Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal broke word that Amazon's smartphone — set to be announced tomorrow — will be an AT&T exclusive in the United States. The exclusivity deal hasn't been confirmed, but that's not stopping T-Mobile CEO John Legere from venting about it on Twitter. In a series of tweet, the outspoken executive directed harsh words at both companies for pursuing their own interests at the cost of competition.
"Amazon doesn't know what they just signed up for," Legere began. "Remember the Facebook phone?" He's referring of course to the HTC First, a smartphone designed to showcase Facebook's Home software. Unfortunately, one thing it didn't do was sell: the First flopped harder than any other major phone in recent memory — even after AT&T quickly sent it to the bargain bin by pricing it at 99 cents on-contract.
"Exclusivity sucks for customers. Exclusivity on AT&T sucks for the industry," Legere continued. He even chided Amazon for giving the cold shoulder to another company with roots in Washington. But it seems there might've been at least some talk about T-Mobile carrying the phone. Replying to a customer's disappointment that Amazon never approached the "Uncarrier" about its grand plans, Legere said, "I can't remember saying they didn't."
Legere is obviously in a position to know the outcome of those discussions, and his frustrated stance seems to confirm that AT&T has secured exclusive rights to the handset. If so, it's a questionable decision on Amazon's part; locking down the iPhone was a smart move for AT&T way back in 2007, and the Droid brand was once a powerful exclusive for Verizon Wireless. But as the smartphone market has grown more crowded, exclusivity no longer creates magic. Usually these days it has the opposite effect. Just ask HTC about the First, or even Motorola. Only AT&T customers were able to customize the Moto X at first, which may have contributed to those disappointing sales.
Still, Amazon has serious marketing muscle to work with. You can bet its smartphone will be featured prominently on the company's homepage for maximum exposure, and we still have no clue how much it will cost. Even if the Amazon phone is indeed an AT&T exclusive, there's still a massive pool of potential customers to lure in with an attractive price point and a barrage of advertising. Exclusivity may be bad for the wireless industry, but by no means does it guarantee that Amazon will fail with whatever it's planning to show tomorrow.