AT&T: Amazon Fire Phone will get 'classic hero treatment'
Amazon's smartphone will get prominent positioning at AT&T's stores.
Amazon's Fire Phone will enjoy the full marketing muscle of partner AT&T.
That's according to Jeff Bradley, head of AT&T's devices business, who said the Fire Phone would be the carrier's flagship smartphone for the summer.
"We'll give it the classic full hero treatment," Bradley told CNET at the sidelines of Amazon's launch event on Wednesday.
Amazon is making a major bet by entering the smartphone business, which already has several popular and entrenched competitors. As such, the company will need all the help it can get when it comes to generating consumer awareness.
Enter AT&T, which has historically been a willing partner on unique devices and is the exclusive carrier to offer the phone. AT&T has shown a willingness to bank on less established devices. Some of them, such as the original iPhone, pay off wildly, while others, including last year's "Facebook phone," the HTC First, end up being a bust.
"We do more firsts than anyone else," Bradley said. "It's in our DNA to bring innovation to the market."
Amazon also has a history with AT&T, having worked with the carrier for the past five years to connect its Kindle e-readers. Amazon, who spent four years working the Fire Phone, actually showed an early prototype three years ago.
"They were unbelievably excited," said Dave Limp, head of devices for Amazon, in a roundtable with reporters. "Their enthusiasm was the first thing that got us excited about them."
That enthusiasm was apparent from AT&T's head of its mobility unit, Ralph de la Vega, who was up on stage with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to sing the phone's praises.
While the Fire Phone has a number of unique features, such as "Dynamic Perspective" 3D imaging and an image-recognition ability called "Firefly," it still has to win over customers who are used to the iPhone or Google's Android operating system. Fire Phone, like the Kindle Fire line of tablets, uses an altered version of Android with its own Appstore and library of applications.
AT&T's sales staff will go through rigorous training, Bradley said, with many of them getting a unit to test around before it launches. He acknowledged that Fire Phone represents a new experience that has to be communicated to consumers.
While AT&T has been willing to support new phones, many of the recent smartphones that the carrier has taken on have flopped, a point made by T-Mobile CEO John Legere in a series of tweets sent out yesterday.
-- John Legere (@JohnLegere) June 17, 2014
Bradley declined to comment on Legere's tweets, but noted that failures or successes have little impact on its willingness to work with new partners.
Exclusivity agreements sometimes irk customers on rival carriers who can't get access to the latest and greatest hardware. Nokia, before its devices business was acquired by Microsoft, often signed exclusivity deals with AT&T, often with mixed results. An exclusivity deal often promises more marketing support and attention from the carrier.
"I'm disappointed," Limp said, acknowledging that he was sorry non-AT&T customers won't be able to buy the phone. He said he hopes customers will wait until they run out of their contract and then buy it.
The marketing campaign would look like an integrated effort between Amazon and AT&T, Bradley said. He and Limp declined to comment the terms of the deal or the size of the campaign, and Bradley declined to comment on how it will compare to past efforts.
"It'll be a big campaign," Bradley said.
Updated at 3:20 p.m. PT: To include comments from Amazon.