Amazon '3D phone' launch - what can we expect?
Amazon is widely expected to launch its first smartphone at an event tonight, entering a fiercely competitive market dominated by established tech giants including Apple and Samsung.
But will its rumoured holographic capabilities be enough to make it stand out?
While it has never produced a smartphone before, the enormous success of Amazon's Kindle range and its recent Fire TV streaming box release prove that when the online retailer puts its weight behind hardware, it tends to make an impact on its intended market.
What will it look like?
Leaked photos and details suggest that the forthcoming smartphone will have a holographic 3D interface, powered by four infrared cameras, situated in each of the four corners on the face of the phone.
These cameras are used to track the position of the user’s face and eyes in relation to the phone’s display, allowing Amazon’s software to make constant adjustments to the positioning of elements on the screen.
Earlier this month, Amazon released a teaser video depicting a series of people gasping over a hand-held device just out of shot, declaring it "super awesome," "amazing" and "very real life".
The phone’s display is expected to measure 4.7 inches diagonally and have comparatively low pixel density, featuring 720p HD resolution compared to 1080p HD resolution on many rival devices.
It's also believed to come with a number of wallpapers whose perspectives shift as the phone is tilted from side to side, as demonstrated in the teaser video.
Visually its user interface is expected to resemble the Windows Phone's tile menu system, although rumoured inbuilt finger-tracking technology could see apps opened just by hovering a finger above the desired icon, removing the need to physically touch the screen.
What will its hardware be like?
Other rumoured features include a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, and a heavily customised version of Google’s Android operating system, similar to the version that powers the Kindle Fire tablets.
Where can I buy it?
Well, presumably through Amazon. It's highly likely the phone will be launched in the US to begin with, before being rolled out across the UK and Europe in later months. It has been reported that Amazon has signed a deal with US provider AT&T to exclusively carry the phone upon its release.
What are the experts saying?
"An Amazon smartphone would be less about profiting from device sales per se and more a way to pocket a larger share of multiple revenue streams, such as mobile retail sales, mobile content and advertising," said Cathy Boyle, senior analyst, mobile, at eMarketer.
"While the device may not compete with the hardware giants of Apple and Samsung, it may serve its own purpose of promoting Amazon’s online marketplace through better imagery to Western consumers," said Marco Veremis, CEO of Upstream. "However, in India, Nigeria, Brazil, Vietnam and China, only 21 per cent of consumers currently spend or want to spend money with Amazon. Therefore, rather than creating products to reinforce an already successful marketplace in the West, Amazon needs to look to emerging markets if it wants to become a leading online marketplace worldwide."
"Consumers are constantly looking for the newest and most innovative device and if Amazon’s Smartphone offers the suggested 3D viewing capabilities, the usual players may find their hold decreasing. In an industry as volatile as this, the accessories market needs to do its utmost to keep up," said Peter Woodd, CEO of IDT Systems.
Is it a game changer?
Despite the novelty of holographic and finger-tracking technologies, Amazon's first smartphone is unlikely to make a huge initial impact on an incredibly saturated market. However, Amazon is exceptional at refining its products over time to steadily change the expectations of its customers. Just as the Kindle changed the way we read books digitally, there's no reason why a holographic phone can't change the way we look at the small screens in our pockets - especially given Amazon's huge and loyal fan base. Watch this space.