amazon phone

The Wall Street Journal added its weight to speculation that Amazon is preparing to launch a smartphone. The outlet reported late yesterday that the e-commerce giant has been showing off prototypes of the handset to developers, and it plans to take it public later this year.

What’s really interesting about the device is that The Journal says its screen is capable of displaying three-dimensional images without the need for special glasses. And it accomplishes this by using retina-tracking technology that’s embedded into four front-facing cameras…

The Journal’s Greg Bensinger And Evelyn Rusli report:

Amazon.com Inc. AMZN -1.70% 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. AAPL -0.74% and Samsung Electronics Co. […]

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. 

As off-the-wall as this all sounds, it actually matches up perfectly with a report from highly regarded KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo last month. At the time, he said Amazon planned to release a smartphone with 6 cameras—4 with special sensors, and 2 normal ones.

Here’s more on the ‘3D’ technology:

The 3-D screen technology can sense the movement of a person’s eyes and whether the screen is moving closer to a user’s face, according to people familiar with the matter. In response, the phone will be able to automatically zoom into images as it moves closer to a user’s face and could manipulate text and images as a person moves the phone.

The technology would be ideal for gaming, an area of recent focus for Amazon including on the set-top box. The phone’s software is also optimized for very visual games, designed to provide a sense of depth, according to people who have handled the handsets. 

Rumors regarding the phone first popped up in late 2011, and have resurfaced several times since then. At one point it was said that Amazon had enlisted HTC to make the hardware for a mobile device project it was working on, but obviously none of that gossip ever materialized.

Pundits believe things are different this time around, though, as Amazon now has multiple tablet generations and a set-top box under its belt. They think it could unveil the phone as soon as June, ahead of a September launch, and rumor has it that it’s going to be very inexpensive.

Apple, for it’s part, is also rumored to be working on a new smartphone. The so-called iPhone 6 is said to come in two flavors: a 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch model, each with a slimmer design, A8 processor, and various other improvements. It, too, is expected to launch this September.

I’m curious, what do you make of all of this? Is Amazon really going to try and enter the crowded smartphone space?