Amazon Smartphone May Be Its Missing Link

When Jeff Bezos unveils the widely anticipated Amazon smartphone on Wednesday, it is expected to not only have “razzle-dazzle features such as motion sensors and a 3-D interface,” writes the Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley, but also could entice users with “cheap or free service to buyers who also subscribe to its Prime shipping and media-services bundle.”

The device may indeed be the final link in a chain of investments that “all adds up to a wildly ambitious venture without precedent in modern merchandising,” writes David Streitfeld in the New York Times.



It’s all speculation of the informed kind at this point, of course, but “a steady succession of leaks has given a fairly good indication of what Amazon is going to reveal,” in terms of the handset’s features and design, reports ZDNet’s Steve Ranger, citing Zack Epstein’s May 1 scoop for in particular. 

“Can 3D touch tech hype live up to reality?” asks the hed above Simon Rockman’s Register piece. “And might this upset the Apple cart?” 

The Android-based phone “is likely to be accompanied by finger-tracking technology … where the icons hover above the screen and you can touch and move them about in the space over the phone,” Rockman reports.

But “Amazon's strategy isn't about making money out of the hardware itself,” Ranger asserts. It’s “to lock the customer in to its shopping and content ecosystem. And that ecosystem continues to grow steadily.” Ranger cites Amazon’s launch of the ad-free Prime Music streaming last week as an example of “a service that would fit in very nicely if you were about to launch a new smartphone.”

Other successful tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook have tried and failed to unseat the reigning mobile phone kingpins, Samsung and Apple, reports Streitfeld, but Amazon “has advantages other phone makers do not. It can sell to its 250 million customers without a middleman.”

Those 3D images aren’t just for show, although they are indeed that. 3D images will be “useful to Amazon in selling tangible consumer merchandise,” Steven Max Patterson writes on Quartz, “[giving] consumers a multidimensional mobile view of the products that they might buy on” But if the technology is viable, it also will attract developers to build more apps and expand Amazon’s 3D ecosystem.

Streitfeld covers everybody’s rear by pointing out that, despite all the hoopla Amazon has engineered about Wednesday’s event that seems to portend a game-changing smartphone, it “could be an elaborate head fake.” 

But don’t bet your bitcoins on it.

“Of course, Mysterious Amazon Device Is A Smartphone” wrote Re/code’s John Paczkowski after viewing Amazon’s video teaser for the event featuring people peering downwards and offering assessments such as “awesome” and “that’s really cool.”

“Presumably those are all responses to the device’s display, which uses a sophisticated parallax effect to create depth of field and the illusion of 3-D — either that or this is simply a video of Amazon customers discovering their genitals for the first time,” Paczkowski quips.

In his hometown piece, Dudley suggests that Seattle companies — with their eyes on “how to make the smartphone experience more affordable and accessible to a wider range of people” — may not be making devices as “sexy” as those emanating from Silicon Valley but they are poised to lead the way as hardware advances seem less earth-shattering nowadays — a pixel here, a faster chip there. 

T-Mobile USA, which is based in nearby Bellevue, has been disrupting the market with cheaper service plans and “Microsoft’s sub-$100 Windows Phones are selling like crazy,” he points out, “and will help its platform grow three times faster than Apple’s premium offering over the next four years, according to IDC estimates.”

Seattle-based Starbucks, meanwhile, announced yesterday a College Achievement Plan that offers “both full- and part-time employees a generous tuition reimbursement benefit that covers two full years of classes” through Arizona State University’s online degree programs, CNNMoney’s Gregory Wallace reports.

There is no requirement for the “partners” to stay with Starbucks in return for the assistance though the company says it hopes they will. “Supporting our partners' ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make,” CEO Howard  Schultz said in a statement.

One imagines that if the Amazon device’s price is as enticing as it is rumored to be, a lot of ambitious baristas will be doing their ASU homework on Amazon smartphones during their breaks.

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