Rumor Mill: Amazon will unveil branded Android smartphone today

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Amazon is poised to unveil a Kindle smartphone running a variation of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 4.0, The Verge reports.

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the matter, The Verge anticipates Amazon will announce the smartphone during a Los Angeles media event later today. The device is reportedly unfinished, and Amazon is not expected to reveal a substantial number of details on the project.  

The Verge report adds the Amazon smartphone likely will run the same forked Android Ice Cream Sandwich variant powering the overhauled version of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, also slated for launch today. Forking Android means Amazon cannot leverage Google Maps on its devices--last week, Reuters reported Amazon will instead introduce mapping services in partnership with Nokia (NYSE:NOK). At its own Windows Phone smartphone event Wednesday, Nokia spoke of adding a "major" mapping partner.

Rumors of an Amazon smartphone have circulated for months. Citing two sources with knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg reported in July that Amazon is working with Chinese manufacturer Foxconn to develop the device, adding the digital retailer has been assembling a portfolio of patents covering wireless technologies to fend off potential allegations of infringement. Amazon has been involved in five patent cases this year and 20 cases in 2011, according to Bloomberg data; in addition, the company has hired Matt Gordon as general manager for patent acquisitions and investments. Gordon formerly served as senior director of acquisitions at Intellectual Ventures Management, which owns more than 35,000 intellectual property assets.

A smartphone fits squarely within Amazon's larger vision for digital media dominance. Unlike Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which relies on content from its iTunes digital media storefront and App Store to boost sales of hardware like the iPhone and iPad--and unlike Google, which looks to Android to fuel revenues derived from its core advertising and search services--Amazon depends on affordable hardware to drive sales of e-books, music, movies and related content offerings.

The Amazon model is typified by the first Kindle Fire, which rolled out late last year at a price of $199, compared to $499 for Apple's cheapest iPad. The tablet offers consumers a single, portable point of access to a host of digital media initiatives including the Kindle e-book catalog, Amazon Instant Video and Amazon MP3, with all content backed up in the cloud. The Kindle Fire also integrates with the Amazon Web Services platform.

Amazon is expected to launch two new Kindle Fire devices today: A brief commercial that aired Wednesday during the New York Giants/Dallas Cowboys NFL kickoff event hinted at both 7-inch and 10-inch models. The same spot also featured a backlit E-Ink Kindle e-reader device.

Check back with FierceMobileContent later today for coverage of the Amazon event.

For more:
- read this Verge article

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