AH Primetime: Does the World Need an Amazon Smartphone?

May 1, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt



Amazon smartphones have been on the radar, although a small blip near the edge, for quite some time now.  The rumored smartphone is a mid-range looking device with a 4.7-inch HD Display with 720p, 2GB of RAM, a Snapdragon SoC, and a 13MP main camera. Sources, mostly builders of the smartphone’s components, have given us some glimpses into what to expect from Amazon’s attempted leap into the smartphone business.  For instance, Primax Electronics claims to have received orders from Amazon for Compact Camera Modules (CCM) to be used on their smartphone – six per device, according to Digitimes.

Supposedly, the six cameras would consist of the usual main camera and a front-facing camera, while the remaining four cameras would be mounted in each corner of the phone with sensors to track the user’s face while they are looking at the device – at least we hope they are only watching us at that time!  They would be able to sense relative distances as the phone was tilted or turned allowing the user to experience a kind of 3D effect without having to wear the special glasses.  For instance, a shopper might be able to rotate the smartphone and see more of a three-dimensional view of the product or viewing a map could give you, while tilting the device, a change in your perspective.

Over the years, 3D has just left a bad taste in my mouth – it is a fun idea to play around with, but it seems like an unnecessary gimmick. Two dimensions have served me well over the years and the complexities of four cameras and sensors to mimic 3D just seems like a lot of engineering, expense and wasted effort for something that will still be rudimentary at best.

Amazon has put a lot into tilting gestures – a couple may be acceptable, but devices, such as Samsung, have gone down that winding path before, only to abandon most of them.  The only good ’tilt’ was in using a pinball machine (showing my age) and while they at first seem intriguing, you find that they were neither useful nor really practical in everyday usage.  I have enough trouble with my phone jumping into landscape mode when I want to stay in portrait.  Trying to use a phone by tilting it around equates to those games where you try to get all of the little metal balls in each of the holes by tilting the game board (really dating myself)…it can become a real nuisance.

Amazon claims there will be many perks, or added value associated with their smartphone – maybe they will give their smartphone buyers free Prime service, and then they mention Prime Data, which has not really been defined, but I am thinking Kindle downloads, Prime Instant Video streaming and Amazon Cloud Locker. Possibly their device users would get a price break on these downloads. However, if time has taught me anything, most of the time these perks are not all that useful and more fluff than something very useable.

One has to wonder exactly what is Amazon’s true purpose for producing this line of smartphones. If they were building a smartphone to add to the competition, then more power to them, but if they are building a smartphone that centers itself around Amazon and its products, then I seriously doubt that this, seemingly complicated and gimmicky device will have much of an impact in the smartphone world. Seriously, does Amazon think that highly of themselves that they believe consumers would buy into an Amazon-based smartphone – limited in applications and used for mostly shopping on Amazon? The entire concept just does not work for me – we have seen the limits of their tablet line, but at least on a tablet you can download and read books, magazines or other digital media, but on a 4.7-inch smartphone, I just do not see it happening.

Please let us know on our Google + Page your thoughts on the purposed Amazon smartphones – would this be a device that you would purchase – do you think there is a real market for the device…as always, we would love to hear from you.