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Blogs abuzz over Amazon smartphone possibilities

– A report this week in the Wall Street Journal that Amazon may release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

Amazon hasn’t confirmed whether it has plans to introduce a smartphone in a crowded market dominated by Apple and Samsung. Even so, innovations such as the Kindle Fire and Amazon’s Prime membership program demonstrate that the online retailing giant has a knack for using its massive size and marketing budget to capitalize on gaps in the marketplace.

Here’s a look at five features technology experts believe Amazon might include on its smartphone.

1. 3-D shopping

A 3-D interface that doesn’t require special glasses could have a lot of uses. For example, when you’re shopping online, you could pull up a 3-D image of sneakers or a jacket and see all of the features more easily, suggests Bill Menezes, principal research analyst at Gartner. Another possibility: You could scan your living room to make a 3-D rendering. Then, when you’re out furniture shopping, take a picture and digitally insert the product into the rendering to see if it fits.

“You could see, ‘Oh, that’s how that purple couch looks in the bedroom, I think I’ll buy it,’ and you avoid buyer’s remorse,” says Ramon Llamas of research firm IDC’s mobile phones team.

2. Enhanced games

Amazon is rapidly expanding into the gaming arena with its Amazon Game Studio and video game offerings on its new streaming device, Amazon Fire TV.

“A phone could be a way to help them potentially push more on the game front,” CRT Capital analyst Neil Doshi says.

The phone’s purported 3-D interface could be a way to offer a more robust gaming experience.

3. Grocery shopping

Amazon has been testing a Wi-Fi wand called Amazon Dash that simplifies barcode scanning. Such capabilities could be included in the Amazon phone to improve on bar code scanning apps. Combine that with Amazon’s same-day grocery service, Amazon Fresh, currently in testing in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and grocery shopping could be drastically simplified.

Rather than dragging a shopping cart through aisles – or even scrolling through a list of products online – a quick wave of the phone in your pantry could have all your groceries at your doorstep within hours.

“It’s an opportunity to continue to tie users into the Amazon ecosystem,” Doshi says.

4. Free streaming video

IDC’s Llamas suggests that one of the phone’s features could be a free, ad-supported version of Amazon’s Instant Video service, which is included in the $99-a-year Prime membership. The hypothetical service could be viewed on the phone, a Kindle or on Amazon’s Fire TV but not elsewhere, he says, which could be a selling point for the phone.

5. Competitive pricing

Menezes at Gartner speculates that the phone could be offered on different price tiers. One tier could be a one-time payment for the phone that offers Amazon’s apps and services but a limited number of other features. A higher-priced tier could feature a monthly bill and a phone with more bells and whistles.

It’s difficult to be competitive on price in the cutthroat phone market. But as Amazon has shown with its tablets, the company is willing to deliver high-quality hardware at a loss in order to undercut competitors such as Apple and put its devices in the hands of people who will use them to buy from Amazon.

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