Amazon’s Shopping Phone Comes With Free Prime Membership For A Year

Amazon has just announced its head-tracking, shopping-focused $199 smartphone, the Fire Phone. And for those who might be wavering about shelling out top dollar (it’s $649 off contract) for a newbie smartphone, the company is currently throwing in a free year of its Amazon Prime membership service to sweeten the deal.

A statement on an Amazon product page notes: “For a limited time, Fire phone includes a full year of Prime.”

So if you factor in the cost of Prime then a Fire Phone could be considered to cost your wallet $100 — at least until this offer ends.

Those who are already Prime members can still get in on the deal — with Amazon saying it will extend Fire Phone buyers’ Prime memberships for a full year “at no additional cost.”

And if you buy multiple Fire Phones with the same account, that account will receive free Prime memberships for the corresponding number of years.

Prime Membership in the U.S. costs $99 per year and includes free two-day shipping on products sold by Amazon, as well as access to Amazon’s video- and music-streaming services and the Kindle e-book lending library.

Free Prime is one way for Amazon to differentiate the Fire Phone, but it evidently does not yet feel it needs to make this a permanent feature of its debut smartphone. That of course may change, depending on demand for the device.

Other (permanent) features of the Fire Phone that Amazon is hoping will make what is, at bottom, a forked Android phone stand out from the extant smartphone crowd include 3D depth effects, thanks to quad cameras on the front of the device that watch where the user is looking; access to Amazon’s Mayday 24-hour customer service video channel; free unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive storage; and a hardware button for accessing an app called Firefly that lets users point the phone’s camera at real-world objects to identify things they might want to buy or learn more about.

Amazon is also throwing in a smattering of its virtual currency, Amazon Coins, for early Fire Phone buyers. “For a limited time, Fire phone comes with 1,000 Amazon Coins (a $10 value) for apps, games and in-app purchases,” it says.

It will be interesting to see whether Amazon ends up offering more lasting ecosystem incentives to try to drive Fire Phone sales — by, for instance, making a year of free Prime membership a permanent offer. Or giving away a more substantial quantity of Amazon Coins.

That’s likely going to depend on how much demand it can drive with the existing feature set of the device and the prime promotional channel that is the front page of its own e-commerce website.