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The Amazon phone's killer app could be shopping

Michael Simon | June 10, 2014
Stay with us here, but what if Amazon's rumored phone isn't so much a phone as a pocket-sized personal shopper?

amazon device

If we haven't already reached smartphone saturation, we're awfully close. Walk into any AT&T or Verizon Store and you'll find enough to make you dizzy, everything from cheap plastic affairs to fancy high-end offerings from the likes of Samsung, HTC, Nokia, and LG. It's a bit of a zero-sum game—and a rather cutthroat one at that.

But despite a billion units being shipped around the world last year, most manufacturers are swimming in red ink. Take away Apple and Samsung, and barely anyone's making any money in the smartphone racket.

So it would seem that the Amazon phone that will presumably arrive at its June 18 event will barely make a ripple. When even the Galaxies and Ones of the world are struggling to attract new customers, how can a first-time phone maker possibly make a splash?

Must-see buzz
The minute-long video that Amazon released to tease its big announcement is a good start. It doesn't use any marketing platitudes or superlatives to generate artificial excitement; rather it shows real people reacting to an actual feature--smart money is on the glasses-less 3D interface that BGR reported on back in April. Their expressions don't seem fake or forced, and that's what makes it so intriguing; people are clearly impressed by whatever they're looking at, and it made me want to see it, too.

We've pretty much seen every trick and gimmick that can fit on a 4- or 5-inch screen, but glasses-less 3D is something entirely new—for a phone, anyway. Unfortunately, it's the kind of thing that literally needs to be seen. Simulated pictures or videos won't do it justice, so Amazon is going to need a way to lure curious eyeballs, whether it's through a national retail outlet or some kind of no-risk trial program.

And it's still going to be an awfully hard sell. This isn't an online impulse buy like a Fire TV or even a Kindle Fire tablet. A phone is a commitment, and Amazon is going to have to figure out how to get it in people's hands before they can convince them to buy one—kind of like in that clever video.

Prime objective
But Amazon has one thing going for it: an enormous built-in customer base. Sales are on track to top $100 billion this year according to at least one analyst, and an estimated 20 million of its customers are loyal Prime members who were more than happy to fork over another $20 for the experience when Amazon raised prices in mid-March.


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