Amazon teases an upcoming mystery device

Buzz is building around an undisclosed product Amazon is set to release later this month. Could it be the highly-anticipated 3-D smart phone? 

By , Staff Writer

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    A woman plays with Amazon's mystery device in a video posted to YouTube.
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They stare at something in their hands, tilting their heads back and forth. 

"This is really neat," one man says, his eyes pointed downward.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything like that," says one woman, smiling in disbelief at the mystery object. 

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These are the reactions on display in a recent video published by Amazon to promote a new, undisclosed product that will be unveiled by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on June 18 in Seattle. Anyone can request an invitation to attend the launch event, but Amazon warns that space will be limited. 

Few, if any, concrete details are known about the product. But chatter among analysts, reporters, and fans suggests this could be Amazon's first step into the mobile phone market. 

According to Bloomberg, Amazon is indeed slated to release a smart phone later this month, accelerating its rivalry with Apple. The article notes that the smart phone will likely run on Android, Google's mobile operating system. 

Further, many analysts have speculated that the online-retail giant is working on a smart phone with 3-D capability, which some believe accounts for the head tilting in the video. And other rumors suggest that the user interface itself will be controlled simply by tilting the phone from one direction to another. 

"The idea is to make one-handed use far easier than what you'd get from many top smartphones today," reads an April article in The Verge.

To date, Amazon has made forays into the product sphere with devices such as the Kindle, its popular line of e-readers; the Kindle Fire, a tablet; and Amazon Fire TV, a set-top box that attaches to your television and lets you stream videos and play games from the Internet. 

But competition among phonemakers is already fierce. Few realistic additions or changes will likely sway users from one phone brand to another, argues Tuong Nguyen, principle analyst at the technology research firm Gartner. 

"At this stage in the market, we are no longer competing on hardware," Mr. Nguyen says. "Do customers care enough to put down their current smart phone and get a new one?" 

In his view, the only way Amazon can stand out in a market dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung will be to combine hardware with services, similar to how Amazon's popular e-reader, the Kindle, gave people easy access to Amazon's breadth of e-books. After all, Amazon began as the Internet bookstore. It is this kind of service, Nguyen says, that when married to an actual device, could give an Amazon smart phone an edge over devices such as the Apple iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy line. 

As for any 3-D capabilities, he is skeptical as to whether users will find much need for that beyond the initial novelty factor. 

"How useful will that really be for you in the long run?" he asks. We'll find out June 18.

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