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Report: Amazon actively working on smartphone for 2014

updated 03:17 am EDT, Wed October 30, 2013

Said to feature eye tracking, 3D gestures; budget model also planned

Citing a source that has previously been known to be accurate regarding Amazon products, AppleInsider is reporting that the retailer plans to enter the smartphone market with perhaps two models -- a premium one that features "entirely new input methods" including 3D gesturing and eye tracking, and a budget model more in line with conventional Android budget smartphones. The phone or phones are expected in the second quarter of 2014.

The company has allegedly "partnered with a number of Asian compact camera module makers" to supply what is thought to be the premium smartphone model with four VGA-quality cameras that are use to enable features such as 3D gesturing to activate certain functions, or track a users' eye movements. The phone would have another two 12- and 13-megapixel cameras (respectively) for video messaging and image capture.

Such gimmickry has not proven to be a strong selling point thus far. Samsung's main improvements to the S4 flagship phone were mostly the addition of new input methods such as gesturing, and were received poorly and are rarely used -- the phone has become a popular model almost in spite of some of the added features over the S III rather than because of them. It is of course possible that Amazon may succeed where others have failed and create demand for 3D phone gesturing.

Suppliers have been identified as Liteon, Sunny Optical and Primax, the latter being named the primary component supplier. One of the models is said to sport a 4.7-inch display, and run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. Amazon is said to have ordered between five and 10 million units to be assembled during the second quarter of next year.

The alleged "premium" model, at least, is designed to take on Apple's iPhone. It's unclear if this time Amazon will allow the new product to have full access to the Play store rather than a restricted level seen in the Kindle Fire tablets, favoring Amazon's own stores over Google's.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    If it happens, the 3D gesturing and eye tracking will bomb. People typically use their phones in public and don't want to look mentally deranged when seen making faces and gesturing at their phone.

    I'd be more impressed if Amazon were to sell what cell companies hate most: an unlocked, multi-vendor capable phone. No contract lock-in. Buy it, and then chose the cell company you like, changing at any time. That's what Apple has done with the latest iPads.

    That's unlikely though. Amazon is as bad at pursuing customer lock-in as any cell company. You can see that with their ebooks, which have proprietary formatting and work only with their Kindle apps and devices.

    A better-than-average camera may help, but for that they'll have to deal with the #1 problem with cell phone cameras--their horrible form factor. It's hard to hold a cell phone as a camera, hard to point it right, and hard to activate it without jiggling.

    In the end, Amazon is such a bully, particularly in the publishing world, that there's good reason to want to see them fail badly at something. That's what's been happening with Microsoft on the other side of Seattle's Lake Washington for years. The company that used to do everything right now had trouble doing anything right.

    Microsoft's Social Darwinian culture--destroy or devour applied to competitors both internally or externally--did it in. The same is likely to happen to Amazon although the dynamics are likely to be rooted in a reductionist view of people that's common in much science fiction. Eventually, people rebel against being manipulated and controlled like that.

    Amazon is almost as psychotic in its urge to control as Microsoft was in its urge to dominate. Both may have advantages in particular situations, but neither is healthy in the long run.

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