Amazon readies smartphone launch

A smartphone by Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is in the works and could be announced later today. If so, the move would help link the company's hardware and retail operations.

The company is expected to announce a smartphone, possibly with AT&T as the exclusive partner. While such a move has long been rumored, there's little doubt that the device is coming; it's just a matter of when.

Amazon has a history of disrupting markets with the pairing of hardware and related content or merchandise. The Kindle certainly decimated bricks-and-mortar booksellers and created the e-book category. Its latest, the Amazon Fire TV set-top that streams content directly to a user's TV, is poised to do the same with entertainment.

An Amazon smartphone would close that last mile between browsing and buying, in a proprietary funnel. And as location-based marketing takes hold, being able to push sales notices to shoppers by pairing where they are with what they're interested in makes it even more crucial for the retailer to get into the mobile market.

Amazon's Dash, introduced earlier this year, is a peek into what's possible with an Amazon phone. Dash is a handheld device that includes both a microphone and a barcode scanner. Shoppers can speak into it or scan an item's barcode to automatically add that product to their AmazonFresh shopping list. It thens sends that information using Wi-Fi.

Imagine an Amazon phone and data plan that alllows for an unlimited connection to Amazon, eliminating the need for Wi-Fi.

Amazon has declined to comment but did issue an announcement touting the growth of its app store, where selection has nearly tripled in the past year and now includes more than 240,000 apps and games.

For more:
-See this New York Times article
-See this Amazon press release

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