AT&T Said to Be Exclusive Carrier for Amazon Smartphone

AT&T Inc., the second-biggest U.S. mobile-phone operator, will be the exclusive carrier for Inc.’s new smartphone, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the deal isn’t public.

More than seven years after Apple Inc. introduced the iPhone, Amazon will unveil its first foray into the smartphone market tomorrow at an event in Seattle hosted by Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos. Fletcher Cook, a spokesman for AT&T, declined to comment on whether AT&T had the Amazon phone exclusively. An Amazon representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The pact adds to AT&T’s string of strategic partnerships with device makers over the years. AT&T was the sole U.S. carrier for the iPhone until Verizon Communications Inc. was also able to sell the Apple devices starting in 2011. AT&T also displaced Sprint Corp. in 2009 as the exclusive data-service supplier to Amazon’s Kindle tablets. Verizon was added as a data supplier with the introduction of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX.

“We haven’t actually formally announced anything, so I have nothing to offer,” AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson told reporters today, when asked for details on the deal for Amazon’s smartphone. He spoke after giving a speech at a meeting of the Economic Club in Washington.

T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere didn’t hide his disappointment on Twitter after learning that Seattle neighbor Amazon picked rival AT&T as its exclusive parter. T-Mobile is based in Bellevue, Washington.

Sprint, T-Mobile

“Really, @Amazon? What happened to home-town pride?” Legere tweeted today.

He also saw the news as an opportunity to criticize the U.S. wireless market for being split between two larger companies and two much smaller carriers. Meanwhile, Sprint, the No. 3 carrier, is nearing an agreement to merge with No. 4 T-Mobile, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.

“When #big (@ATT) and #bigger (@Amazon) get together, the industry feels a whole lot smaller,” Legere wrote. He also tweeted: “Exclusivity sucks for customers. Exclusivity on @ATT sucks for the industry. #justsayin.”

The Wall Street Journal reported AT&T’s exclusive arrangement with Amazon’s smartphones earlier today.

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