News Column

Amazon expected to unveil a smartphone Wednesday

June 18, 2014

Chicago Tribune

June 18--More than seven years after Apple introduced the iPhone, Amazon is expected to unveil its first foray into the smartphone market Wednesday at an event in Seattle hosted by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Though, the online retailer remains officially coy about identifying its new product. It announced the 12:30 p.m. CST event through a tweet along with a YouTube video teaser that shows users reacting to something being held at lap level, but doesn't show what's in their hands.

According to the tech website BGR, the expected phone employs several infrared sensors to track a user's face in relation to the phone's display, making images on the screen appear in 3-D. Amazon also could introduce a new pricing structure like Republic Wireless that offers cheaper monthly plans because the service uses Wi-Fi connections whenever possible, instead of connecting to a wireless network.

"We shouldn't underestimate their ability to stand out from a crowded market," said Carl Howe, an analyst at Boston-based Yankee Group.

If it is a smartphone, the company is jumping into a crowded and hyper-competitive arena dominated by deep-pocketed rivals such as Samsung Electronics and Apple, as well as lower-cost rivals from Asia, even as sales growth slows in some markets that are saturated.

By introducing a handset, Amazon could more directly push access to its online store, or digital content like music, movies and games, to consumers. A smartphone also adds to the growing lineup of tablet, e-reader and other hardware that can help Amazon circumvent Apple, Google and Samsung, which serve as digital gatekeepers by controlling how applications and media reach customers on mobile gadgets.

"Imagine a home screen of all Amazon apps that's kind of what they are looking for," said Howe.

Michelle Taylerson, a spokeswoman for Amazon, declined to comment.


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Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)

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