What the Amazon Phone Could Mean for Marketers

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Will Amazon's Android entry add another burden to marketers' already heavy mobile load? Or might it open new doors to customer interactivity?

Updated Friday, July 25, 10:42 a.m.

Amazon's Fire Phone is now available exclusively on AT&T's network.

Screen shot of Fire Phone

Updated Wednesday, June 18, 4:35 p.m.

Amazon has officially announced the device as the Amazon Fire Phone. Fire will launch July 25 exclusively on AT&T, with on-contract prices starting at $199.99. The device features four front-facing cameras and one rear camera. The front cameras allow for facial recognition and glasses-free 3D viewing. The company has branded Fire's 3D feature as the Dynamic Perspective. 

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Amazon is dipping its fingers into everything these days from e-readers to gaming to media streaming. Today the tech and e-commerce titan unveils its new smartphone, leaving marketers with one question: What now?

”One of the big issues marketers are facing in the mobile market [is] a ton of fragmentation,” says Monica Ho, SVP of marketing at xAd, a mobile marketing services provider. “You have fragmentation just with the devices and platforms in the space, and now we have another phone, which just continues to complicate matters.” The streamlined process of delivering ads and messaging to consumers on the Web isn't shared with mobile platforms and, as Ho notes, adding this new device will not do marketers any favors in that regard.

Consider though, that existing Amazon devices such as the Kindle and Kindle Fire HD run a variation of Google's Android OS. Many expect Amazon's smartphone to run a similarly modified version of Android. “In North America we're working in a world that's basically 50% Android anyway, so from that perspective marketers aren't going to be seeing anything incredibly new,” says Quinn Jalli, SVP of digital marketing technology at Epsilon.

Of course, the device could very well prove as seminal as the original iPhone. Rumored features, if true, could have game-changing effects on marketing. Indeed, should the phone's expected 3D capabilities and five front-facing cameras prove legitimate, Amazon's device could very well alter the customer experience and transform the marketing business for the foreseeable future.

“Amazon's people are masterful marketers. They've been adamant [about] not releasing a smartphone,” says Michael Becker, North America market development and strategic adviser at mobile marketing company Somo. “This is all conjecture, but they could be attempting to create a new categorical device, similar to what Apple did with the iPad.”

Should the rumors prove true, Amazon wouldn't be the first company to invest in 3D. Facebook bought the virtual reality gaming company Oculus Rift for $2 billion is March. Sony announced its own VR offering in Project Morpheus. Google has teased its mobilized 3D solution, Project Tango, for months, and every hardware brand from Samsung to Mitsubishi has a 3D TV on the market. Given the forecast for 3D, augmented reality, and virtual reality, Amazon's device could very well sport an impressive value proposition.

“Think of this from an augmented reality perspective. I hold a screen up to my TV and change the channels through gestures or something. Who knows how far they might take it,” Becker observes. “What [marketers] need to realize is that all of these digital displays are becoming less about the consumption of media and more about interactivity.”

This interactive space has a ton of marketing potential, but much of it is pure speculation, as Becker admits. One thing consumers and marketers can likely count on is some form of integration with Amazon's shopping platform. “When I think of an Amazon phone I think of shopping,” says Ramon Llamas, mobile research manager at market intelligence firm IDC. “Shopping on a phone can be frustrating. The question is how robust of an experience will Amazon provide to address this.”

Marketers, and the world at large, will have a much better idea of what this device will mean after putting the Amazon smartphone through its paces, which many of them will no doubt begin doing today.

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