An Inkling Of The Amazon Phone In Japan

Estimated Kindle Sales

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Amazon is going to sell prepaid wireless service in Japan, Nikkei reports (via The Verge). It is entering the MVNO market there.This looks like an experiment that could presage an Amazon phone, which has been rumoured since Amazon forked its own version of Android to create a tablet. 

And in fact, an MVNO is how we think Amazon should proceed. Here’s why:

  • For Amazon to make a credible play for the phone market, it needs to stand apart from the incumbents in some important way
  • The way Amazon likes and can stand apart is by offering cheaper prices. 

Therefore, the way Amazon can make a good foray into the smartphone market is with the following strategy: become an MVNO, charge lower prices, give away the smartphones, and make money on its software and media ecosystem. 

Amazon Revenues By Segment

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And on a smartphone, there are endless ways for Amazon to make money:

  • From media sales (books and music)
  • From software sales: from sales of third-party apps (and game virtual goods), but also, why not, by preinstalling phones with copycat versions of popular phone games (perhaps by acquiring a good mobile games studio) and reaping the whole reward of virtual goods and games
  • From ads: Amazon is quietly becoming a formidable force in mobile advertising thanks to the strength of its data and Kindle ecosystem
  • From commerce, of course.

The key thing to understand here is that Amazon’s mobile platform is the most “locked down” of the big mobile platforms: Amazon decides what apps and ads appear on its devices.

So unlike Apple, which is content to make money on hardware sales, and Google, which is content to not make (much) money from Android, Amazon can grab most of the value from its ecosystem, and thus potentially make it a profitable proposition to subsidise both the handset and the telecom service. 

Here Is Our Latest Report On The Kindle Ecosystem →

A Look At Amazon’s Strengths In Online Advertising →

Our Primer On Kindle Economics →

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