Amazon has announced changes to smartphones sold under its “Prime Exclusives” program that will give buyers an ad-free experience for the first time. Buyers of smartphones under this program have been able to acquire low-end and mid-tier brands from Lenovo’s Motorola, LG and others at a reduced price. These phones however come with ads and other special offers appearing on the lock screens.
The good news is that starting Feb. 7, customers buying smartphones under the program will still get the reduced prices but Amazon is pulling the plug on the ads. For those customers who have already bought phones under the program, the company will make available a software update that will remove the ads and offers and allow them to select their desired wallpaper or photos to grace their screens. Apps on the home screen will include Prime Video and Prime Music which are pre-installed by Amazon.
In a statement Amazon said that the move was necessary to match with new advances in fingerprint sensors and facial recognition software that are used in unlocking phones. These methods, the company said, make the ads vanish swiftly, reducing exposure times and impact. Analyst however, opine that the removal of the ads may indicate that the intended outcomes were not achieved.
Amazon became the exclusive seller of particular models from Alcatel, Motorola and Nokia-licensee HMD Global last year. The phones bought under its Prime subscription program cost anywhere between $80 and $200.
Other brands under the program also differ in price accordingly. An LG G6+ for example will set back a customer $500 while the ad-free version sells for $652. The LG Q6 is discounted at $180 with an ad-free version selling at $300.
Phone subsidies helped consumers buy cheap phones from major carriers. With the end of such subsidies, consumers are opting for unlocked phones which do not bind them to any particular carrier. This freedom allows consumers to migrate across networks and own their favorite smartphone brand while keeping costs at a minimum. In 2017, 30 million unlocked phones were sold in the U.S. accounting for 12.5% of the market.
The world’s leading smartphone manufacturers are upping their game for high-end devices. Samsung and Apple are releasing devices that are retailing at $1,000 or more. Amazon’s offers are therefore targeting the low-end market that may give the online retail giant the volume to drive revenues.