Report: Amazon plans to offer smartphone for free

|By:, SA News Editor

Ex-WSJ reporters Amir Efrati and Jessica Lessin state Amazon (AMZN +0.6%), no stranger to subsidizing hardware, is looking to provide its long-expected smartphone for free to consumers.

However, they add "there are many unanswered questions about the plan and what strings will be attached for customers," such as whether an Amazon Prime subscription will be required.

Amazon plans to sell the phone through its site, rather than through carriers. The company's smartphone efforts have reportedly been slowed down by a reluctance among manufacturers to anger Google by building a phone running a non-Google version of Android.

Digitimes and other Taiwanese media sources have been reporting for a while an Amazon smartphone is on the way, but most of their ETAs have already proven to be inaccurate.

If Amazon prices its phone aggressively, it could tap into a booming market for low-end/mid-range Android hardware, particularly in emerging markets. Of course, its efforts to undercut tablet rivals with the Kindle Fire haven't exactly gone as planned, as a slew of Asian OEMs have come to offer competitively-priced Android tablets (backed by Google services).