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Amazon May Have 2 Smartphones Up Its Sleeve

Amazon May Have 2 Smartphones Up Its Sleeve

This isn't the first time rumors have circulated hinting at an Amazon phone, but this time two devices are suggested: one on the low end, and one with a 3D eye-tracking interface. "The 3D imagery seems more of a novelty than for actual application use," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. "There hasn't been much if any progress in 3D imaging devices since we first heard about it a few years ago."

By Peter Suciu
10/03/13 12:53 PM PT

It's been rumored for some time that Amazon was working on a smartphone project known as "Project B," but this week new details emerged that could offer a closer look. Specifically, the company is reportedly in the process of developing two handsets aimed at different ends of the market.

One device will be an inexpensive model due for release this year, while the other -- not arriving until later -- will be a higher-end offering that features a 3D eye-tracking interface, TechCrunch on Wednesday reported.

Both devices were known under the "Project B" moniker in earlier reports, but it now appears that that codename is just for the value-priced device. The 3D-enabled unit has apparently had its codename changed -- first to "Duke" and now to "Smith."

Amazon did not respond to our request for further details.

Alias Smith and 3D

The higher-end "Smith" device has been getting the most attention this week, despite the fact that Amazon has so far not responded to the rumors. The device's screen is not actually going to be 3D, but the handset will reportedly include cameras at each corner, allowing it to track head motions and move the interface to simulate 3D.

It's not the first serious attempt to bring 3D to a mobile device, but it isn't yet clear if this is technology that consumers would want on their handsets.

"The 3D imagery seems more of a novelty than for actual application use," Ramon Llamas, research manager for mobile phones at research firm IDC, told TechNewsWorld. "There hasn't been much if any progress in 3D imaging devices since we first heard about it a few years ago.

"It seems like it would be difficult to share the 3D pictures if at all," Llamas added. "There are still questions that remain."

Bundle in the Cloud

As for the lower end of the market and the "Project B" device, there's no doubt the arena is already a crowded one.

Nevertheless, "Amazon will do well, especially because they can bundle a lot of cloud services with the device," Roger Entner, principal analyst for Recon Analytics, told TechNewsWorld. "This is where the device will shine.

"Technological advances are moving towards Amazon's sweet spot, and through its own distribution channel will do very well," Entner added. "Amazon is the biggest seller of cellular services online."

Nor will it be a problem that Amazon will have to compete with devices that it also offers online -- notably those from Apple and Samsung.

"It hasn't hurt them in the tablet space where the Kindle Fire is regularly the second most popular tablet behind the iPad, and they still sell the competitor products," Entner pointed out. "Amazon is so big, nobody can do without them. They are quite formidable."

'A Bigger Hurdle'

While Amazon's "Project B" device will be at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, it won't likely be inferior in quality terms. The unit will run FireOS, which is similar to the software used with Kindle Fire tablets.

"I don't think Amazon will deliberately go for an inferior product," Entner opined.

Instead, the company "is going to pull the usual moves, sell it at a loss and depend on its vast network of customers to get the volume up," predicted Llamas. "This is going to be very similar what they have done with the Kindle."

In this case, however, the challenges might be more substantial.

"This is a bigger hurdle for Amazon," Llamas noted. "They are now making a leap from application to full hardware. That could be very challenging for Amazon, and I see in the short term more challenges than opportunity -- but that hasn't stopped them before."


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