Not content with selling absolutely everything else, Amazon today announced the beta launch of AmazonWireless, a new extension of the online retailer that allows users to browse cell phones and various service plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless. For now, customers will have to settle for the more than 120 phones and two carriers currently on offer, though Amazon plans to add other phones and carriers throughout beta.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about AmazonWireless is that no one thought of it a long time ago. The site allows you to upgrade your phone from an existing plan or to purchase a phone and plan together. It's simple to compare various plans side by side or to narrow the list by searching for specific options. Perhaps best of all, it offers all the features Amazon customers have come to rely on, like bestseller lists, customer reviews, and the usually-helpful "customers who viewed this also viewed . . ." menu.
One item that is conspicuously absent from Amazon's AT&T lineup is the iPhone. Also absent, due to the lack of T-Mobile, are the G1 and the upcoming HTC MyTouch 3G, though a search for these through a basic Amazon page will link you with sellers who have them, or in the case of MyTouch, to T-Mobile's pre-order page. However, when shopping for service plans for HTC phones, the search criteria include inactive check boxes for both Sprint and T-Mobile, tagged "coming soon" in parenthesis. Consider this a strong indication that, with a little patience, Sprint and T-Mobile plans (and hardware) will be up and running on AmazonWireless in the very near future.
If Amazon's ultimate goal is to do away with brick-and-mortar institutions altogether, this is one aspect of that campaign we can get behind. Light on jargon and lacking the hassles inherent in a sales floor environment, AmazonWireless means cell phone users don't have to set foot inside the (insert your wireless carrier here) store ever again. Think about that, then exhale. Feels nice, doesn't it.