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Orbitz removes friction from mobile booking with new Amazon Fire phone app

Web-based travel booking tool released a customized app for Amazon’s new Fire phone that removes friction from mobile booking experiences by enabling users to jump into destinations quickly from the homescreen.

With the growth in smartphone ownership and more than 30 percent of Orbitz hotel transactions now coming from mobile devices, the company has strategically positioned itself to use Amazon’s fresh technology, as tech-savvy travelers are attracted to enhanced user-experiences. In a new Orbitz Mobile Bookers study, 91 percent of respondents said they own smartphones, up 30 percent from 2013 and equaling PC ownership for the first time among customers, who on average, spend $1,076 in travel on a mobile device.

“We don’t pair with brands lightly,” said Chris Brown, group vice president of mobile at Orbitz Worldwide. “Since Amazon’s kindle has been a big player we didn’t see too much risk in developing an app for its phone, as we’ve had a long time app for kindle and this allowed us to work with them further.”

“Even before you open an app they have a different model of how users open and navigate items on the home screen.”

“The interface allowed us to tie a 3D logo on screen and let users jump into destinations quickly. Recent searches appear on the body of the phone even when you’re not in-app, and continue right where you left off when re-engaging.”

“That takes steps away from consumers and makes it more frictionless. There’s a striking difference between Fire and other Android ecosystems,” he said.

Through the flames
Although most consumers are decisive on where their loyalty lies, Amazon hopes it can replace that device with its own smartphone, enticing users with industry-first features.. And while its app library may not be as large as others, it is quickly recruiting big players to build greater affinity and allow partners to showcase new features which cannot be found anywhere else.

One of the new features is what Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective. The four front corners of the phone have cameras and tracking abilities which allow Orbitz users to view destinations in multiple dimensions and perspectives based on head movement.

The augmented home screen provides an easily navigable carousel which decreases friction for Orbitz users by returning to previous flight, hotel, or rental car searches from last exit point. The app also displays recent travel searches done in-app as well as searches done on the app on other devices.

Aside from the carousel, Amazon veers from stock Android models with a three-panel interface across its homescreen and apps that requires a mere flick or swipe to access menus, settings and shortcuts.

Orbitz users can easily navigate the app with one hand by simply using this tilt gesture to access the app’s menu from anywhere. Plus, the peek gesture reveals more details of each flight including flight duration and layover airport without ever touching the screen so information is attained when and how the user chooses to engage.

Mobile booking intent continues to grow among current smartphone and tablet bookers, as sixty percent are “extremely likely” to book travel again on a mobile device, an increase of 22 percent year-over-year according to Orbitz. And, of smartphone users that have never booked on a mobile device, 75 percent are likely to book travel on a mobile device in the future, up 36 percent from 2013.

Because most smartphones are virtually identical with now commoditized hardware, the Fire phone is equipped to compete based off its knack for identifying and alleviating real user pain points diiferently. And because it has an established reputation and continues to be one of the most valuable brands in the world, Orbitz should see some of the loyalty crossover from Amazon fans to its own.

Orbitz mobile bookers said they are actively using their mobile devices for earning, redeeming and managing their rewards with over half reporting they joined the Orbitz Rewards loyalty program on a smartphone, 64 percent report redeeming rewards – Orbucks – on a mobile device.

Heating up
As smartphone ownership now matches PC’s tenure for the first time, Amazon’s quest to be the “everything store” heats up as it increases partnerships with beloved merchants.

WhitePages, the leading provider of contact information for people and businesses in the U.S., has also announced that its signature mobile apps are now available on the new Fire phone system.

New versions of the WhitePages, WhitePages Current and Mr. Number apps have all been developed for the platform, leveraging 3D effects, gestures to guide navigation and the unique identifying capabilities of Amazon’s Firefly feature to help users easily identify phone numbers.  

The WhitePages suite offers rich contact and caller ID data to the ability to block unwanted calls and texts, with one touch access to frequently used features, from the people and businesses users call most to the calls and texts that have recently been blocked.

Both WhitePages and Orbitz have innovated using Fire phone’s unique capabilities to offer customers a new kind of experience for on-the-go use.

“We’ve been building mobile app experiences on Android an iOS for a long time,” Mr. Brown said.

“For the Fire phone were taking the Android app and leveraging it for those users with a density of information.”

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York