Amazon's 'Ice' smartphone may eschew Alexa for the Google Assistant

Amazon's 'Ice' smartphone may eschew Alexa for the Google Assistant

Amazon Fire phone top back angle 2

To say Amazon’s 2014 foray in smartphones was underwhelming is an understatement. The sprawling Seattle-based retailer was forced to cancel production of its Fire Phone, which used an innovative eye-tracking system to produce three-dimensional software effects, after it sold a mere 35,000 units. But the company is not giving up.

Amazon is reportedly working on a new smartphone, code-named “Ice,” that runs Google’s Android mobile operating system. It will ship with Google’s voice-enabled Google Assistant instead of Amazon’s Alexa, and retail at or below $200.

Here is everything you need to know.

Specs

Amazon’s affordable Ice — unlike its high-end, top-of-the-line Fire phone — is aimed at developing markets like China and India.

The Ice handset has a screen between 5.2 and 5.5 inches in size, and reportedly packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor (the same as ZTE’s Max XL) paired with 2GB of RAM. It is said to ship with 16GB of storage and Android 7.1.1 Nougat, and capture photos at a maximum resolution of 13 megapixels.

Interestingly, Amazon’s Ice might not support Alexa, the retailer’s artificially intelligent voice assistant. Instead, it will ship with the full range of Google services and apps, including the Play Store and Google’s eponymous Assistant, the digital helper that handles voice commands on Google Home and Android devices that support it.

It is an approach that would seem to run counter to Amazon’s current strategy: Partnering with phonemakers to integrate Alexa into existing devices. Huawei’s flagship P10 is the first with an Alexa app that responds to the same voice commands as the Echo line of home speakers. And separately, Motorola is said to be working closely with Amazon on an Alexa-enabled charging dock that works with the company’s Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play phone series.

Things could change, of course. A person who’s “seen and used” Amazon’s Ice smartphone told Gadgets 360 that the software build had not been finalized, and that “Alexa could make it to the device by the time of launch.”

Localization could be a factor. Amazon’s Ice phone will reportedly launch in India first, a country where Amazon does not currently sell is its Echo speakers. Recent job listings by the company suggest it’s working on bringing Alexa-powered devices to the subcontinent, but plans have yet to materialize.

Name and release date

Just when Amazon will launch its Ice phone is a mystery. But according to Gadgets 360, it might not be long.

The Ice phone will reportedly retail for $93 when it launches “later this year.” It will go on sale first in India, where Amazon has committed more than $5 billion in the form of expanded server infrastructure, a new software engineering and development center, 21 fulfillment centers, and a partnership with India Post.

It’s unclear whether Amazon’s Ice phone will be made available unlocked via Amazon’s website, or in partnership with India’s local cellphone carriers. Some analysts point to the Fire Phone’s AT&T exclusivity as a factor that contributed to its demise — a mistake Amazon is no doubt eager to avoid repeating.