Send a text message to Amazon, reply to the response, confirm your order, and your item will be on its way, the company says.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

April 2, 2008

3 Min Read wants you to buy things using your mobile phone, especially if you are all thumbs.

On Wednesday, the e-commerce company introduced a new service called TextBuyIt that lets customers with Amazon accounts find and buy products through Amazon's Web site.

"With today's launch of TextBuyIt, any customer can now use any mobile device to shop and buy from, at anytime, anywhere they are," said Howard Gefen, director of Amazon Mobile Payments, in a statement. "With TextBuyIt, if you're walking out of a concert and want to buy a CD from the artist you just saw, or if you're at dinner and a friend tells you about a great book you should read, all you have to do is get out your mobile device, send a text message to Amazon, reply to the response, confirm your order, and your item will be on its way."

Amazon says that in under a minute and using only text messages, a customer can find a product and purchase it through his or her mobile phone. In a brief test, the service worked just as advertised, though the lack of contextual information beyond items and prices can lead to confusion.

For example, sending the message "London Calling," returned "1)London Calling-MUSIC $7.97" and "2)London Calling-MUSIC $24.98." Why the prices for the two items were different wasn't immediately clear, even after replying with an "h" for help, being shown the help code for the items and then finding that the help provided after submitting the code didn't clarify why the second London Calling listed for three times more than the first.

Urban technophiles who are seldom more than a stone's throw from an Internet-connected computer may not see the need for such a service, but many of those with more infrequent access to computers no doubt will appreciate the ability to search for items and buy them while on the go.

Using the service is simply a matter of sending a text message to "AMAZON" (262966) with the name of a product or a search term. The reply message will include an array of options to buy one or more items, to request more information about any of the listed items, or to get help.

Customers can also send a UPC or ISBN code to order a specific item, though knowing such a code usually follows from looking it up on Amazon's Web site. And in such a case, completing the order online is probably easier than using one's phone.

Once a text message order is received, Amazon will call the customer's phone and ask the customer to either confirm or cancel the order. Once approved, Amazon will process the order and ship the purchased items according to any shipping preferences that the customer has established.

TextBuyIt continues Amazon's deployment of e-commerce services for mobile devices. The company has been developing its Web site tailored for mobile phones, and last fall it began offering mobile access specifically designed for iPhone users.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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