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Network connectivity benefits consumer electronics

Preconfigured wireless connectivity in devices such as Amazon Kindle simplifies customers' purchasing decisions and can lead to increased sales for service providers, analyst says.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Electronic devices will benefit from ubiquitous cellular data services "straight out of the box", providing seamless wireless connectivity, to simplify consumers' purchasing process, one analyst says.

According to Steven Hartley, practice leader of telco strategy at Ovum, other consumer electronics manufacturers can take a leaf out of Amazon's book in terms of providing free 3G connectivity for its Kindle devices.

Elaborating, Meighan McLafferty, public relations manager at Amazon.com, said the Kindle Touch 3G offers free connectivity in over 100 countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and parts of China. This service is offered free and users need not have to worry about contracts or data plans, she said.

"Kindle Touch 3G uses advanced 3G GSM technology to power Amazon's wireless delivery system, Whispernet, over AT&T's and Vodafone's global networks. It's seamless to our customers with no annual contract [or] no monthly fees," she elaborated. She declined to comment on the cost incurred by Amazon to provide the free 3G service, though.

To this, Hartley said it is a good strategy to promote its e-readers as it removes connectivity issues for consumers. Additionally, since the preinstalled browser on the Kindle Touch 3G does not offer the best user experience, 3G usage would be limited and Amazon is unlikely to be saddled with huge data charges, he added.

"Customers simply have to get the device out of the box and use it. No thoughts of [data service] contracts or SIM cards to distract them," the analyst added.

Such a feature could also improve the functionality of devices such as cameras, personal navigation devices and portable music players, Hartley pointed out. For instance, cameras that come with 3G connectivity would allow users to take a photo and almost instantaneously upload it to a social networking platform such as Facebook, he elaborated.

One user agrees with Hartley's assessment. Nicole Nilar-Aye, a CRM (customer relationship management) manager, said she uses her smartphone more than her camera to take photos because the phone's connectivity means it is now easier to upload and share her photos on platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp.

Connectivity spurs sales
Beyond improved functionality, McLafferty also stated that customers with a Kindle Touch 3G device reads 20 percent more books than other customers using non-3G Kindle devices.

Hartley speculated that Amazon would recoup the cost of providing 3G connectivity with the increased content sales that Amazon said it is enjoying currently.

When asked if Barnes & Noble will offer similar global 3G connectivity for its Nook devices, Carolyn Brown, the company's director of corporate communications, did not respond directly to the question. Instead, she told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that all its devices are W-Fi-enabled and the company is always looking at ways" to broaden its services and offer content to as many customers as possible.

She added that its Nook e-readers currently allow users to connect to more than 20,000 free AT&T hotspots, all Barnes & Noble stores and many other widely available Wi-Fi spots.

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