​Amazon aims to lure Prime members with unlimited photo storage

CEO Jeff Bezos, hoping to lock consumers into its store through services, adds a new cloud service perk for all Prime service subscribers. Up until now, the free storage deal had only been available to owners of Amazon's Fire devices.

Amazon is extending its unlimited photo storage feature from its Fire devices to all Prime subscription members. CNET

Amazon is offering unlimited photo storage to its Prime subscribers, adding another carrot to lure consumers and lock them into its ever-expanding delivery and media service.

Similar to popular cloud storage services like Box, Dropbox, One Drive and Google Drive, Amazon's new Prime Photos lets the more than 20 million Prime members store digital files -- music, movies, documents and photos -- that they can then access from a variety of devices. Users can upload the photos from Apple iOS gadgets (iPhone, iPad) and devices that support Google's Android mobile operating system software, as well as from the Web.

Consumers who signed up for Amazon's Cloud Drive service, whether they were Prime members or not, received 5 gigabytes of free storage. That's enough to hold about 2,000 photos, according to Amazon. Owners of the Fire tablets and smartphone Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced earlier this year already had unlimited storage for any photos taken or saved to a Fire device.

The service, announced Tuesday, is now part of a $99 (£79) per-year Prime membership, which also includes two-day shipping on over 20 million items, video streaming of movies and TV shows and access to the Kindle e-book lending library. And it seems to play into Bezos' strategy of being willing to lose money on products and services to attract more customers and tie them into the Prime system.

The underlying idea is that Prime customers tend to be more active on Amazon -- and spend more -- once they become members.

Amazon said it's been successful in adding Prime subscribers through Prime Instant Video, with customers signing up to stream the video content and then moving on to buy physical goods from its Amazon.com store, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said during the company's third-quarter earnings last month. Amazon invested heavily in its video offerings to make the service desirable. That included striking exclusive deals with networks and creating original shows such as "Alpha House," about a group of senators who share a house in Washington, D.C., "Betas," about a Silicon Valley startup, and the dark comedy "Transparent."

Cloud storage could be the next major lure. Amazon generated buzz when it first offered free, unlimited storage for photos taken on its Fire Phone, which debuted in June. The phone also included a free year of Prime and looped in Amazon's many other content services. But the Fire phone -- available only through AT&T in the US and O2 in the UK -- has been deemed a flop. Amazon ended up with $83 million worth of unsold phones by the end of its third quarter and has so far taken a $170 million charge on the business.

While photo storage didn't convince consumers to buy a phone, Amazon is salvaging it for Prime. It gives the all-in-one subscription an advantage over standalone services, including the crowded cloud storage industry.

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