Is Amazon On The Verge Of Releasing The First 3-D Smartphone?


Amazon has something up its sleeve. What that is exactly partners are not sure, but they admit they’re intrigued.

The e-commerce giant has been rumored for almost two years to be working on a smartphone with 3-D capabilities. Using four cameras built into the device, the smartphone would have eye-tracking technology and could display 3-D images without users wearing 3-D glasses, as sources told The Wall Street Journal in early April.

Yesterday, Amazon released a commercial for its launch event on June 18 in Seattle, to which they are allowing anyone to request an invitation.

[Related: New Google 3-D Tango Smartphone Could Change Business Computing ]

In the video, "Amazon customers" appear to be holding a device in their hands and reacting to it in amazement. The customers are swaying their heads right and left looking at the device with reactions such as, "This is really cool," "It’s very real-life and incomparable to anything I've seen," "It moved with me,” and "I don’t know how you guys do that."

The video suggests an eye-tracking technology is built into the device, but is the video real? Or is it a marketing ploy to feed into the rumors?

"It's probably a bit of a stretch, but it would be cool if it wasn't [a marketing ploy]," said Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Xylotek Solutions, an Ontario-based solution provider. "3-D, without having to wear special glasses, is pretty cutting-edge technology. It’s a pretty expensive thing to put into a cellphone."

Partners said that they are unsure what use a 3-D smartphone would have in the enterprise, and believe it is more of a consumer play. It might make videoconferencing more interesting, they said, but can't think of much use for it outside of that.

"I see this as a gimmick to get people to come and pay attention,” said Michael Oh, CEO of Tech Superpowers, a solution provider based in Boston. "I can't wrap my head around it and can't believe that Amazon has come up with some revolutionary technology like that. It's a ploy to get people through the door."

But wouldn't Amazon be doing themselves a disservice by attracting people to a launch event, under the belief that they are about to see the unveiling of the world’s first 3-D smartphone, and not delivering?

"Jeff [Bezos, CEO of Amazon] is a smart guy. You never know what Amazon is going to do, but I think that as long as people are talking about you, that's a good thing,” said Grosfield.  "[Amazon is] very effective at working the hype and the excitement and building up to an announcement. That's the Holy Grail in the tech world, and they are pretty good at that."

Grosfield and Oh agree that Amazon will deliver something that they are confident people will like, whether it is a 3-D phone or not. In their eyes, it is unlikely that Amazon would make the effort to attract an audience just to disappoint them.

"They are potentially setting up for a disappointment, but it depends what the phone does,” said Oh. "They know what they're doing. They were able to create their own place in the market for the Kindle. If people are disappointed by the lack of 3-D, they'll be happy when they see something else."

If the rumors are true, which no one knows for sure, Amazon could have a serious leg-up on its competition in the smartphone market. This would be the first and only smartphone with 3-D capabilities. Even leaders in the space like Apple and Samsung don’t offer this technology, and partners said they may have to play catch-up and even delay the impending releases of their devices.

"I think [competing vendors] would have to rapidly make a choice,” said Grosfield. "If that technology is something that is viable, all the manufacturers have already been spending some dollars on it. Whoever releases it first will have the advantage. Competitors will have to catch up or downplay the advantages of it."

Amazon did not reply to a request for comment.

Partners are skeptical of the rumors but are looking forward to the June 18 launch event as they await the unveiling.

"I think it's interesting," said Oh. "Amazon is doing interesting things, unlike some companies that like to do marketing things and don't deliver. It's interesting that maybe Amazon could have something up their sleeve. I'm intrigued, but I don't think 3-D technology is the future of smartphones."

PUBLISHED JUNE 5, 2014