Amazon Decided to Release Smartphone

Amazon.com Inc. is preparing to release a smartphone in the second half of this year, according to people briefed on the company's plans, part of a broad push into hardware that would pit it against Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

The retailer has been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and its hometown Seattle in recent weeks, these people said. People briefed on the company's plans have been told that Amazon aims to announce the phone by the end of June and begin shipping phones by the end of September, ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The people said Amazon hopes to distinguish its phone in a crowded market with a screen capable of displaying seemingly three-dimensional images without special glasses, these people said. They said the phone would employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors, to make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram, the people said.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

The phone would thrust Amazon into a competitive market with entrenched players that has nearly felled once high-flying device makers like BlackBerry Ltd. and Motorola. With Apple and Samsung alone commanding 49% of the worldwide smartphone market, according to market researcher IDC, there is little room for upstarts.

News of the phone comes as Amazon moves more deeply into designing and making hardware. Last week, it unveiled its Fire TV set-top box and said it will soon begin distributing a wand customers can use to scan product barcodes at home to re-order groceries and other goods without logging into their computers. It introduced new versions of its Kindle Fire tablets last year.

But Amazon approaches hardware differently than many other companies. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has said he prefers Amazon to profit from customers buying services through Amazon hardware, rather than profit from the devices themselves.

The design and pricing of the smartphone are unclear and these people cautioned that Amazon may alter its launch plans due to performance or other concerns.

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