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Amazon reportedly wants to make first smartphone offering free

Amazon may be plotting a move into the smartphone segment, and the online retail giant may have just the trick to help it make a splash in that Apple/Samsung-dominated market: offering its smartphone for free.

Amazon has been rumored to be working on a smartphone for years, and those rumors have picked up steam in 2013. Now, Jessica Lessin cites sources familiar with Amazon's efforts in saying that the company wants to offer a free smartphone to consumers.

The free strategy is still in the planning stages, Lessin says, and it is not set in stone. One of Amazon's biggest concerns at the moment is reportedly getting the carriers on board with the plan. Telecoms regularly offer older and cheaper phone models for free, provided a customer signs up for a two-year contract agreement, but Amazon wants the phone to be free with or without a contract.

As with the retailer's Kindle Fire tablets, any smartphone from Amazon would run a forked version of Android, one with all of Google's services removed and running Amazon's own services instead. Amazon sells those devices, as well as its line of dedicated Kindle e-readers, almost at cost, with the plan being to make the money back selling goods and services to the customer. The free smartphone plan would be an extension of that mindset, though how viable that plan is remains to be seen.

Earlier this year, rumors reemerged that Amazon was planning to launch a smartphone in 2013. Those rumors first centered around a device with a 4.7-inch screen, while later reports had the handset implementing a glasses-free holographic 3D display. The phone has yet to materialize in any form, but it is possible that Amazon will show it off when it reveals the next generation of Kindle Fire devices. When that might happen is uncertain.