• 5 features an Amazon phone might offer
     | April 19,2014
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    Rumors of an Amazon smartphone reached a fever pitch this week, with several tech blogs speculating that the device could be due out this year.

    NEW YORK ó A report this week in The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

    Amazon hasnít confirmed that it has plans for a smartphone. Introducing such a device would be tough in a crowded market dominated by Apple and Samsung. Even so, innovations like the Kindle Fire and Prime membership program demonstrate that the online retailing giant has a knack for using its massive size and marketing budget to capitalize on gaps in the marketplace.

    Some unconfirmed reports say the phone could have a 3-D interface and multiple front-facing cameras.

    Hereís a look at five features technology experts believe Amazon might include on its smartphone.

    1. 3-D shopping

    A 3-D interface doesnít require special glasses could have a lot of uses. For example, when youíre shopping online, you could pull up a 3-D image of sneakers or a jacket and see all of the features easier, suggests Bill Menezes, principal research analyst at Gartner. Another possibility: you could scan your living room to make a 3-D rendering. Then, when youíre out furniture shopping, take a picture and digitally insert the product into the rendering to see if it fits.

    ďYou could see `Oh thatís how that purple couch looks in the bedroom, I think Iíll buy it,í and you avoid buyerís remorse,Ē says Ramon Llamas, research manager of research firm IDCís mobile phones team.

    2. Enhanced games

    Amazon is rapidly expanding into the gaming arena with its Amazon Game Studio and video game offerings on its new streaming device, Amazon Fire TV.

    ďA phone could be a way to help them potentially push more on the game front,Ē says CRT Capital analyst Neil Doshi.

    The phoneís purported 3-D interface could be a way to offer a more robust gaming experience.

    3. Seamless grocery shopping

    Amazon has been testing a Wi-Fi wand called Amazon Dash that simplifies barcode scanning. Such capabilities could be included in the Amazon phone to improve on current barcode scanning apps. Combine that with Amazonís same-day grocery service Amazon Fresh, currently in testing in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and grocery shopping could be drastically simplified. Rather than dragging a shopping cart through aisles óor even scrolling through a list of products onlineó a quick wave of the phone in your pantry could have all your groceries at your doorstep within hours.

    ďItís an opportunity to continue to tie users into the Amazon ecosystem,Ē Doshi says.

    4. Free streaming video

    IDCís Llamas suggests one of the phoneís selling points could be a free ad-supported version of Amazonís current instant Video service, which is included in the $99-per-year Prime membership. The hypothetical service could be viewed on the phone, a Kindle or on Amazonís Fire TV but not elsewhere like Xbox or Roku, he says, which could be a selling point for the phone.

    5. Competitive pricing

    Menezes at Gartner speculates that the phone could be offered on different price tiers. One tier could be a one-time payment for the phone that offers Amazonís apps and services but a limited number of other features. A higher price tier could feature a monthly bill and a phone with more bells and whistles.

    Itís difficult to be competitive on price in the cutthroat phone market. But as Amazon has shown with its tablets, the company is willing to deliver high-quality hardware at a loss in order to undercut competitors like Apple and put its devices in the hands of people who will use them to buy Amazonís goods and services.

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