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The Amazon smartphone’s secret weapon: Prime Data

Updated Jun 18th, 2014 2:24PM EDT

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Amazon is preparing to release its first smartphone this summer and the device will include a variety of hardware and software features that are unlike anything the world has ever seen. These attributes are intriguing and at times innovative, but the company has an ace up its sleeve that could end up being the phone’s most attractive feature.

From earlier: Exclusive photos of Amazon’s first smartphone and everything you need to know about the Amazon’s phone’s custom software.

BGR has learned from multiple trusted sources that Amazon is planning to offer a unique wireless data plan alongside its first smartphone, which is set to launch in the coming months.

The plan is tentatively named “Prime Data,” and it will be positioned as one of several key selling points for the phone.

Amazon is holding details of the data package very close to the chest and as a result, our sources were not able to confirm exactly what the company has in store for Prime Data. Several sources were willing to speculate based on limited knowledge of Amazon’s plans, however.

More than one trusted source we spoke with told BGR that Amazon’s smartphone could be made available exclusively on AT&T’s network in the United States. If that is in fact the case, Prime Data could be the first high-profile deal based on a setup similar to the carrier’s new “Sponsored Data” program.

It is highly unlikely that Amazon would use AT&T’s Sponsored Data program as it exists currently, mainly due to API limitations and co-branding requirements in apps that use Sponsored Data. An arrangement based on the Sponsored Data product could certainly have been negotiated, however, giving Amazon a huge edge over the competition.

Announced this past January, Sponsored Data is a program that allows companies to foot the bill for data traffic used by specific apps and services on customers’ devices. Any cellular data consumed while using apps covered by the program does not apply toward a subscriber’s monthly data cap.

With that in mind, sources who spoke with BGR believe Amazon may be planning to offer smartphone buyers free access to its various Prime-branded digital services.

Amazon currently offers Prime subscribers unlimited streaming of the various TV shows and movies contained within its Prime Instant Video catalog. This video content can be streamed to computers or to TVs, set-top boxes and smartphones using one of Amazon’s many Amazon Instant Video apps.

The company also offers a cloud locker service for music purchased from Amazon’s website, along with Amazon Cloud Player apps for iOS and Android devices. Recent reports suggest the company will soon push further into the streaming music market with a new product that competes with the likes of Spotify and iTunes Radio.

Prime Data could be a special plan tied to Amazon’s smartphones that gives users a certain amount of free access to streaming movies, TV shows, music and other Amazon services over cellular data networks.

Amazon’s recent move to increase its annual fee for Prime service to $99 from $79 may even have been made in part to help cover the costs associated with Prime Data.

Other theories floated by our sources include a simple discount plan that will offer significant savings compared to typical smartphone data plans, or perhaps a deal that will give users free data for a certain number of months after their initial purchases. The latter idea has been tossed around for years, though our sources believe it to be unlikely.

Whatever Amazon’s plans for Prime Data might be, we’re told it will be a key selling point for the company’s upcoming smartphone lineup.

Finally, our sources say that recent speculation suggesting Amazon might be planning to launch a new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) endeavor alongside its upcoming debut handset is baseless and inaccurate.

Again, all BGR has been able to confirm at this point is that Amazon is planning to launch “Prime Data” alongside its first smartphone. Other details in this report are based on speculation from our well-placed sources.

Click here for exclusive photos of Amazon’s first smartphone, and also be sure to check out our exclusive in-depth look at the software that will power the device.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.