Amazon.com debuts dedicated site for cell phone sales

Online retailer Amazon.com announced a major new effort to sell mobile phones and service via a new, dedicated website: AmazonWireless.com. The site, currently in testing, offers more than 100 phones from AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, though the company promised to expand to additional carriers at an unspecified future date.

The launch of AmazonWireless tracks with wireless expansions by other brick-and-mortar retailers. Indeed, Best Buy recently announced it will open 40 new, stand-alone Best Buy Mobile outlets this fiscal year, while Wal-Mart has moved aggressively in the space and currently offers wares ranging from TracFone's prepaid portfolio to AT&T's iPhone.

Nonetheless, Amazon.com promises its endeavor will stand out: "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," said Paul Ryder, vice president of consumer electronics for Amazon.com. "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."

Specifically, the company said it will offer "shopping without rebate hassles" (which may endear the site to those who struggle with carriers' sometimes arcane rebate requirements) and free two-day shipping.

Indeed, a cursory perusal of AmazonWireless showed a clear layout and a smooth shopping process. Further, a price check on one of AmazonWireless' featured devices--the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Storm--showed the site's price of $49.99 with a new, two-year contract undercut Verizon's own online offer ($149.99) as well as Best Buy's ($99.99), and matched that from Wirefly.com ($49.99). However, it was just above LetsTalk.com's $29.99 online offer.

AmazonWireless is just the latest gambit by Amazon.com to play in wireless; the company offers wireless access to its main site via a variety of methods, and it recently entered the hardware game with its wireless Kindle e-reader.

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