Is it the right time for Amazon to launch a smartphone?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: April 17, 2012

A little over a year ago, Amazon’s appstore made its way to the public thanks to Android devices. While the appstore had seen plenty of success before its smartphone launch, it was obviously only a matter of time before Amazon made the digital retail location available right from the phone. And now, earlier this month, a new report suggests that Amazon could be eyeing yet another move that includes smartphones: creating their own.

At the beginning of the month, Forbes ran a story based on a report from Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White. In that report, White suggests that Amazon is getting ready to launch a smartphone soon. How soon? Later this year, soon. White actually goes on to say that this smartphone would actually be “more sophisticated than many smartphones on the market.”

A pretty bold claim, if you ask me.

Now that we know the next Galaxy from Samsung is on its way, and we all expect Apple to launch a new iPhone later this year, and not to mention all the other advanced smartphones out there that will find their way onto store shelves, making a statement like that is pretty brave. Even for an analyst. Unless of course we take his statement literally, and we compare this unannounced and rumored Amazon smartphone versus the phones out right now. Then maybe it’s possible.

In any event, here’s the big question: is 2012 the perfect year for Amazon to launch a smartphone? Maybe it is.

It probably doesn’t matter so much the year, as it does the competition. When Amazon launched the Kindle Fire, the company’s first tablet device, there’s no denying it was a hit amongst plenty of people out there. After all, a tablet device with “good enough” specifications for only $200? Quite the deal. Also on that tablet was a heavily skinned version of Android, which was meant primarily to promote Amazon’s appstore and content, without so much showcasing Google’s mobile OS or digital retail location, Google Play (formerly known as the Android Market).

We can safely assume that if Amazon were indeed getting ready to launch a smartphone of their own, it would probably fall into the same line as their tablet device. A heavily skinned device, with a direct link to Amazon and not Google. But obviously people like Amazon’s appstore, along with other Amazon services, so that may not be a bad thing.

The hardware needs to be better than what the Kindle Fire brings to the tablet market, though. The next Galaxy by Samsung is going to have some high-end, impressive specifications. And when Apple unveils the new iPhone, there’s going to be plenty to be excited about there, too. So Amazon can’t just release a low-end device like they did with the Kindle Fire (compared to the competition). The smartphone would need to be better, both in hardware and pricing.

A smartphone from Amazon doesn’t actually seem like a bad idea. I honestly wouldn’t want to see a smartphone with a similar OS that the Kindle Fire has, but I’m not completely against a heavily skinned version of Android, either. As long as it isn’t heavy and weigh the experience down. If Amazon can figure out a way to create a proprietary software that stands out and impresses, along with some interesting high-end hardware, I don’t see how an Amazon smartphone wouldn’t be a success.

What do you think? If Amazon could hear your opinion, what kind of phone would you want them to build? Let me know.