Sep 05 AT 9:54 PM Taylor Wimberly 29 Comments

If Amazon reveals an Android smartphone tomorrow, expect it to be unlocked

New Amazon devices

Amazon is expected to announce a new Kindle Fire tablet tomorrow, and if the latest rumors are true, they will also reveal an Android-based smartphone. Nilay Patel of The Verge is reporting that “multiple sources” have confirmed to him Amazon is “working on a smartphone that runs a variant of the Kindle Fire’s Android-based operating system.”

We heard similar rumors over a year ago, but Amazon has only released one Android-based device to date – the original Kindle Fire. Nilay goes on to speculate that Amazon’s smartphone will run a “forked version of Android 4.0″ and include Nokia Maps as the location service. No other details were revealed.

If Amazon does announce their own smartphone, expect it to be offered as an unlocked device. Even though Amazon Wireless sells a ton of locked devices through their online store, they have some pretty anti-locked language in their unlocked phone guide.

In response to the question “Why do carriers lock phones?”, Amazon says, “A locked cell phone benefits only the carrier by keeping a customer using their service. Unlocked phones give consumers more control of plans, pricing, and services and make carriers work for you.”

It’s possible that Amazon could still announce some partnership with AT&T or another carrier, but I don’t expect this device to be sold with a traditional two-year contract. Amazon still might choose to subsidize part of the price, but we believe it would be done through advertisements that were displayed on the phone’s lockscreen.

Overall, I’m pretty excited to see what Amazon has been working on all this time. Even if the device does not resemble Android one bit, it is nice to see a worthy competitor enter the arena and keep the other OEMs on their toes.

Check back tomorrow for the full scoop. Would you even consider an Android-based phone from Amazon if it didn’t include Google Play or Google’s other mobile services?

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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  • YMS123

    This could be perfect for me, I’m waiting on a new unlocked phone to use on T-mobile off contract

  • skugern

    Unlocked is the best way to spread your product as widely as possible. They want the name Amazon on as many mobile electronics as possible – it’s a different way of advertising.

    • thel0nerang3r

      I’ve never seen (I don’t claim they don’t exist, but I haven’t seen) the number of users on unlocked phones in the US. I can’t imagine them being that high.

  • PH

    “Would you even consider an Android-based phone from Amazon if it didn’t include Google Play or Google’s other mobile services” – NOPE!

    The live conference link…

    • thunsaker

      I’d have a hard time living without native Gmail on my phone.

    • mac08wrx

      Yeah being locked out of Google apps is a no go for me. But given the specs root is always an option.

    • alxrock

      An Android powered phone without Google services doesn’t make sense to me. It’s sugar-free candy. What’s the point?

  • ari-free

    Wouldn’t it be nice to buy one phone and it would work on any carrier you choose? So if you are on t-mobile and you want to switch to sprint, you don’t have to buy another phone.

    That’s what I want to see.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      You can do that right now on AT&T and T-Mobile if you buy an unlocked phone. Verizon and Sprint both use CDMA/LTE networks and they do not support unlocked devices.

      • ari-free

        Yeah well AT&T isn’t much of a good choice for me (I’m on t-mobile). A choice between t-mobile and sprint would be more interesting since both offer unlimited plans.but I can’t consider Sprint if I need to get another phone.

        • Taylor Wimberly

          AT&T has a much larger network than T-Mobile. You can get unlimited service on the AT&T network through Straight Talk SIM for only $45 per month. I’ve been using it for about 4 months and I think it’s awesome.

          • thel0nerang3r

            Unrelated to the article, but since you have StraightTalk. What kind of speeds are you seeing with StraightTalk?

    • ibap

      T-mobile is a GSM carrier, Sprint is a CDMA carrier. Different technology. Take T-mob to AT&T or Sprint to Verizon, but you can’t cross that technology divide right now.

      There are some CDMA phones with GSM but they are locked to allow only non-US carrier overseas use unless hacked.

  • clocinnorcal

    I think the idea of unlocked devices are appealing, but what about the bootloader? I could not see myself buying a Kindle embedded device unless; 1. The bootloader was unlocked, 2. Lots of dev support from XDA, and original source code from Amazon.

    BTW, I always wondered about the Kindle Fire, and my two quirks above. Can someone enlighten me on this subject?

  • ChrisLH

    Amazon has a chance to shake up the industry, especially if they’re willing to self-subsidize the cost of the phone and make it affordable off-contract…it would be great to see.

    I’m also really interested in just how constraining the OS is. The Fire is a cool device and works well as a front for Amazon content, but I can’t stand the UI. It’s way too locked down, similar to the iOS, which really limits one of the huge advantages Android has over iOS. Hopefully the phone is much more customizable.

  • CTown

    I really thought that Kindle Fire was going to be the first successful true fork of Android. I just feel like Amazon using an older version of Android cannot hurt the Fire as much as it would hurt Android itself. I’m glad to see that Amazon the rebased Fire’s OS on ICS. This means that Amazon does not plan on making their own API (but they can make Fire specific ones) or plan to keep the most successful Android tablet from important tablet functionality that was introduced in Android 3/4 such as Fragments, Action Overflow, and other things on the Kindle.

    • thel0nerang3r

      I don’t think it hurts Android. Amazon doesn’t market it as “Android”, it doesn’t have access to the GApps. It’s marketed as an “Amazon” device.

  • Tarwin

    Well, I only buy unlocked as things are (have done so since 2005). But for me not having Google Play would be a huge loss. I have invested too much in certain apps: Final Fantasy III, certain books, certain dictionaries (as a translator the different $25, $30, $50 dictionaries are well worth it), etc.

    But I wish it success if it is real. After all, it would basically increase the market presence of Android and draw more developers to it (as far as I know there is no actual difference between normal Android apps and Kindle apps aside from the distribution channel, meaning that when a developer makes an app for one of them, he’s making it for both).

  • jmb98115

    Will it come with Amazon spyware?

    I’ll pass on this additional layer of surveillance and profiling.

  • cb2000a

    All phones should be unlocked and monthly prices dropped as they are no longer subsidizing the phones. If Google comes out with a Note sized Nexus with stylus I will buy one.

  • thel0nerang3r

    I think they will be more successful if they offer sim only contracts to go along with it.

  • mischa

    as long as they force you into only their content ecosystem only the way Apple does I consider it a fully locked device. whoever said making an app for 1 was like making 1 for the other is wrong because they limit and censor what goes on their store , and there are far less quality apps on the Amazon store

  • R.S

    For me to consider an Amazon phone it would have to be very cheap and have top of the line specs. Otherwise I would not want to deal with the possible ads or not having Google Play.

  • android underground

    If amazon makes a phone it won’t be long ’till xda and cyanogenmod let you install anything you want on it.

  • ibap

    Can I install the nook app on it? No? Thought so…

  • n25philly

    I can live without the play store on a tablet, but on a phone I don’t think I could. There just isn’t enough overlap in available apps and I know I will end up missing something good.

  • MoSDeeb

    Looks like a phone was not part of the announcement this morning :(

  • 76504329

    I’d buy an Amazon phone BECAUSE it is Google-free. I know many people who will not purchase an Android phone because they don’t trust Google’s privacy practices.

    Apple and Google control the market, so more players are needed.
    It will put pressure phone makers and carriers to reduce prices.