CI First Look: Amazon Fire Smartphone

by on Jun 25, 2014

Amazon-Smartphone-Kindle-Fire-PhoneApple and Google dominate today’s smartphone marketplace. According to comScore, Android currently owns just over 50% market share, with iOS closing the gap at just over 40%.  Other tech companies such as Microsoft and BlackBerry have been trying to carve out (or defend) their own place, but currently sit at around 3%. Most recently, Amazon joined the fray by announcing the Amazon Fire Phone.

This product launch grabbed headlines for shaking up the competition among these tech giants, which also battle in areas such as personal computers, tablets and Web search. The Fire Phone itself boasts a variety of innovative features such as a 3D display, integration with Amazon shopping and more.

At Corporate Insight, our focus is on how new technological releases and innovations impact the financial services industry. From that perspective, we look at the challenge the Fire Phone poses –and the opportunity it presents – for financial institutions.

More Apps?!
The first question mobile strategists may ask is, “Do we have to design a whole new app?” The Fire OS is based on Android, and developer resources state, “Most Android phone apps will already work on Fire.” It may take some additional effort to ensure that an app is fully compatible and bug-free, and it’s worth experimenting with new capabilities such as Dynamic Perspective (see below). Mobile finance apps in particular require an abundance of caution for security reasons. Still, the challenge should be less than moving from iOS to Android.

That should come as a relief, since at this point, Android apps are essentially an industry standard. Of the 38 firms tracked by Corporate Insight’s Bank, Credit Card, Broker and e-Monitor services, almost 90% offer an Android app. Over 40% already have adapted those Android apps for the Amazon Appstore (although some are optimized for the Kindle Fire’s tablet-sized screen). In that regard, the Amazon Fire may already be ahead of Windows Phone, which is supported by just 29% of firms we track.

Percent of the Banks, Brokerages & Credit Card Issuers Corporate Insight tracks with apps for specified devices
Dynamic Perspective Display & Control Options
Amazon Fire’s headline feature is the so-called Dynamic Perspective, which senses how the device is being held in relation to the user’s face, enabling three-dimensional displays. Most illustrations of this capability show a more robust mapping experience, which, when it comes to mobile finance apps, would certainly make branch or ATM locators more impressive. However, functionality is not very different from what’s already available in standard maps.

A third dimension could also make account data visualizations more engaging and informative. Currently, 70% of the firms Mobile Monitor tracks offer various pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs, etc. to illustrate clients’ accounts on a mobile screen, but these can be very simplistic.

Amazon also points out how the Dynamic Perspective sensors can enable additional controls such as tilt, swivel, peek or auto-scroll. Developers will have to experiment with the best ways to use these controls, and many could eventually find their way into mobile finance apps, for instance, to make account balances available pre-login, on the trade ticket or other such areas.

Mayday Video Customer Service
Amazon’s phones will include access to Mayday, the firm’s video customer service. This will only serve to popularize the video chat concept, which is just starting to catch on in the financial services industry. Earlier this year, American Express added video chat to its iPad app, and Esurance introduced video appraisals to its suite of apps.

Closing Thoughts
There are other features of the Fire Phone that Amazon hopes will set it apart in the crowded smartphone market. The company heavily promotes Firefly, which is understandable as it makes it much more convenient to place Amazon purchases on-the-go. Clearly, this device makes the most sense for dedicated Amazon customers. It remains to be seen if that ends up being a big enough group that financial services firms must respond. As with other new technologies such as smartwatches and other wearables, firms should begin developing for its unique capabilities even before there is clear consumer demand. This foresight will ensure that they have a competitive app ready if and when the Fire Phone catches on.