No, Amazon, carrier exclusivity is not the way to go

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| June 17, 2014


So it’s kind of an exciting week for the mobile industry! If you believe all of the recent rumors surrounding the long-awaited Amazon smartphone release, you probably already know that tomorrow is the day we hope to see the phone become a reality. I recently mentioned in another article that it would be nice to start seeing other manufacturers enter the smartphone market, although that’s easier said than done. Penetrating the U.S. market at this point is a rough battle, but if anybody’s going to do it one could assume that a company as large and powerful as Amazon would be more than capable... as long as they weren’t messing around with the whole "carrier exclusive" thing, which it looks like they very well might be.


This decision, I’m afraid, will do more harm than good in the long run.


In theory, I can see where carrier exlusivity might seem like a good idea at first. Anything that’s exclusive kind of gives off that “forbidden fruit” vibe that some people just can’t resist. In some cases, there will probably be some people that switch to AT&T (the alleged exclusive carrier of the Amazon smartphone) just to say they have it, much like people did with the iPhone.


The thing about the iPhone, of course, is that Apple was lucky enough to pull that one off. Apple was in the right place at the right time. The company was in their prime with the whole iPod thing blowing up, and the iPhone came at a time where phones were stuck in limbo between touchscreen messenger and BlackBerry smart - why not have both? Thus the iPhone was invented, and although it was a carrier exclusive, it quickly became quite the success.


Aside from that, the only company I can think of that successfully got away with a carrier exclusive was Motorola with the Droid line for Verizon, and even that doesn’t quite measure up to the success of the iPhone. After that, not much can be said for manufacturers who tried to do the same. As T-Mobile CEO John Legere so blantantly pointed out in a tweet earlier today, does anybody remember the Facebook phone (or the fact that there were two of them)? I would imagine not, as most people didn’t use the only carrier it was available for.


It’s good that there are CEOs like Legere that agree that carrier exclusives kind of (really) suck. It really seemed like we were getting to a point where manufacturers were starting to get it. The likelihood of people flocking to AT&T just to get an Amazon smartphone are slim to none, no matter how cool the phone is. Simply put, the reason most people who aren’t AT&T customers at the moment isn’t because they don’t have the right phone available for them; it’s because they didn’t have the right plans, services, or coverage area. You might get a few flexible people, but I am willing to bet that not many will be willing to switch - even for Amazon.


I could be wrong. Maybe this phone will be so phenomenally great that it will be like the the iPhone all over again, and everyone will just have to have one - but I highly doubt it. Carrier exclusives are an opportunity of the past, and anybody who chooses that path now is just begging for a sluggish launch. Hopefully, though, the rumors are wrong and the Amazon smartphone will be available across all four major carriers. Still, I feel like at least Legere might have known about it at this point if that were true.


Readers, what are your thoughts on carrier exclusives now? Do you feel that they can still benefit manufacturers, or do you think that the time for releasing phones under carrier exclusives has passed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


Image via BGR

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