Kindle Phone Release Date September 2014 (WSJ’s Kindle Phone Leak)

Kindle Phone is arriving September 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Kindle Phone scoop. It is, unfortunately, a subscribers-only article. However, you can read up on the Kindle Phone below.

Kindle Phone Release Date – Kindle Phone announced in June, available by September 2014

WSJ has made the following claims –

  1. Kindle Phone is currently being shown to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. Perhaps to generate enthusiasm and apps.
  2. Kindle Phone will be announced in June 2014.
  3. Kindle Phone will be shipped in September 2014.

Interesting that the dates would be so specific. It seems some of the developers who were shown Kindle Phone broke the Confidentiality Agreements they perhaps had to sign. Or perhaps it’s just Amazon doing a controlled leak to gauge interest in a Kindle Phone.

It’s strange that there’s nothing about what it looks like (hopefully not a bland brick with less soul than a McDonald’s Burger). What features it has (after the first 5 minutes the 3D won’t seem that impressive). What the price will be (3D doesn’t sound cheap, does it).

Kindle Phone Details – What will Kindle Phone be like?

WSJ has made the following claims –

  1. Kindle Phone will have 3D technology. There will be 4 cameras at the 4 corners and they will track your retinas and create a 3D/hologram type image for you. Apple is getting its lawyers ready – how dare anyone else build a phone that employs users’ retinas.
  2. Kindle Phone Release Date is mentioned earlier – end of September 2014.
  3. Amazon will reveal all the details on Kindle Phone in June.

June announcement and end of September Shipping Date. A bit strange, no?

Why announce Kindle Phone 3 to 4 months before it ships?

My assumption is that Amazon has no idea of how much demand there will be for a Kindle Phone with 3D.

  1. 3D is a technology that hasn’t really taken off. 3D TVs have failed miserably. 3D hasn’t really taken off in video games either.
  2. Amazon probably has a decentish idea of demand for phones thanks to its Amazon Wireless subdivision (which sells phones and phone plans). However, there are no 3D phones yet, so it can’t predict demand for Kindle Phone 3D with a high degree of confidence.
  3. A 3D Kindle Phone is highly unlikely to be a ‘budget smartphone’. That means demand will be driven primarily by whether people find the idea of a 3D phone appealing and are willing to pay for it. We aren’t talking about a $0 Kindle Phone with 6 months free service – that would sell like hot cakes at a Marie Antoinette clone production center.

Amazon’s only option to gauge demand is to announce the Kindle Phone, take pre-orders, and estimate actual demand based on the preorders. The last thing Amazon wants is to end up with 3 or 4 million retina-tracking, 3D manifesting Kindle Phones rotting away in shipping containers in some remote part of China.

It’s a bit strange that Amazon is going all-out with 3D. It certainly seems like Amazon is betting the house on their 3D technology. If you had to release a Smartphone, in today’s crowded market, would you really bet on 3D as the one killer feature?

Will 3D make a Difference for Kindle Phone?

The short answer – probably not.

The long answer – Sometimes a company falls so in love with a product idea or a feature that it can’t see the user benefit side (or doesn’t care). What benefit does having a 3D phone bring for users?

You can watch Candy drop in 3D? Your email’s letters are in 3D? You can farm your virtual farms and watch the corn grow in 3D?

You can turn on the screen and a giant neon 3D ‘Look at Me. I’ve got a 3D Phone that I never use the 3D on.’ sign flashes for everyone else to see how cool you are?

Perhaps Amazon will show that the 3D TV people were doing it wrong and that 3D works great if you don’t need glasses. Perhaps it’ll turn out to be a gimmick that no one cares for. Perhaps it’ll be a feature that gets users to buy the phone (whether or not they use 3D afterwards doesn’t matter to Amazon).

Let’s discuss things that would make a Kindle Phone worth buying.

Kindle Phone Wish List

Well, here are a few things –

  1. A reasonable price.
  2. A very reasonable data plan and WhatsApp or Kik or Line integration so no texting costs. Probably leave out WhatsApp since it’s going to get Facebook’ed now.
  3. Something that’s beautiful, not a brick that looks like Mr. Boring-but-Safe was put in charge of design.
  4. Something that’s super easy to use.
  5. No Ads. Please, for the love of God, no ads that are everywhere like annoying gnats. No Ads means No ‘Special Offers’.
  6. Light Weight.
  7. Large Screen, but not so large it’s a Tablet.
  8. Multiple Models – Perhaps an option for a cheaper Kindle Phone that doesn’t have 3D.
  9. Availability internationally.
  10. A very good set of base function apps. The Email and Phone and Messaging Apps should be rock-solid.
  11. What else?

No, 3D isn’t on the list. 3D isn’t some magic bullet that will win Amazon a place in the Smartphone Top 3. Amazon will have to make a really good phone.

What will Kindle Phone be called?

Calling the Kindle TV ‘Kindle Fire TV’ is a bit of a strange choice. Why not just call it KTV or Kindle TV or something short and sweet.

Hopefully Amazon stays away from a convoluted name for Kindle Phone. ‘Kindle Fire Phone 3D’ is too long and complicated. ‘Sets your Retinas on Fire’ Kindle Phone – yeah, that’s out too.

‘Kindle Phone’ has a nice ring to it. Just two words. No need to add a bunch of things.

Given Amazon’s past history, expect Amazon to choose a name by jumbling together suggestions from their copywriters. Something absurd like – Kindle Fire Phone 3D with Hologram 3D and Shark Guardians with Lasers.

Can Kindle Phone with 3D compete against iPhone & Samsung Galaxy S5

We’ll have to wait and see what the Kindle Phone is actually like. 3D by itself is unlikely to sway users.

What’s interesting and encouraging is that Amazon is releasing a Kindle Phone, Amazon is releasing Kindle Phone in 2014, and Amazon is taking a shot at making something NEW and INNOVATIVE.

Kindle Phone won’t be $0. Kindle Phone will be $0 with $0 Data Plan

Firstly, much thanks to Roger Knights for connecting most of the dots. Kindle Phone is a pretty big deal for Amazon. Let’s consider four data points –

  1. Mobile is HUGE and it’s completely taking over. Companies that don’t transition to mobile are dying. Amazon understands this. The rise of Smartphones and Tablets demonstrates just how important mobile is.
  2. Companies that control the phone and/or the network can destroy everyone else, if they so choose. What if Google starts selling more things and subtly removes Amazon from its Android ecosystem?
  3. Amazon is already testing a wireless network using Globalstar Spectrum. If that isn’t enough of a clue – It’s Lab 126 (the Amazon subdivision that made Kindle and Kindle Fire) that is doing the testing. That just screams Kindle Phone. Globalstar is pushing forward its plans (thanks to Roger Knights for this link and the idea that Amazon will use Globalstar’s spectrum to launch Kindle Phone).
  4. Amazon has come out to deny that Kindle Phone will be free and claimed that it won’t arrive in 2013. That’s the first time in the last 4-5 years it’s made specific and tangible claims about any of its devices or products.

All of this points to one simple thing –

Kindle Phone is critically important to Amazon. Amazon understands this very, very well.

Kindle Phone might very well dictate Amazon’s future prosperity

If everyone switches from the Internet to Mobile, and this transition is well underway, Amazon goes from having the ‘free and easy to access’ Internet to being dependent on different people’s ecosystems.

You might think – I’ll still type in Amazon.com. So will everyone else.

However, people are slaves to the power of the default. Slaves to convenience. Amazon understands this – that’s why it has Amazon Prime and 1-Click buttons and other ‘convenience handcuffs’.

Apple and Google and Microsoft control the ecosystems and they control everything. Combine this with the shift from physical to digital (movies, music, video games, books) and we suddenly have a recipe for disaster –

  1. Amazon controls less than 10% of the Mobile Ecosystems. Perhaps less than 5%.
  2. More and more of Amazon’s sales are shifting to digital.
  3. More and more of the Ecosystems are selling the same things. Apple sells movies and music and books. So does Google. So does Microsoft. So does Sony. So does B&N (movies and books). Every ecosystem owner wants to control the profit streams and the revenue streams.
  4. Amazon is suddenly in no man’s land – The Ecosystem owners want to sell to their users themselves. Often, they want to sell the exact same things to their users that Amazon does. They have no incentive to bubble up Amazon’s websites and apps to the attention of their users. In fact, they have an incentive to hide them. That’s precisely what Apple and Google are doing (in subtle but powerful ways).
  5. The only solution for Amazon is to build its own Mobile Ecosystem.

Unfortunately, so far, Amazon doesn’t have much in the way of a thriving ecosystem.

Amazon needs a Big Ecosystem and Kindle Phone might be its last chance

Kindle – Only books. Limited market.

Kindle Fire – Decent #2 in the Tablet Market for a while. Then Samsung took #2. Now Windows 8 based tablets might push Kindle Fire to #4 or even #5.

Please Note: we’re talking about the DOMINATING online retailer Amazon.com. It can’t survive if it has the 5th biggest mobile ecosystem. It simply can’t.

What does that mean?

That means Amazon needs to find a way to add HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of users. Not the 10 million or so users Kindle offers, or even the 20 million or so users the Kindle Fire offers.

Amazon needs to find a way to add Hundreds of Millions of users to its ecosystem.

Kindle Phone is the only solution.

A $0 Kindle Phone with a $0 data plan has the best shot.

Given how late Amazon is to the party, Kindle Phone might be its last shot.

$0 Kindle Phone with $0 Data Plan

That’s Amazon’s Hail Mary.

Android is getting to billions of users (with perhaps 100 to 200 million users of good intent). Those are all Google’s users now.

Apple has 100 to 250 million users of good intent in its ecosystem.

Microsoft has somewhere between 50 million and 150 million users. However, it is growing fastest in terms of users of good intent and might end up dominating.

Amazon can’t depend on users from those ecosystems because Apple and Google and Microsoft control EVERYTHING there.

Amazon’s only hope is to find some rapid-fire means of reaching 100 million+ users of good intent. It’ll have to pay a very heavy price. Whatever the price, it’s a lot better than hoping that Google and Apple and Microsoft will treat Amazon like their best friend and allow Amazon open access to their ecosystems and their users.

They won’t. They already aren’t.

The question isn’t – Will there be a $0 Kindle Phone with a $0 Data Plan?

The real question is – Will a $0 Kindle Phone with a $0 Data Plan be enough to save Amazon?

Free Kindle Phone – Amazon Kindle Phone might be free

Jessica Lessin has an interesting article about the Kindle Phone. In particular, she says that Amazon plans on releasing the Kindle Phone (perhaps it’ll be called the Amazon Phone) for free.

Reasons why a Free Kindle Phone is likely

  1. If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything seems like a nail. Amazon’s main competitive differentiators are cheap prices, wide selection, and great customer service. Entering a competitive market like Cellphones, Amazon’s wide selection don’t matter much (there will be just one Kindle Phone) and the great customer service doesn’t matter much either (Apple already has great customer service). That leaves just price. Of course, Amazon could innovate and create a new competitive advantage. However, it hasn’t shown this ability with either Kindle or Kindle Fire. When it comes to hardware, Amazon’s weapon of choice seems to be ‘low prices’ and ‘sell the razors for cheap, make money from the blades’.
  2. Amazon, via its Amazon Wireless offering, already sells phones and wireless plans. Among the most popular features (demonstrated via the amount of buzz they get) are the ‘1 cent Phone’ and ‘1 Dollar Phone’ special weekends. It must be abundantly clear to Amazon that nothing sells a phone quite like low prices.
  3. Amazon is late to the game and needs an edge. It’s really tough to get an edge if you’re a very late entrant. Amazon’s ability to eat costs upfront is one real and tangible advantage it has and can leverage.

We’ve wondered in the past – How will Amazon differentiate?

Perhaps it’s the same way that Xiaomi differentiates in China – offer a really high quality phone for a very low price that doesn’t make any/much profit. Hope to make money from services.

Xiaomi? That’s the Chinese luxury phone company (priced at non-luxury prices) that sold more phones in China than Apple last quarter.

Reasons why a Free Kindle Phone makes sense for Amazon

  1. Most Importantly – There might not be another way. Amazon’s ecosystem (free apps, cheap apps) is way, way behind Android. Amazon’s ecosystem (quality apps) is far behind Apple. Amazon hasn’t shown the ability to make the best or most beautiful hardware. Amazon can’t really make super high quality software. What’s left?
  2. Amazon already has customers that are attuned to cheap and free. Guess what people who download all those ‘Free App of the Day’ Apps and read all those Free Kindle Books would gladly eat up? A Free Kindle Phone.
  3. It becomes another important customer acquisition device for Amazon. Not to mention another loss leader that allows Amazon to channel profits from profitable business subdivisions to customer acquisition.
  4. Free ought to work. Apple and Samsung have shown that subsidized smartphones work much better than unsubsidized ones. If that’s true, then it’s probable that free will work even better.
  5. Amazon can make up the money in other ways. A customer acquisition is worth a lot more to Amazon over the lifetime of the customer relationship than most other companies. Samsung can perhaps sell a customer another phone, a tablet, a SSD, a TV, and that’s it. Amazon can sell EVERYTHING to that customer.

Strange as it may seem, it actually makes more sense for Amazon to go with a free Kindle Phone than a paid one. At least with a free Kindle Phone Amazon won’t be left high and dry with a few million unsold Amazon Phones. Having to pretend it ‘optimized’ and ‘achieved economies of scale’ and that’s why you see a 25% lower price 5 months after launch.

Disadvantages of releasing a Free Kindle Phone

  1. [Amazon might consider this an advantage] The Phone sales themselves won’t make any profits.
  2. [Again, this might not seem a disadvantage to Amazon] You have to focus on ‘decent’ rather than ‘great’. A Free Kindle Phone would be at least $100 to $200 cheaper to make than an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy. That reduced spend shows up in a lot of cut corners and a distinct lack of polish. Hopefully we won’t have cardboard casing made from discarded Amazon warehouse packaging (it is more ecofriendly than brushed aluminium).
  3. You can’t compete on the high end. Amazon is probably not interested in this at the moment. Note: Amazon will try the ‘Best Phone Available … at any price’ marketing trick. However, that has more to do with getting free publicity from Apple and/or Android worshipping press who will take umbrage at the claim.
  4. You pretty much entrench yourself as the ‘Free & Cheap’ company. Perhaps Amazon doesn’t fully get it yet. There’s not really an easy way to undo all the training it’s doing. Cheap prices. Free Shipping. Free Kindle Books. Cheap Fire Tablets. It’s digging itself more and more into the ‘Free & Cheap’ hole. Perhaps that is exactly where Amazon wants to be.
  5. You have no leverage. What if Kindle Phone doesn’t do so well. What ‘sales and deals’ will Amazon offer? Buy it and get $100. This already happens with old smartphones. However, it would be a real deathblow if Amazon had to give people money to take their Kindle Phone.

Amazon is gaining a big strategic advantage (if it does, indeed, go with a Free Kindle Phone). It is also painting itself into a rather tight corner.

A Free Kindle Phone. If Amazon delivers, it would have proven without a doubt it’s the craziest company around. Perhaps you don’t need Cash Cows if you have enough loss leaders.