Your favorite online retail juggernaut is building itself a social media video calling app–and it wants your opinion on what it should feature.
After Amazon discreetly entered the enterprise video conferencing world earlier this year with Chime, the company is currently polling its customers about a new Amazon messaging app that could house everything from chat and video calling to online banking and shopping, and much more.
Called Anytime, this new app could be anything.
There’s a chance that Amazon finally goes all-in and pours its formidable finances and online resources into making a monster of an all-in-one social media app to rival the mythic power of WeChat.
And there’s an equal chance, given how timid Chime was, Amazon just mimics Snapchat and is content merely to have a social media presence at all.
The Amazon Messaging App Sounds Good…
There’s no launch date for Anytime, or even an official statement confirming its existence. The key information we have about it comes from Amazon’s own attempts to conduct free information crowdsourcing. In mid-July, customers of Amazon’s other products began reporting they were being asked to take a survey about a new messaging service. You can see from the screenshots that went with it that the product seems very advanced, at least in concept.
In the survey, Amazon made all the right promises about delivering a quality app. Beyond the typical Android and iPhone compatibility, image filters, masks, games, and gifs, there are some features that could really be interesting. Here are the features Amazon implied it was including:
Encrypt important messages, such as bank details: Encryption is nothing new, but a social app with built-in e-commerce security would be nice.
Group calling: Again, nothing new, but it is a relief that Amazon isn’t going to follow Google Duo and WhatsApp’s recent 1-to-1 only video calling trend.
Chat with businesses: It’s unclear just what this means, but it’s probably safe to assume bots are involved, as well as Amazon retail. That’s fine because it hints at a more mature app.
No numbers needed: This is almost certain to mean that the service links to other social media apps, but anytime an app stops treating a smartphone like a phone and starts treating it like a computer we’re better off. In a not-too-distant future when we’re identified by personalized images, names, and social profiles, we’ll wonder why it took so long to shake off anonymous strings of numbers.
Listen to music, order food together: This could just be a Bluetooth-style way of sharing content, or it could be a leap into the internet’s communal Third Place (we discussed this idea in our Rabbit video sharing review), where content is experienced simultaneously during a video chat, like a virtual living room.
So, it all sounds great, right? Don’t get too excited. Amazon has promised much before and left us feeling a little flat.
…But We’ve Been Hurt Before
Earlier this year Amazon (finally) entered the video conferencing world with the release of Amazon Chime. It, too, made grand promises like killing Skype and disrupting video calling, only to act a lot like most platforms already out there.
This is now a pattern with Amazon. It was late to the smartphone party as well, and the resulting Fire Phone flamed out in glorious mediocrity. Neither were bad products–and there’s still hope Chime will evolve–they just didn’t wow consumers enough to justify their late entrance or enable them to claw back any amount of market share.
So, there’s a chance Anytime just follows the lead of recent facelifts by Skype and Facebook and emerges as another Snapchat clone, albeit with some “unique” features tacked on the front to grab attention.
We’re going to stay romantic, however, and hope that all those Amazon promises get fulfilled, and more, and that Anytime becomes an all-in-one app to rival the omnipotence of China’s super-app, WeChat.
What Do We Want? Less Snapchat, More WeChat
If you can get past the political overtones of the video calling app WeChat’s existence–a big IF, I admit, in a post-Snowden and Wikileaks world–it is a remarkable app. There’s nothing among the more westernized social media apps to match its ambition to be the only electronic device you’ll ever need.
WeChat acts as a social messenger, a video caller, an online shopping platform, a ride sharing app, a news service, an online bank, and a link to every business from restaurants to dog washers–and that list still doesn’t do it justice.
U.S. app users already have access to all those features, but they must download them all and switch between services to access them. Perhaps Anytime, with Amazon’s deep pockets and collection of existing online services, will become that one-stop-shop, that Western WeChat. That’s why the leaked emphasis on encrypted banking, formal links to businesses, life without phone numbers, and shared online experiences is so enticing.
This could be the biggest, busiest app we’ve even seen–a genuine social messenger and video caller with the soul of a rabid retailer out to fulfill our every desire. Of course, we also speculated that Chime could kill Skype, and Microsoft just gave that very-much-alive service a friendly makeover, so we won’t get carried away just yet.