Amazon may not be done with the smartphone market yet.
According to a report from Gadgets 360, a New Delhi, India-based affiliate of Indian TV station NDTV, Amazon is testing a new lineup of company-branded smartphones, known internally as “Ice,” that would run the latest version of the Android operating system and support Google Mobile Services.
The report, citing a pair of sources familiar with the phone project, indicates several important distinctions between the Fire phone and this new device. The presence of Google apps, something notably absent from the Fire, should make for a softer landing for people familiar with the Android ecosystem. And while the Fire phone was marketed heavily in the U.S. and other western markets, Amazon may emphasize emerging markets like India with its new line of phones.
Citing someone who has seen and used a device, Gadgets 360 reports that the current version of the phone has Google’s digital assistant, but not Alexa, though that may change. The report notes that Alexa-powered devices like the Echo are not yet available in India, but that could change this year.
Amazon unveiled the Fire Phone at an event in Seattle in 2014. The hotly-anticipated device turned out to be one of the biggest flops in the company’s history, largely attributed to its high initial price and gimmicky high-tech features that users didn’t actually want.
In September 2015 Amazon.com stopped selling the device and confirmed it had finally sold out of the phone.
But there have been rumblings ever since that Amazon wasn’t ready to give up on smartphones. Reports dating back to the beginning of 2016 indicated that Amazon was working to build relationships with Android phone makers, possibly for a future Android-based device.
That Amazon isn’t abandoning the smartphone game should come as no surprise to people who have followed the company for a long time. CEO Jeff Bezos has consistently said failure is in the company’s DNA. Without it, he has said, you can’t have real invention. Bezos hopes the company has more failures like the Fire Phone, but even bigger ones.
“At Amazon, we have to grow the size of our failures as the size of our company grows,” he said. “We have to make bigger and bigger failures — otherwise none of our failures will be needle movers. It’s a very bad sign over the long run if Amazon wasn’t making larger and larger failures. If you do that all along the way, that is going to protect you from ever having to make that big Hail Mary bet that you sometimes see companies make right before they fail or go out of existence.”
Amazon also prioritizes long-term success over short-term gains, or losses. Smartphones could represent another example of the company’s patience, which has paid off over the years. The company controls the online retail market, is going after a variety of other areas, and its stock is now priced at more than $1,000 per share.
If Amazon does release a new phone focused on India and other markets, it would be another example of its global ambitions. Amazon is close to becoming the top e-commerce player in India, and the nation of more than 1.3 billion people represents arguably the company’s most important overseas opportunity. Amazon has reportedly committed to investing $5 billion there.
That investment includes Prime shipping, which launched in July 2016. Video is also one of Amazon’s top priorities in India, as the company plans to spend around $300 million to fund original movies and series there.