Amazon today unveiled the beta launch of AmazonWireless.com, a new Web site offering mobile phones and service plans from a selection of phones from AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
The move marks the first time the e-tailer has dedicated a site solely to wireless phones and plans, although it’s been in the phone-retailing business since early in the decade.
The idea behind Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) new specialty site is to make the process of finding a phone and pricing plan simpler. In addition to expanding selection and adding carriers during the beta test phase, Amazon will be testing different features and gathering input from customers to ensure the best possible customer experience.
“We’ve taken our eight years’ experience selling cell phones to create a new site that makes a potentially confusing transaction much easier for customers,” Paul Ryder, Amazon’s vice president of consumer electronics, said in a statement. “The step-by-step purchase process on AmazonWireless makes it easy for customers who already have a plan to upgrade their phones. If you want to establish new cell phone service, we’ve made it simple to find the right phone, service plan and options for your needs. We’ve also eliminated the technical jargon and frustrating rebate paperwork that customers often face when buying a phone.”
AmazonWireless currently offers more than 120 phones. Customers can shop for phones by carrier, phone feature, price, color and brand. The site’s shopping cart guides customers through each stage of the purchase process, where customers will find typical Amazon features such as bestseller lists, detailed product descriptions and customer reviews.
However, Amazon also said it has no plans to curb selling phones on its core site.
“For now, we will continue to offer a wide selection of cell phones with service, unlocked phones, prepaid phones and accessories in Amazon.com’s Cell Phones and Service store,” Amazon spokesperson Stacey Page told InternetNews.com. “AmazonWireless provides an easy, step-by-step purchase process for upgrading your phone (on both individual and family plans) or establishing a new cell phone service.”
It’s not yet clear when Amazon plans to take the beta-testing label off the site. The company said only that “when our customers tell us the shopping experience meets the bar they’ve come to expect from Amazon.com, we’ll officially launch the store.”
Added Page, “The new store is about our customers and our goal of helping customers find, discover and buy anything they want online. We’ve launched the store in beta so we can continue to add carriers, test features and gather input from customers to provide the best possible customer experience.”
For the time being, Amazon has more work ahead of it. The company said AmazonWireless.com would soon be adding several more features, like support for buying mobile phones without a corresponding carrier plan.
The site also has grayed-out entries on its list of supported carriers, with a notice that T-Mobile and Sprint are “coming soon.”
Right now, the store is also lacking several hot models. It doesn’t offer the Palm Pre, for which Sprint is the exclusive U.S. carrier, and while AT&T plans are available, there’s no iPhone models showing up in searches.
Cashing in on smartphone craze
The news comes at a time when the smartphone sector is thriving despite the recession — one of the reasons it continues experiencing unprecedented competition as handset makers introduce signature models this year and update their respective operating systems.
On June 6, the Palm Pre went on sale, sporting Palm’s (NASDAQ: PALM) new mobile platform, webOS, and was followed by Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 3GS, with version 3.0 of its OS.
Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) just released the BlackBerry Tour and is expected to introduce a follow-up to its touchscreen Storm this summer.
Meanwhile, the T-Mobile myTouch has now become available to existing subscribers for preorder. The myTouch is the highly anticipated follow-up to the T-Mobile G1, the first phone running on Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) open source Android, which also was just updated to version 1.5 with version 2.0 expected later this summer.