Amazon Kindle Phone - In Hand

There was a lot of talk about an Amazon smartphone in 2013, but most of the rumors had dwindled down by the end of the year. Originally, we were expecting one to two smartphones that would operate similarly to the company's Kindle Fire tablets – with full access to Amazon's ecosystem of content and services. There were even rumors that Amazon was working with HTC to develop the device, though those, too, died down. On Thursday, The Information added a bit more fuel to Amazon's smartphone plans.

Apparently the company is indeed moving forward on developing a smartphone and, internally, it's being referred to as "Project Aria." Amazon has been on a bit of a roadshow in Europe, Asia and Latin America, the news outlet explained, suggesting that it wants to create a device that will cater to emerging smartphone markets, too. One obstacle in that case, however, will be delivering its content to those areas. Amazon's Kindle Fire devices act as media serving vehicles, but the company doesn't  have global licenses and services like Amazon Instant Video are limited outside of the U.S. The Information said that Amazon already talked with OEMs to build the device and that those talks occurred in the spring of last year. One rumor in October suggested HTC was tapped to build three smartphones, and another said the retailer may only offer them to Amazon Prime subscribers.

The U.S. will also be a key market for Amazon if it does proceed with Project Aria, The Information said, and noted that Amazon has already discussed the device with "multiple" U.S. wireless carriers. The news outlet declined to name specific partners in the U.S., however.

We don't know much else about Amazon's plans to enter the smartphone market. Most rumors right now are pointing to a new set-top box that the online retailer is planning to release. A smartphone could help complete that portfolio of products, however. With the Kindle Fire family of tablets, a smartphone and a set-top box, Amazon stands to become a huge competitor in several hardware-focused markets.