Amazon's new hush-hush device: A 3-D phone?

VENICE BEACH, Calif. Is the world ready for a phone with four cameras and a 3-D screen?

That's just the device analysts expect Amazon to introduce this week at a highly touted news conference Wednesday in Seattle.

Amazon is teasing the intro with an online promotional video showing consumers looking down with awe at a device. Their expressive faces suggest they've never seen anything like it.

If Amazon does this right, it could be amazing ... wicked cool, says Rob Enderle, an independent analyst with the Enderle Group. He envisions a brighter, more vivid screen that wouldn't require glasses for a user to see the stereo image, in which avatars could come to life.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey envisions the four cameras as a vehicle that enables consumers to navigate through the phone via facial gestures.

It allows Amazon to track your face if you're looking at the screen, he says. You could change the font size based on far away you are. You wouldn't have to touch the screen.

The challenge for Amazon will be in attracting consumers to a new option in a crowded market, McQuivey says. He believes that Amazon needs an alliance with two of the four carriers to make the phone a home run.

Without a good carrier strategy, you can't succeed, he says. Amazon has to be on AT&T and Verizon.

If Amazon decides to go it alone and sell direct to its huge base of more than 250 million customers, the e-commerce giant would sell the phone as close to cost as possible, Enderle predicts.

Early on, Apple wanted to sell direct to the customer but couldn't figure out a way to do it, he says. That's why they joined forces with AT&T.

McQuivey estimates that Amazon has 15 million customers who have signed up for its Prime program, which offers free shipping and online entertainment for $99.99 yearly.

They are the most likely to be interested in the phone, he says. If you figure 10% sign up for it, that's 1.5 million customers, which is pretty good. Or if it's 1%, that's just 150,000 orders, and that would be a big failure. Amazon needs millions of customers to make it work.

We asked consumers in Venice Beach their reaction to a potential 3-D phone and got mixed responses.

That sounds amazing, said Dan Fox of Los Angeles. If you're watching a movie that has 3-D effects, you could see it right on your phone. You wouldn't need extra glasses. Or you could write an app in 3-D. The company logo would pop out into your face.

Katie Wacker of Carmel, Ind., said it would be overkill. I use the phone to talk to my friends and call and text. It sounds cool but a little unnecessary.

Wacker's friend Marissa Malta was all for it, though. The next new thing. I'd buy it.


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