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Summary:

AT&T has the exclusive for the Fire, and depending on deep Amazon goes with Ma Bell, it could be a while before we see it on other carrier networks.

Source: Kevin Fitchard / Gigaom

If you’re looking to get your hands on Amazon’s Fire Phone on July 25, AT&T is providing several options to connect it. And despite the fact that AT&T has an exclusive on the phone, you might eventually be able to connect it to T-Mobile’s network if you’re willing to pay for a full-cost version of the device.

First off, let’s take a look at AT&T’s options. AT&T is basically using every tool in its pricing arsenal to sell the device. Here’s how they break down:

  • $650 for the 32-GB version or $750 for the 64-GB phone. If you buy the device up front you don’t have to worry about contracts or device installments. You can also take advantage of AT&T’s discounted Mobile Share Value pricing, which would save you a considerable amount on your monthly bills.
  • $199 (32 GB) or $299  (64 GB) with a two-year contract. Sounds like a good deal, but keep in mind you’ll be paying more on your monthly bill since AT&T earns its subsidy back by charging you higher plan fees.
  • $32.50 a month (32 GB) or $37.50 a month (64 GB) if you sign up for AT&T’s Next 12 plan. AT&T’s upgrade plans don’t have any upfront costs, but you pay off the device in installments. In the case of Next 12, you make 20 monthly payments, but after one year you’re eligible to trade in your Fire for a new smartphone (the Fire 2, perhaps) and start the process over again. The Next program also charges Mobile Value Share rates, sparing your monthly bill.
  • $27.09 a month (32 GB) or $31.25 a month (64 GB) for the Next 18 plan. Next 18 works the same as Next 12, except you trade a lower monthly payment for a longer upgrade cycle. In this case, you make 24 monthly payments, and you wouldn’t be eligible for an upgrade for 18 months.

As a promotional offer, Amazon is also offering a full year of Prime (normally $99) to Fire purchasers at no cost.

Amazon is offering the same AT&T connection options in its online store, but it has one more: a full-priced phone with no service plan. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the phone won’t still be locked to AT&T’s network, but the device will support T-Mobile and many other international carriers’ LTE, HSPA and GSM networks (no CDMA, though). All the bands are there, just not the carrier agreements.

It might seem silly for Amazon to sell an unsubsidized, full-priced phone that works on T-Mobile’s network but then not let its customers connect to it. Why turn away potential Fire users? But Amazon may have ulterior motives for doing so.

There is no evidence yet that Amazon is participating in AT&T’s sponsored data program, which would allow Amazon to pay the freight costs of its content over the network. But Amazon is, after all, in the business of selling and distributing content, and just as mail delivery is the shipping method of physical media, network airtime is the shipping method of digital media.

We might see some future deal in which AT&T doesn’t count any songs, apps or videos you download from Amazon against your data plan. If that turns out to be the case, Amazon would be wary of letting its phones off of AT&T to networks where it has no control over download costs. It can’t advertise a “Prime Download” service if it can’t offer that consistently to all of its U.S. customers.

That said, Amazon will have to sell this phone internationally at some point, which means there will be unlocked versions of it available, though U.S. customers might have to jump through hoops to get them.

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  1. what about the data? does Prime get you unlimited data for all the content on amazon?

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    1. If I understand the q. correctly, you’re asking whether Fire Phone/Prime doesn’t count purchases from Amazon against your data plan; the answer is no, there is no subsidized or free data here.

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  2. Reblogged this on Annette J Dunlea Irish Author and commented:
    Gigaom writes a great article on how Amazon has created a new phone that makes it easier to shop!!!

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  3. 650? The phone had better do magic.

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  4. Thanks for the info. Q: On Next plan you still have to add a data plan @ 40/mo for 4G or some such correct? After installments
    phone is unlocked as if you paid full price upfront?

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    1. Kevin Fitchard Friday, June 20, 2014

      Hi Jbh,

      That’s not clear yet. Amazon is doing an exclusive with AT&T, which means it has exclusive rights to sell the device for whatever time period they’ve negotiated. If you buy the device outright, you would be within your rights to do whatever you like with that phone it seems. But the phone may still be locked to AT&T. I’m not saying that’s right. But that’s the way it may be, and just goes to show you how stupid carrier exclusivity deals are.

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  5. Jason Masters Thursday, June 19, 2014

    So if I buy the full price model I can use with tmobile out the box?

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  6. Kevin Fitchard Friday, June 20, 2014

    Not necessarily, Jason. It might be possible, but I wouldn’t chance it until we can find out more details. On Amazon’s page there is a no-service plan, no-commitment option for buying the Fire, but the page also clearly states its an AT&T phone (even though it will support T-Mo bands). The exclusivity deal could mean that all Fire phones will be locked to the AT&T network, at least for the time being.

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