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Summary:

The elusive Amazon smartphone is moving out of the rumor stage and heading towards an announcement The Wall Street Journal reports. Eye-tracking and glasses-free 3-D features are expected and I’d count on Amazon Instant Video as well.

Amazon Appstore for Android, mobile apps, app store
photo: Amazon

After months of rumors, Amazon’s smartphone ambitions are reportedly set to take shape in June. That’s when the company will introduce its smartphone, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Friday. Amazon’s phone is expected to have multiple cameras and a glasses-free 3D experience when it goes on sale in September.

Much of the Journal’s report reiterates prior leaks, so there’s not much new information here save for one of the most important aspects: An actual release date, or at least the months of Amazon’s phone announcement and launch. As far as those cameras? They’ll “employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors, to make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram,” said the Journal’s sources.

A September sale would likely pit Amazon directly against a new iPhone (or two) when vying for consumer purchases. Unlike Apple, however, Amazon typically doesn’t seek to earn profits from hardware sales but instead offers devices at lower prices and make money from related software, services and goods sold through Amazon.com.

The Journal’s sources said that Amazon has been showing off early releases of the phone hardware to developers, likely to build interest. The company already woos developers to its Amazon AppStore, which hosts modified Google Android applications that run nicely on the company’s Kindle Fire tablets. I suspect Amazon will continue to build upon the open-sourced version of Android for its phone, just as it does with the Kindle Fire and new Fire TV. Doing so keeps software development costs down as the AOSP, or Android Open Source Project, offers the basic building blocks of smartphone software for free.

In fact, with the Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon already has done much of the software work that’s needed for a phone. There’s a browser, email app, and support for third-party software. Adding cellular radios and a corresponding phone application isn’t a simple task, but the heavy lifting has already been done.

One bit of software I anticipate will surely be on Amazon’s phone is Amazon Instant Video. Although nearly any Google Android device can play music through Amazon’s MP3 player or show e-book content in the Amazon Kindle app, not a single Android phone or tablet currently supports movies or television content through Amazon. The company has never released a version of Instant Video for Android, so keeping it for its own phone will certainly stir up a little demand.

  1. I just don’t understand why Amazon is so keen on making all these smart devices. Unless they’re widely successful the (vast) majority of their international customer base will rarely access Amazon services through an Amazon device. Great, they launch a smartphone and gain 5% market share of US installed devices in five years. Fabulous! The same goes for their streaming TV device. In ten years time with all the barriers to adoption & tough competition, what share of the TV device market is Amazon going to have, a few percent, 10% even. That’s in the US, probably much less in other markets. So they put all this effort into developing & launching these devices that will only ever likely address a small minority of their base. Why not just float above the devices & excel at delivering services across all. Acquiring Spotify, Netflix or other device agnostic players would be far more coherent than all this effort with their devices. It just seems that Amazon, like the other tech titans are stretching themselves too far and trying to do too much. A little bit of focus wouldn’t go amiss

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  2. Their building towards an ecosystem vision and getting into the hands and homes of its consumers is important part of that. We can see the same when Google bought Nest.

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  3. “employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors,”

    If Amazon came up with their own eye tracking technology, and it’s integrated into a smart phone before anyone else, that’s pretty impressive.

    An eye tracking feature that was showcased is the ability to have a page automatically scroll down when the gaze reaches the bottom of the window.

    Likewise, you can turn the pages of an e-book hands-free by staring at the corner when you’re finished.

    So besides 3-D viewing of products, this extra feature for e-book reading could make sense for Amazon as a bookseller.

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