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Amazon buys mobile retailing specialist

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Amazon has acquired SnapTell, a US-based startup that lets iPhone users take a photo of a product they are interested in buying and then get instantly connected to an online store to identify and purchase it.

The acquisition is the latest in a series of moves into the mobile space, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal:

Amazon already makes its own product-search application for the iPhone and other mobile phones that allows consumers to take a photo of a product and have it identified in Amazon’s product catalog. But Amazon’s existing service relies on humans to match photos and products, while SnapTell uses software to find a match.

The SnapTell purchase is Amazon’s latest move to beef up its mobile capabilities. In April, the Seattle company acquired Lexcycle, the maker of a popular application called Stanza for reading books on the iPhone. Amazon has continued to develop Stanza as a separate program from its own Kindle e-book reading application for the iPhone.

Amazon said it intends to run SnapTell as a standalone business unit within its search-engine subsidiary. Amazon will continue to “work in innovations in search technologies and enabling visual shopping on a range of mobile devices and platforms,” said a company spokeswoman. “It’s very early days for image recognition based search technology and we believe there is a lot of innovation in visual product search ahead of us.”

“SnapTell has been a leader in visual product search technology and our solutions have been used to deliver reviews, prices and information for millions of visual search queries,” says SnapTell. “Throughout this period we have carefully listened to our users and added innovative features to provide a great visual shopping experience. One of the most heard requests was how we could integrate better with Amazon’s fabulous shopping experience… We should be able to do so pretty well now.”

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