Stick to the tablets, Amazon

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| November 21, 2013

During my search for a tablet, I was constantly asking myself what it was I was looking for, exactly. Sure, I knew that I wanted a mobile computing device, something other than my phone and my laptop, and I knew that I needed it to play games. Of course, finding games on our devices isn't that hard these days, so I felt like that was pretty easy no matter which tablet I eventually ended up with.

So, gaming aside (even though that did, ironically enough, become a major focus of my final purchase), I tried to figure out why I needed a tablet. Was I getting it because I needed a device, another mobile device, that was meant to specifically consume media? To watch movies, download apps, play games, and basically just consume it all?

Or was the tablet meant to work as a device to actually create things, too? Even if it meant downloading an app to reach that goal. So, downloading an app like Paper by 53, where I can draw whenever I get the inkling to do so. Or a word processing app like Apple's Pages, so I can write when I want to write. Wherever I am.

That's why it took me so long to actually find the right tablet. I had to find the right size, the right weight, and the right device for what it was I was looking to do, after I decided what it was I was hoping to achieve. Yes, I needed a consumption device, but it also had to give me the means to write, draw, and otherwise create things whenever I wanted.

A few days ago I was having a conversation with a friend about Amazon, and how they, essentially, were a fanboy. They didn't consider themselves a fanboy of any other company, not even a phone manufacturer or console manufacturer. Amazon plays such a big part in their life, and has been so solid every time they've used it, that they've basically become a fanboy.

He picked up a Kindle Fire HDX recently and he loves it. He got the 7-inch version, and he says it does exactly what he needs: consume media. It doesn't need to do anything else. And that makes sense. As a tablet, an released by Amazon, the Kindle Fire devices make a lot of sense because Amazon wants you to by digital things. Be it books, TV shows or movies, or even apps these days, Amazon has you covered in the digital frontier.

A tablet makes sense. But, what about a phone?

We've been hearing about the rumors of a smartphone from Amazon for a long, long time now. Most recently though they started to pick up steam, with two big rumors involving the same companies popping up one day after the other. Back in October, we heard first that HTC and Amazon had apparently been in talks to make something cool, with Amazon behind the software and the media distribution. HTC? In charge of the hardware. So, much like we saw with the HTC first not too long ago, with HTC's buddy-buddy routine with Facebook.

The next day, we heard that HTC and Amazon had been working together since "at least June" to create a new smartphone that would be sold only to Prime users. What's Prime? It's a yearly subscription to Amazon's service, which gives subscribers a ton of extras, like shipping bonuses, discounts, and access to movies Netflix-style. There are also bonuses for books, too, as well as other goodies tossed in for good measure.

Basically, if you're like my friend and you use Amazon a lot, then Prime is absolutely perfect for you. What's more, a device that's released by Amazon that's meant to be explicitly used as a media consumption device makes even more sense. That's why the Kindle Fires exist. (I think there should be a bigger focus on that Mayday button, but that's just me.)

But a phone? I don't really see the appeal, simply because a phone is a device that we interact with more than we use to consume media. Don't get me wrong, I watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of music, and I read a lot of books/comics on my phone, but I also text folks, send instant messages, and do other things that need me to directly interact with my device. On a tablet like the Kindle Fire HDX, those moments are severely limited.

Amazon's focus on a phone would have to be to build a great phone first, to make sure that the keyboard, even the dialer, are fantastic and that people want to use them every day, before they make sure that the way they download apps, movies and other digital media is just as flawless as it is on their tablets.

Is that possible? I'm sure it is, and I think it makes sense that Amazon may want to position that device towards Prime users. After all, it's all about the downloads. But, limiting the device by any means right out of the gate seems kind of self-defeating. Like with the Kindle Fire HDX, make it available for everyone, and maybe you even get more subscriptions to Prime out of the deal, too. Actually, you could make the phone a driver to get more subscriptions if you price it correctly.

In the end, I don't think an Amazon phone makes the worst sense. There have been worse decisions out there in the mobile market. I would like to see Amazon make a great phone around their pipe for digital content, but that could prove to be the tricky part. What do you think of Amazon's supposed plans? Do you think a Prime Phone would be a good idea? Or should Amazon just stay focused on tablets?

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