If you take a look at the top personal finance apps for the iPhone, you’ll see that there are currently only a couple of banks with dedicated iPhone appsÂ for their customers.
On the face of it, it may look as if the likes of Natwest and RBS are miles ahead of their competition in their use of mobile banking for this “new” technology (in actual fact,Â they’re both part of the same group and use the same developers for their app, Monitise).
But other banks are doing mobile banking in another way.
Take Barclays for example. They’re currently pushing their mobile banking and are highlighting the fact that it’s “mobile platform agnostic”. Here’s anÂ extract from a recent email:
“We’ve been thinking about Mobile Banking. And we think it should be, well, mobile. It’s not a revolution. And it’s not reinventing the wheel. Â It’s just a dedicated service that’s bringing Online Banking to your phone, rather than the other way round. What does that mean for you? Well…
We’re not restricted to one phone manufacturer.
Our free* mobile banking service at barclays.mobi has been designed to work on all models ofÂ web-enabled mobile phones, including iPhone, Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry, Palm and HTC.
You don’t need to be an IT engineer to use it
You can access Mobile Banking on your phone in the same way as you use Online Banking on your PC. You can log in securely, check your balance,Â look at recent transactions, transfer money between your accounts and make payments to existing beneficiaries.
We’re continually bringing in new features, and you will always receive the latest version of the service automatically – without having to hunt outÂ and download upgrades.”
So they’ve decided that rather than developing seperate apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and any other device that becomes flavour ofÂ the month in the future, they’ll develop a solid mobile site that should be accessible by all types of mobile device.
This means that they might be a little restricted in the features they can build into the site (they won’t be able to tap into the iPhone’sÂ GPS capabilities, to show nearby Barclays branches, for example), but it may mean that development costs are kept down, whilst high compatibility with customer devices is achieved.
First Bank iPhone App
Natwest has probably got a fair bit of publicity from having one of the first bank iPhone apps (it’s also consistently one of the top finance apps, together with Paypal), yet mayÂ alienate some of their non-iPhone clients, whilst Barclays’ mobile website might not be “hip” but it should satisfy most of its customers withÂ web-enabled phones.
As an aside, it’s interesting that Barclays’ is promoting mobile banking with an iPhone-only game which ties in with their recent TV adverts, featuring spinningÂ plates – kind of goes against its statement about not being restricted to one manufacturer above.
Anyway, there’s probably no right answer to the way this should be done, but my feeling is that long-term, if there are 3 or 4 different platforms for the banks to develop on then that will be manageable for the banks. Any more, and it will be more efficient to develop a good mobile site, accessible to all through a mobile web browser.
The decision will also depend on the penetration of the various operating systems and platforms – it’s clear that Apple will continue to dominate for a while, but Android phones are becoming more common, and crucially, I believe, cheaper. That could mean a change in focus from iPhone to Android apps.
What do you think? Should bank be expected to build different apps and interfaces for each type of device, or should they concentrate on a single, accessible-to-all solution? Let us know in the comments below.
photo credit: TheTruthAbout…