Online retail giant Amazon.com announced the beta launch of AmazonWireless, a Website where consumers will be able to select cell phones and service plans from a selection of phones from AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The company is touting free two-day shipping and a lack of mail-in rebate hassles as the beta site comes online.
The company said 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 enhance the customer experience. AmazonWireless currently offers more than 120 phones, ranging from smartphones such as the BlackBerry Storm, BlackBerry Curve and the touch-screen Samsung Eternity to entry-level handsets for cost-conscious consumers.
Amazon designed the service to help customers set up a new individual plan with the two carriers (with the option of transferring your current mobile number to your new phone) or upgrade to a new phone for your current individual or family plan. The company said it would soon add support for a number of additional features, such as new family plans, additional lines for existing family plans, and the purchase of phones without any plan at all. Currently, all phones on AmazonWireless are tied to a two-year contract with a wireless carrier.
When users complete their AmazonWireless purchase, Amazon will ship the phone to the user and work with the carrier to establish their wireless service (i.e., create an account with the service plan and service options they requested). When the customer receives the phone, they complete the service-activation process by following Amazon's instructions in the box or reviewing their Activation Guide.
Paul Ryder, vice president of consumer electronics for Amazon, said the company has taken its eight years' experience selling cell phones to create a new site that makes a potentially confusing transaction much easier for customers. "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," he said. "We've also eliminated the technical jargon and frustrating rebate paperwork that customers often face when buying a phone."
During the beta trial, Amazon said all customers must use their Amazon.com account to shop at AmazonWireless or create a new account. Phones may be returned, unopened and in the original packaging, within 30 days of purchase. Amazon said it would pick up the tab for return shipping. In addition, if a customer is eligible to extend their contract with their current carrier, AmazonWireless can help users upgrade your phone. Amazon said carriers generally approve upgrades for lines of service that are at least 22 months into a 24-month contract and in good financial standing.