Amazon to fire up business with own smartphone

E-commerce giant Amazon has jumped into the jungle of the smartphone business, launching its own device called the Fire Phone.

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Source: Bloomberg

First, say hello to more impulse shopping with possibly the smartphone’s main highlight – an image-and-audio recognition feature called “Firefly”.

This allows users to scan objects, and then it will direct you to page on Amazon to purchase it. Firefly recognizes over 100 million different items ranging from books, video games, food places and household products, making Amazon an even bigger threat for brick and mortar shops.

It also works the same way for music playing in the background ala Shazam or Soundcloud.

Other highlights for the device include unlimited photo storage on Amazon’s Cloud Drive, 3D-perspectives on the screen, and a “Mayday” customer service feature - already offered tablets – that will provide round-the-clock access to tech support and potentially drive other offerings in the future.

So will it catch fire?

Combined with other services such as video streaming via Amazon Prime and its recently unveiled music streaming feature, we could see parts coming together to keep users within the Amazon ecosystem, akin to the world of Apple’s iTunes.

For it to be decently successful, all Amazon will need to entice a small portion of its 250 million active customers get the new smartphone. It looks as though it has gotten support from the markets, as we saw the stock price rallying 2.69%, up $8.76 to $334.38 by the close of Wednesday trade.

What will be interesting to watch out for is how Asia’s e-commerce giants will react, especially with Amazon’s plans, largely US-centric so far. Could we see Alibaba come up with its own device?

That could be a strong possibility considering it’s invested heavily in mobile services and capabilities, such as gaming and its Aliyun mobile operating system. It’s even set to be a telco soon with Ali Telecom.

We’re already seeing industry players pursuing some of the same areas, Japan’s Rakuten launched a similar visual search for fashion e-commerce in Taiwan last July, and SingTel unit Amobee has immersive 3D mobile advertising technology.

Ahead of the Singapore Open

US bourses closed on a positive note. The Dow Jones at 16,906.62 (+0.58%), S&P 500 at 1,956.98 (+0.77%), and NASDAQ at 4,362.84 (+0.59%). We’re calling for the MSCI Singapore to open 1.50 points higher at 374.10.

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