In 2014, Amazon entered an entirely new world by releasing the Fire Phone. The company designed thought consumers would relish a handset designed by their favorite online retailer and all of the services it runs. But Amazon thought completely wrong. The Fire Phone was met with bad reviews mostly because of limitations and price. While Android was present, the software was covered with an underwhelming forked version. Owners of the handset were forced to use Amazon’s restricted app store and other software features that just didn’t add value. On top of mid-range specifications, Amazon was charging a high-end price. The Fire Phone cost hundreds of dollars off-contract and AT&T was the exclusive carrier. It took more than a year for the company to realize how awful everything the handset was, leading to layoffs and price cuts.
The Fire Phone was ultimately put to rest in September 2015, but Amazon isn’t giving up on phones anytime soon. People familiar with Amazon’s internal discussions told The Information that the company is seeking software partnerships to get better placement on mobile devices.
Amazon is seeking to go further than having its apps pre-installed on devices. Amir Efrati of The Information writes that “Amazon has discussed working with phone brands at a “factory level” to integrate its services with devices in a deeper way than simply preloading apps as it currently does.” The assumption is Amazon wants content from its online store, primarily video and audio, to be displayed prominently on partners’ devices. Sound familiar? It’s what Jeff Bezos’ pride and joy already does with the very successful Fire tablets. Amazon wants to circumvent Google beyond just allowing the Amazon Appstore to be sideloaded as an alternative to Google Play.
Unless the company is shelling out big bucks, Amazon is going to have a hard time getting hardware manufacturers to give up complete control of their own software. Most companies producing Android devices either have their own apps and services or rely on Google to make them. Outside of Flipboard’s arrangement with Samsung, hardware-software partnerships generally stop at the pre-installed apps level. Even if Amazon gets its way and someone to agree to their terms, consumers will have little reason to choose their offerings over Google’s.