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Amazon Nabs More Exclusives for Unlocked Phone Sales

Jun 27, 2017

Amazon said it was expanding its line up of exclusive smartphones that can be used with a variety of wireless carriers.

Seeking to capitalize on the growth of unlocked phones, and the desires of many consumers to pay less for their devices, Amazon said it would be the sole seller of exclusives for some models from Nokia-licensee HMD Global, Alcatel, and Motorola. The phones range in price from $80 to $200 for members of Amazon's Prime subscription program.

Unlocked phones, which can be used on any of the major U.S. carriers, are becoming an increasingly important category with the death of phones subsidies. The segment accounted for 12% of the U.S. market last year, with about half purchased online, according to NPD Group.

More consumers are shopping on their own as carriers have phased out phone subsidies. Instead of the carriers giving customers free or cut-rate phones and burying the true cost in inflated monthly service charges, all four major U.S. carriers have steadily been separating the two costs and charging full freight for new phones. That has led to more consumers looking to cheaper phones or holding onto their current devices longer.

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Amazon's (amzn) new exclusive lineup includes the Nokia 6 smartphone. Made by HMD, the new phone tops the renewed Nokia-branded lineup. With a metal body and a 5.5-inch screen, the Nokia 6 will be sold for $180 to Prime members, Amazon said. The phone's usual retail price is $229, HMD said on Monday. Other exclusives include Lenovo unit Motorola's E4, with a 5-inch screen priced at $100 for Prime members, and three phones from Alcatel, priced from $80 to $200 for Prime members. Alcatel said its phones would cost $130 to $280 regularly.

To get the lower prices, the Prime program exclusive phones show ads from Amazon on the lock screen. The new phones will be available for pre-order starting on Tuesday and all, except the E4, will be shipped starting July 10. The E4 ships June 30, Amazon said.

Not all smartphones are sold unlocked for low prices. Sony (sne) is trying to revive its U.S. sales with its flagship Xperia XZ Premium priced online at $800. And Amazon's unlocked fare includes more popular, high-end phones like the iPhone 7.

Apple (aapl) and Samsung still dominate in sales by the carriers in which each phone typically starts out locked to a specific network.

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