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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?

In fact, there was a rumor circulating late last year that Amazon will be targeting these very customers, not only with a new Prime music service, but possibly with the phone itself. It's not so farfetched to believe it could offer its new device strictly to Prime members at a steep discount, even if only for a limited time. The benefit would be two-fold: generating buzz and enticing even more people to sign up for Prime.

If ZTE can sell a Firefox OS phone for $80, Amazon could sell its phone just as cheap (and maybe even cheaper with a healthy dose of Special Offers). Jeff Bezos has built a business model based almost entirely on potential, and the possibility of tens of millions more Prime subscribers is surely worth the gamble.

Personal shopper
But even if it has an awesome 3D interface and a sweet Prime price point, would people really rush to buy a phone from Amazon? The products it's released thus far—Kindle, Kindle Fire, Fire TV—are all in its wheelhouse of selling books, music, and movies. And more than Apple or even Google, Amazon mainly uses these devices as vehicles to peddle its wares, even if it means taking a loss on the initial purchase. But a phone doesn't really fit that paradigm.

If Amazon simply wants to get a device into its customers' pockets, maybe it doesn't need to be a phone at all (at least not in the traditional sense). If you strip away telephone functionality, we can communicate just fine on our tablets with things like FaceTime, iMessage, and Google Hangouts, so Amazon doesn't necessarily have to include a dialer app in its new handset to get people to use it.

What if this was more of an ultra portable Kindle Fire than a Fire Phone? And if you're wondering what the killer app would be: How about shopping? Amazon is already the largest Internet retailer by a large margin, and if Bezos is serious about overtaking Walmart in a couple of years, a portable personal shopping assistant could really get that ball rolling.

It's safe to say Amazon will never have a brick-and-mortar shop, but if it could create a sort of virtual showroom app by leveraging 3D technology to let customers browse its products, it might just be revolutionary enough to change the way we approach online shopping. It's already attempted to emulate a more traditional shopping experience with its Widowshop app for iPad, which focuses on casual browsing rather than searching. But a fun interface combined with a Siri-style assistant or MayDay-like customer support could really bring it all together.

Then again, Amazon's phone could be just another cheap hunk of plastic that no one wants.


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