Amazon.com is working with HTC to develop several new smartphones, according to a Financial Times report.
It’s a convenient partnership for the Seattle-based e-commerce giant. HTC’s U.S. headquarters are in Bellevue, where it first set up shop to work with Microsoft on early smartphones.
The FT report said the phones could be released in 2014 if the companies decide to proceed.
Rumors of an Amazon-branded phone have swirled for years, especially since it began developing tablets based on a customized version of Google’s Android operating system. Amazon’s worked with wireless carriers to provide service to its Kindle tablets, which could easily be extended to phones with the addition of calling features and a smaller chassis.
An Amazon phone also seems likely since its large competitors in online consumer services are all producing their own devices. Google acquired Motorola and Microsoft acquired Nokia, while Apple continues to use contract manufacturers.
HTC has a history of working with bigger companies entering the phone business. The company established U.S. headquarters in Bellevue because it was working with Microsoft on its early phone efforts.
Later HTC produced the first phones running Android software. More recently it worked with Facebook to develop phones built around its platform.
After early success with phones sold under the HTC brand the Taiwanese company has struggled in the face of competition from Samsung, Apple and others in the premium smartphone segment. A major deal with Amazon could mark a return to the company’s history as a white-label device manufacturer.
The FT report could also be a signal that Amazon’s negotiating with HTC and possibly other companies to manufacture its devices.