how large the tablet is. Since I already carry a Kindle in my cargo pants pockets, a 6″ touchscreen tablet/phone combo would be smaller and more practical.

      I’ll buy the best product that works on a CDMA network (I travel into areas with zero GSM cell phone coverage). If it is ‘only’ a tablet, I’ll cheap out with the wifi.

      30% of the population are readers who want a better e-reader/tablet combo. Amazon won’t be given that entire market (otherwise the Nook color would be selling far better today), but they’ll do well.

      Prime videos with a tablet/e-reader/phone and I’m in heaven. SOLD!

  • http://Website Lucian Armasu

    Glad to see you back Taylor. Now give us more rumors on Tegra 3 devices :)

    Speaking of Tegra 3, I doubt their focus is that much on high-end devices. It’s certainly possible, but I think their primary focus would be on creating a “good enough” tablet that is as cheap as possible to sell a ton of them, and have a great experience mainly for reading. But yeah, their primary goal is to sell as many devices that would in turn lead to selling many more ebooks.

  • Lisa

    I think it will be interesting what they will produce. Personally I too would love to see a Kindle optimized tablet! I would even love to see something with both a touchscreen AND a keyboard. Basically think of the 6″ kindle with a touchscreen running Android. Hand’s down that would be the tablet I would buy.

    Right now the fact that tablets are touchscreen only is a big drawback for me. I’d want something with a physical keyboard as well. When picking a phone this was a major thing for me too.

  • http://Website alex

    Id take a serious look at phones and tablets. Id love it if Amazon just had a stock android phone with the only difference being the amazon app store was added id love that.

    Ill never get a Samsung phone because of the nightmares with updates. At least until they work out the fragmentation plans and ive seen it work well for a few of their phones.

    Id be full on board with an amazon tablet. I own a kindle and love that. a 10 inch with sd and mini hdmi support would be great. Plus I think 3rd parties would support an amazon tablet more than they would an ASUS tablet. So we might see more accessories for it. Also Id feel better dealing with Amazon if their were any problems.

  • http://Website Jo thomas

    Wow, Android just gets cooler by the day. Wow.

  • http://Website AN

    I would definitely be interested in an Amazon-branded tablet. Apple provides a really complete ecosystem, but if you’re not willing to reorganize around using their ecosystem to do everything, their products can give you a hassle.

    Amazon’s got the same history of attention to detail with their Kindle products that Apple is known for, and an ecosystem that’s easier (for me, anyway) to interoperate with. Amazon MP3/cloud player works everywhere I need it to work, as does their Kindle reader, video on demand, etc.

    I would like it if the full Android Market is on board, but I would settle for it not preventing me from sideloading apps myself. And the reality is that by the time Q4 rolls around and Amazon’s huge publicity explosion descends, there won’t be all that many gaps remaining in the selection at Amazon’s Appstore.

    This is the single most promising development in Android tablets that I see on the horizon.

  • http://Website RJ

    Are these the same sources that told you all the incorrect info you posted about the dual core Nexus S?

    • Taylor Wimberly

      There was actually some truth behind that rumor. Samsung had a Tegra 2 phone they were testing at the time. Google just decided to go with the Hummingbird CPU.

  • http://Website Dan S

    Amazon is the best hope, I think, for a real ipad competitor. The cell phone makers are saddled with problematic retail channels, mainly the cell carriers with dubious subsidies or consumer electronics channels and the required margins there. Amazon, with direct sales and its own internal subsidy economics, is maybe the only place I can think of that could compete with Apple’s supply chain dominance and pricing power. Should be interesting

  • http://Website Kathy G

    Android wants so much, but doesnt deliver…

  • PixelSlave

    >> I was given the impression that Google is actually working with Amazon on these devices, so it is possible that Amazon could ship their products in Q4 with Ice Cream Sandwich.

    I have my doubt on this one — the Amazon App Market is probably considered as a threat by Google, will they be willing to collaborate with Amazon to produce a family of Android devices?

  • Charbax

    Check my Pixel Qi videos:

    To me it’s obvious, you cannot make an Android based e-reader if the screen is not a fully reflective LCD like Pixel Qi that consumes no back light at all. The only thing needed for Pixel Qi to take off is a very big order like for Kindle4 of millions of these screens, thus convincing the LCD makers to dedicate time in their factories to produce those screens. So Jeff Bezos has the key to make this LCD revolution happen.

    Archos is using the OMAP4 1.6Ghz in their next gen, Amazon is the worlds top seller of Archos devices, the best combo for Amazon would be to re-brand (Archos is ready to do OEM) or simply promote the best Android tablet makers like Archos on their web store.

    I believe Google is working with all the serious tablet makers on Honeycomb now, no need to wait for Ice Cream Sandwich to be open sourced. I believe there are literally hundreds or thousands of tablet related companies who are in contact with Google for getting access to that source code and release many more Honeycomb tablets in time for Christmas, but even in Q3 before the release of the open source.

    A Pixel Qi Kindle4 will completely destroy iPad. It’s obvious. You get a thinner, lighter, 7″ device, that has no reflections outdoors, that is fully sunlight readable, that provides nearly as good readability as e-ink, that lasts 30 hours or more on the battery, that is much more comfortable to read text on the screen while still providing just as colorful and bright backlight color mode indoors for movies and colorful apps if needed. Who in their right mind would still buy the bulky and heavy unreadable iPad?

  • http://Website MoreMoschops

    “This holiday”? Which holiday, think I.

    Oh. “This holiday shopping season”. Well that certainly answers my question.

    I’m going to guess you mean some kind of holiday important to you and specific to your cultural subgroup. I understand you recently took a break from blogging; I can only hope that you’ll go back on your break very soon and leave this sort of thing to people who can actually provide information on the things they talk about, rather than vague statements meaningful to themselves that leave readers guessing what you might be trying to say.

    You’re not writing a mystery novel. Facts when you have them, conjecture when you don’t, that kind of vague sloppy writing never.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      This holiday means Q4. I have more info but I was asked not to release it. The big takeaway is that Amazon is releasing more than a single tablet.

    • http://Website Jb

      You know, its one thing to question an authors statement, its totally another to be a douchenozzle with your sarcasm and disrespect. Im really disappointed that intelligent adults come here and act like 12 year olds. If you spoke like that to someone face to face and not hide behind your monitor, you’d get your ass kicked.

  • charlax

    If you want to understand why does it make sense for, read our presentation about’s strategy: the Hidden Empire

  • http://Website Rift

    “Amazon has a history of working with both AT&T and Verizon”

    Uh… they’ve had a history of working with AT&T and Sprint, not Verizon. Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 US used Sprint. Kindle 2 International and Kindle 3 uses AT&T.

  • http://Website Hanna Montana

    Dunno, but iPad 2 smokes this

  • Steve

    The clear advantage that Amazon has is direct distribution. Just like Apple. If we assume similar costs, apple always seeks a 50% margin, so an iPad that costs $250 to make is priced at $499.
    Amazon traditionally seeks a 20% margin, and the price might be $299 or $329. That is a game changing price. In the video game business, when you look at consoles, using PlayStation as an example, at $299, it sold hundreds of thousands; at $199, it sold millions; at $99 it sold 10′s of millions. lowering the price by $100 increased sales by a factor of 10.

    An Amazon Android tablet at $299 would likely outsell Apple’s iPad, and would permanently change the business.

    All the big competitors, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, etc. need to go through distribution, meaning retail, and distribution wants to add 20% – 40% margin that the distribution channel pockets. These players could NEVER compete with a strong Amazon product.

  • Mike Britton

    If Amazon’s flavor of Android isn’t crippled by excessive UI customizations that will delay updates, I may bite for the 10″ form factor when they ship.

  • http://Website Tal

    Taylor, just that you know – this idea of yours about the 6″ amazon tablet – and maybe even being the Nexus3 itself (though long shot at that size) – is driving me crazy for 2 days now. You gota give us more info goodness here …
    I held today both a Dell Streak 5 and a Samsung Tab and the comfort zone of 6″ as an ideal pocketable mobile device is just screaming (to me at least).
    Please give us some new fix here ;)

  • Your Mobile Site

    Sean Riley makes a good point when he says that Amazon is unlikely to create devices for the true Android aficionado.

    However, to each his own. If Amazon starts releasing Android devices, this can only do good for Android’s market share.

    The more manufacturers out there releasing Android devices, the more competition. The more competition, the more improvements and enhancements to future Android devices.

    So I feel this is a great development.

    As for what it would take for me to buy an Amazon Android device… I think I might consider one if the price were right.

    But I’d rather spend an extra two hundred bucks for an Android device that’s made for the real fan!

  • http://Website Ben 1.0

    Very interesting article Taylor, good to see you back again for this. This has the potential to be a killer product(s) for Amazon.

  • http://Website Jazz

    o.k., some of these quotes are so cluelessly pro-Amazon that they’ve got to be Amazon employees. In fact, I think “Steve” is Jeff Bezos, and AN and Charbax are people in charge of this new product.

    Steve said:
    Don’t underestimate Amazon’s ability to come up with a ground breaking offering. Amazon doesn’t get the same credit as Apple for its product design capabilities, but the Kindle is considered by many to be a perfect design for its intended use as an e-reader. (Perfect??!? O.K., I like the Kindle, but what upper-echelon, protected from reality, sycophantic planet do you live on? it’s certainly one of the best options out there, but you’d be hard-pressed to show me one valid example of a reviewer outside Amazon that used the word “perfect” with regard to any aspect of the Kindle.)

    Charbax said:
    A Pixel Qi Kindle4 will completely destroy iPad. It’s obvious. (Yeah, heard that before. Didn’t many people, like Bill Gates, say that “no one” would ever buy the iPod, iPhone, or iPad? When people run down feature lists and ignore the more important user experience and cool factor, they will never “destroy” Apple products–unless, of course, Apple really screws up and keeps acting Orwellian. Oh, and if you try to call YOURSELF “cool”, you will have instantly identified yourself as not.) You get a thinner, lighter, 7″ device, that has no reflections outdoors, that is fully sunlight readable, that provides nearly as good readability as e-ink, that lasts 30 hours or more on the battery, that is much more comfortable to read text on the screen while still providing just as colorful and bright backlight color mode indoors for movies and colorful apps if needed. Who in their right mind would still buy the bulky and heavy unreadable iPad? (Who in their right mind indeed? I agree, there are many product pluses that iPad may not have, at least currently. Since when did that matter? Look at the iPhone, and how it lacks many features of the competitors it trounces. Look at the iPad–same thing. You can’t beat Apple on a purely feature-list basis.)

    AN said:
    Amazon’s got the same history of attention to detail with their Kindle products that Apple is known for (???? O.K., show me one valid review of Kindle that says Kindle is known for attention to detail, let alone like Apple is.) , and an ecosystem that’s easier (for me, anyway) to interoperate with. (Ah, you realize that particular claim is easily shot down. Couple of hints for your future postings: real individual consumers typically don’t use the terms “ecosystem” or “interoperate”–these are senior executive buzzwords.)

  • antonino cortese

    non comment bay bay e!