I can't say I saw this coming: Amazon is getting into the unlocked smartphone business in a big way starting today. By selling you phones for a lower price... in exchange for bloatware and lockscreen ads. Yep, seriously.
Amazon announced today that the BLU R1 HD and the Moto G4 (not the Plus, though) are the first Amazon Prime Exclusive smartphones in the US. Both phones are $50 off their standard retail prices, making the BLU R1 HD just $49.99 and Moto G4 just $149.99 (the 32GB is $179.99). Amazon is even offering an additional $25 off the Moto G4 with offers and ads today as part of a special launch promo, bringing it down to $124.99 for Prime members.
Now, these are great deals. Like, really, really good. But they are also deals with the proverbial devil, and the devil comes in the form of lockscreen ads. Take it away, Amazon:
The breakthrough pricing on unlocked smartphones is supported by personalized offers and ads, including deals and product recommendations, displayed on the phone’s lockscreen. When a customer sees an offer, they can tap to learn more about it or simply unlock their phone to dismiss.
And, of course, the aforementioned Amazon app preloads. It's not clear if these apps will be installed as system apps, eating up storage that cannot be reclaimed without rooting or flashing a new ROM, or if they will be uninstallable out of the box. One can only hope for the latter. I'm certain that the modding community will also begin work on removing the Amazon offers and ads lockscreen "experience" post-haste once the devices with said experience are released. Both the BLU R1 HD and Moto G4 with Amazon Offers & Ads will begin shipping on July 12th.
It's a brave new world for unlocked smartphones today in the US - you have to imagine Amazon plans to go big or go home with this initiative, and the savings are going to be hard to argue with from a "normal consumer" perspective. Hell, a $50 smartphone that might not suck, no contractual strings attached? That's hard to ignore. Many people may not mind the ads or preloads at all - and that's not an invalid point of view. But if there's one thing we've learned over the years, it's that bloatware and ads present a slippery slope: how much is too much?
I would generally expect that these offers & ads "editions" of the respective devices won't require their own branch of system updates to be maintained, as the modifications are likely quite minor in the grand scheme of things. At least, that's what I hope.