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Mobile Monday: Top 50 iPhone and iPad Apps in the Finance Category

By Jim Bruene on January 7, 2013 8:38 PM | Comments
app store logo.jpg

I knocked around Apple App Store last week researching our year-end Online Banking Report. Below are the current top free finance apps in the U.S. store (note 1). While there are not a whole lot of surprises, several are notable:

  • Credit Karma maintains its top-10 ranking (#9)
  • Intuit has three of the top-10 apps (#4, 6, 8) plus #30
  • Two of the top-5 financial institution iPhone app providers (PayPal and Capital One) do not yet have iPad apps
  • Three credit-monitoring apps are in the top 32 (Credit Karma #9, Intersections #23 and Experian #32)
  • Two banks each have two apps in the top 50: Capital One (#6 and #34) and PNC (#25 and #42)
  • Five fintech startups made the top 22 (Credit Karma #9, LearnVest #15, Lemon #19, Pageonce #20, Manilla #22); all but Lemon are Finovate alums (note 2)

Methodology: I first listed the top 50 iPhone apps from the "Free Finance" category (column 2). Then I went to the iPad store and found their corresponding iPad app rank (column 3). I then listed all the remaining iPad apps in the top 50 and their corresponding iPhone rank (last 20 rows below).

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Top iPhone/iPad Finance Apps in Apple App Store (USA)

Company iPhone Rank iPad Rank
PayPal 1 none
Chase 2 3
Bank of America 3 1
Mint (Intuit) 4 5
Wells Fargo 5 2
TurboTax (Intuit) 6 31
Capital One 7 none
TaxCaster (Intuit) 8 16
Credit Karma 9 none
American Express 10 7
Discover 11 13
Citibank 12 10
USAA 13 8
State Farm 14 47
LearnVest 15 none
Yahoo Finance 16 11
Easy Envelope Budget 17 42
US Bank 18 26
Lemon 19 none
Pageonce 20 23
Fidelity 21 12
Manilla 22 none
Identity Guard (Intersections) 23 none
Navy Federal FCU 24 none
PNC 25 19
iSpending 26 116
Barclaycard 27 35
Mortgage Calc (Zillow) 28 20
TD Bank 29 none
Quicken Money Management (Intuit) 30 17
TD Ameritrade 31 27
FreeCreditScore.com (Experian) 32 55
Pocket Expense 33 15
ING Direct (Capital One) 34 none
Quicken Loans 35 none
E*Trade 36 33
Spending Tracker 37 28
SunTrust 38 none
Western Union 39 none
iSpreadsheet 40 9
BB&T 41 46
Virtual Wallet (PNC) 42 40
Bloomberg 43 22
Budget 44 none
Expensify 45 53
Ally Bank 46 none
HSBC Personal 47 none
H&R Block 48 24
Bluebird (AmEx) 49 none
Seeking Alpha 50 none
Below top 50 iPhone    
Craigslist mobile not in finance 4
Money Magazine none 6
ShareBuilder (Capital One) 114 14
CNBC 55 18
Real-time stock tracker 64 21
Vanguard 58 25
Morningstar Stockinvestor 198 29
Personal Capital 92 30
Regions Bank 54 32
Visual Budget 62 34
Merrill Lynch 84 36
Bloomberg TV 125 37
Mortgage calculator (Trulia) 102 38
SmartMoney Retirement Planner (Dow Jones) none 39
Bills for iPad (iBear) not in top 300 41
Budgets for iPad (iBear) 162 43
Checkbook free 53 44
Smart Budget 120 45
TD Ameritrade Mobile Tracker 86 48
EZ Financial Calculators 63 49
Schwab 60 50

Source: Netbanker observation of Apple App Store directly from iPad and iPhone around 6 PM Pacific, 7 Jan 2013

None = No app listed with the App Store for that device

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Note:
1. The Apple ranking system is a bit of a black box. But it's generally believed to weigh heavily recent download activity.
2. Easy Envelope Budgeting (#18) is from a San Francisco-based Web developer Dayspring Technologies founded in 1998.

Comments

ANZ's Mobile Banking App is So Well Integrated, it Almost Feels Like Apple Built It

By Jim Bruene on September 2, 2011 6:04 PM | Comments (2)

image image I look at lot of mobile banking apps. But there are several thousand in the U.S. alone, so I'm not going to claim that I know which one is "best" or even who should be in the top-100.

But I will say, of the mobile banking apps I'm familiar with, ANZ Bank's is right up at the top. Kudos to the bank and Fiserv's M-Com unit that helped with development.  

Why is it so good? It's full featured, of course. But it's the first banking app that feels like it runs WITHIN the iPhone instead of being bolted on. It's almost like what Apple would have done if it was building a banking app right into the operating system (notes 1, 2, 3).  

I especially like how the person-to-person payments function integrates with iPhone Contacts. And how iPhone's photo gallery can be used throughout the app to illustrate goals and payees with your pictures (click on inset above for a better view) and to store bill payment-receipts (see screenshot below).

But never mind what I think, look at actual customer usage. According to a July 15 investor presentation, in the year since it was released, the ANZ goMoney already accounts for 26% of the bank's total online traffic. If ANZ mobile can continue that pace for another 12 months, it will surpass regular PC-based online traffic by this time next year.   

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ANZ goMoney demo video is definitely worth two minutes of your time
Note: Clickthrough below to ANZ website and play the video (the version on YouTube is the older version of the app)

Demo video of ANZ goBanking iPhone app

Notes:
1. Hyperbole alert. It's Friday afternoon, so I may be getting a bit carried away. But I stand by the opinion.  
2. I don't have an ANZ account, so I'm basing my observations on the superb demo video, complete with Apple-esque soundtrack (see screenshot above).

Comments (2)

Chase Bank's Jot App Shows the Future of Mobile Transaction Processing

By Jim Bruene on June 8, 2011 7:54 PM | Comments (2)

image image I've been waiting for something like Chase Bank's Jot (see note 1). It's part of the "second wave" of mobile apps that demonstrate why mobile banking will soon be better than online banking.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Mobile banking phase 1: 2008 through 2011
________________________________________________________________________________

Mobile's first wave was all about porting the most-used online functions, balance inquiry and statement viewing, to a smaller screen. That was convenient for smartphone owners on the go, but it didn't add much to the overall user experience. 

The test of whether you've nailed the mobile UX is if that even if you are within arm's reach of your laptop, you still pick up the mobile to perform a function. Most mobile banking systems fail that test, i.e. you only use mobile banking when online access is inconvenient or insecure.
________________________________________________________________________________

Mobile banking phase 2: 2011+
________________________________________________________________________________

The second wave is much more interesting. Your mobile phone can do financial chores that simply cannot be accomplished online, for example:

  • Deposit a paper check via mobile camera (USAA, Chase, PayPal and many more)
  • Transfer money to your friend by "bumping" phones (PayPal, ING Direct)
  • Alert you to special merchant offers in your exact location that are redeemable simply by using your bankcard (BankOns)
  • Pay your bill automatically by scanning the billing statement (Mitek)
  • Upload paper receipts and append them to expense reports (Expensify)

And the latest addition to that list:

  • Receive feed of transactions and tag them with categories for future reference and reporting (Chase Jot)

________________________________________________________________________________

How Jot works
________________________________________________________________________________

Chase's new app (announced 1 June 2011) may not be as cool as remotely depositing a check, but it's much more useful for most cardholders. The iPhone and Android app, which is currently available only for the bank's Ink business credit card, sends push notifications of each transaction (see inset) and enables users to (relatively) quickly append transactions with category information, i.e. "tag" transactions. 

image One key Jot feature, missing in most mobile banking services, is a running list of the transactions waiting to be tagged (see right).

That way, when the business owner has a few spare moments, they can quickly get caught up with their categorizing work. This ongoing attention will reduce the quarterly game of "what's that transaction" played when finalizing the company books.

So not only does Jot save time, it potentially improves the quality of the accounting data, always a good thing for business management. 

The app also includes other business credit card management functions such as basic reports by tag, the ability to change employee credit limits, and info on outstanding balances and payment due dates.

While the functionality is still pretty basic (e.g., there is no way to add more than one tag to a transaction), there are only 60 days of transactions available, and login needs to be simplified, overall Jot is a winner. We are tagging it with an A-.

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Notes:
1. The Jot landing page is well done and includes a series of four short demo videos.
2. For OBR subscribers, see our previous Online Banking Reports on mobile banking and payments.

Comments (2)

Southern Bancorp Launches "Shake and Bank" iPhone App Aimed at Youth

By Jim Bruene on April 25, 2011 4:44 PM | Comments

image It's been more than six months since we last featured a new mobile app from a financial institution (see Arvest Bank's financial calculators). It's not because of lack of activity, or importance. In that time, more than 1,000 financial institution apps have been introduced and the market has really heated up.

But we focus on what's new and different. And for the most part, the class of 2010 and 2011 have been "me-too" entries. Which is exactly as it should be. Every mid-sized and larger bank and credit union needs at least one app in the iTunes store, so the last 18 months have been about gaining competitive parity. 

But things will start to get more interesting again as financial institutions:

Southern Bancorp's new mobile app, Shake and Bank, ticks all four boxes. It's an iPhone/iPod Touch app designed to give kids (or any account holder) a quick look at the balance in their account. As you can see below, Shake and Bank is pretty much self-explanatory:

1. Open app (note 1)

2. Shake iPhone

3. See balance

The app requires a setup code to launch. According to the iTunes entry, the code can be obtained through the bank's website or at a branch. But as of today, I see no mention of Shake and Bank, or mobile banking for that matter, at their website.

Bottom line: I'm a sucker for pigs, so obviously I like it. But more importantly, Southern Bancorp makes it easy to monitor account balances with a simple kid-friendly approach. And parents will appreciate the help reinforcing the savings habit (note 1).

Southern Bancorp has $1.1 billion in assets and 40 branches in Arkansas and Mississippi.
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Southern Bancorp's iPhone app targeted towards kids (link, 25 April 2011)

Southern Bancorp's iPhone mobile banking app targeted towards kids      image 

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Notes:
1. Since I couldn't test the app without an account, I assume there is no subsequent login requirement once you've entered the setup code. And more importantly, I hope that it oinks when shaken. 
2. For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.

Comments

Another Promising Mobile App that Does Away with Paper: Intuit's SnapTax

By Jim Bruene on January 10, 2011 5:33 PM | Comments (2)

imageI meandered into Intuit's lab site today and ran across a nifty app released last year called TurboTax SnapTax. It allowed California residents to file simple tax returns by photographing their W-2 form, answering a few questions, then e-filing directly from the iPhone app (inset).

As you can see in the following video, the whole process could be completed in a few minutes. The app launched last year on Jan. 15, just in time for the 2010 tax season. The cost was $9.99 which included Federal and state e-filing. 

There's no word yet on whether the company will be releasing a 2011 version (update: it launches Jan. 13, 2011 and is good in all 50 states). There is no entry in the iTunes store for SnapTax as of today. However, Intuit does have two tax tools available: TaxCaster to estimate your refund and MyTaxRefund to track it. 

Analysis: The Intuit app is part of a trend we expect to continue, using smartphone cameras to capture, store, and eliminate the need to store paper receipts and statements. And like Mitek's Mobile Photo Bill Pay, Intuit's Snaptax is much more than a dumb scanner. It takes the scan, reads the info, and assists in completing the transaction.

Opportunity for NetBankers: It's probably too late for 2011 tax season, but if you can be the first one in your market to offer mobile-photo tax-prep next year, it should provide a healthy PR boost come April 2012. You might also consider offering a tax estimator and/or refund tracker to your mobile offering. 

Intuit's SnapTax allowed California taxpayers to file directly from their iPhones in 2010.
Comments (2)

The 12 Days of Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on December 21, 2010 5:14 PM | Comments (1)

image In the holiday spirit, I thought I'd lay out the perfect mobile banking/payments app for 2011 (note 1). These are the features I hope to be using on my smartphone at this time next year: 

Security

  • Option to log in with 4-digit PIN only
  • Authorize unusual and/or declined card transactions and unusual checks presented for payment

Bank account management

  • Banking data presented in order of importance with new transactions in bold (like Gmail Priority Inbox, previous post)
  • Quick view of current balance with predicted balance going forward based on known upcoming transactions

Paper management

  • Deposit paper checks via camera (remote deposit)
  • Pay bills by taking a picture of the billing statement (photo bill pay)
  • Scan-and-store paper receipts and statements

Payments

  • Use NFC or bar-codes at the point of sale to make payments directly via phone, without the plastic
  • Pay bills or individuals via their mobile phone number

Alerts & calculators

  • Receive important alerts via push messages to the phone's main screen
  • Take action or adjust alert sensitivity by responding to messages via text messaging or within the app
  • Key financial calculators, such as loan/mortgage payments

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Enjoy the real thing here:

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Notes:
1. I'm missing important features, but I had to stop at 12 to fit the holiday theme. Thanks for bearing with me.  
2. For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.
3. Photo credit: Apple holiday promotion in United Kingdom <itunes12daysofchristmas.co.uk>

Comments (1)

2010 Saw 40-Fold Growth in the Number of Financial Institution iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on December 14, 2010 6:21 PM | Comments (1)

image As hard as it is to believe, last year at this time only 30 financial institutions had apps in the U.S. iTunes App Store (note 1). And that was a full 18 months after Apple's phone had opened its OS to third-party programs. A few in the industry still questioned whether smaller banks and credit unions would ever need a native iPhone app.

I think that question has been answered: In the past 12 months, the total financial institution app-count has rocketed upwards to more than 1,200, a 40-fold increase. That's 100 new apps per month for the past 12 months.

In raw numbers, the past seven days have been relatively unremarkable with just 17 new FI apps. But it's been one of the biggest weeks in terms of major launches:

  • BofA Merrill Lynch research library for iPad only (note 4; iTunes)
  • Capital One, whose app was released on Sunday, went to #5 Monday and is up to #4 when I checked a few minutes ago (see inset; note 2; iTunes)
  • NetSpend (iTunes)
  • Schwab, both v1 of its iPhone app (iTunes) and an iPad version of its On Investing magazine (iTunes)
  • SmartyPig (pending Apple approval)
  • Stanford Federal Credit Union, which used a striking background for its app home page (see below; iTunes)

imageAnd while it's not nearly as crucial as the iPhone, we are waiting for a slew of iPad apps. Apparently, BBVA Compass demo'ed a cool unreleased iPad app at a mobile conference (note 4). And just today, Schwab released its monthly magazine in iPad format, an industry first.

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Notes:
1. See Online Banking Report #176, Table 18 (link subscription required)
2. Rank is of free apps in the Finance category in the U.S. store. The apps above it are #1 Bank of America, #2 Chase, #3 PayPal
3. HT David Eads in Mobile Manifesto
4. At the same conference as note 3, Bank of America revealed it hit the 6-million mark in active mobile banking users.

Comments (1)

Arvest Bank Adds Suite of Calculators and Other Non-Transactional Services to iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on September 25, 2010 8:37 AM | Comments (2)

image Like American Express, Arvest Bank is one of the dozen or so U.S. financial institutions with multiple apps in the Apple iTunes App Store (note 1). The bank has one app for account access and another which can be used only to find its branches and ATMs (app link).

Arvest iphone app v2.0

However, the non-transactional app, which debuted last November, is undergoing a major facelift, with version 2.0 due in the store shortly. The bank offered a sneak peek on its blog this week (see inset).

The update contains four new functions:

  • Calculators: The app now includes access to a suite of 40 financial calculators (e.g., loan payment calculator) saving customers the time and hassle of searching for similar tools within the App Store.
  • Customer Connect will use the user's GPS location to provide location-sensitive customer service contacts, a great way for a financial institution to demonstrate their commitment to local service. 
  • Current Rates are easily accessible from a single button on the main page.
  • Arvest News houses its blog feed.

Bottom line: While these functions have been common on websites for a decade, as far as I know, this is the first app from a bank or credit union that includes all these features. Nice work.

Note:
1. In a search at AppFinder.com, there are currently 583 iPhone apps in the finance category with "bank" in their name or description. Another 483 contain "credit union" for a total of 1,066 banking apps. Not all of these are from financial institutions, but an estimated 70% to 80% FI apps.

Comments (2)

With the Launch of Foursquare-powered Social Currency, American Express Now Has 7 iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on September 23, 2010 6:31 PM | Comments (1)

In the spring, we predicted that 10 to 15 years from now there would be tens of thousands of iPhone apps from financial institutions alone (note 1). Our reasoning: Many (most?) larger FIs would have more than one app, perhaps dozens. At that time, nine financial institutions (note 2) were tied for most-prolific app deployers, each with two iPhone apps.

imageToday, I found out that American Express has blown that record away. With the release this week of a youth-oriented Foursqure-powered app, Social Currency (app link), the card issuer now has seven apps available for the iPhone alone (but still none for the iPad).

AmEx iPhone lineup
Two are from American Express Publishing (making the comparison to other financial institutions a little unfair):

  • Best New Chefs
  • Eat and Drink

Two are published by other companies:

And finally, three more from core card-issuers:

  • American Express used to access most AmEx cards
  • OPEN Forum for small business clients
  • mobileXtend that can only be used by employees of corporate clients who have licensed this service option 

American Express has seven apps available for the iPhone
Note: Shown here in search via iPad (22 Sep 2010)

American Express has seven apps available for the iPhone

Notes:
1. See Online Banking Report: The Case for Mobile Banking (published March 2010)
2. See Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking and Finance Apps (published April 2010)

Comments (1)

BankSimple Provides Sneak Peek of User Interface on iPad App

By Jim Bruene on August 12, 2010 5:49 PM | Comments

imageThe bank that everyone's talking about, and no one is using, finally released a few peeks at its user interface. Based on these screenshots posted on the bank's homepage (see last screenshot), it looks like a killer iPad app (note iPad logo in upper left of first screenshot).

image The startup also unveiled a new logo, moving from the trendy gray/red (left) to a bolder font in a very bank-like and comforting blue.

Finally, the startup has purchased the .com version of their URL, an important, albeit expensive, pre-launch move. Currently, banksimple.com redirects to the old .net version.

Screenshots

1. Safe-to-spend balance appears to incorporate future scheduled payments and displays goals to help users keep the bigger picture in mind, rather than spending the $1,208 on drinks and dinner out.

image

2. The bank's customer service focus illustrated in chat screen with co-founder Alex Payne. On the right you can get a glimpse of the transaction flow.

image

3. My favorite screenshot. It indicates the bank will use out-of-band authentication, a must-have these days. It also demonstrates that BankSimple is really thinking through the UI. Instead of tiny little digits requiring reading glasses, the bank provides the 5-digit code in big, bold numbers. They are also rendered in an attractive flipboard style.

image

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Note: HT to Keith Caswell @kthcswll for the tip.

Comments

Chase Adds Mobile Remote Deposit Capture and P2P Payments to its iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on July 3, 2010 10:53 AM | Comments (2)

imageChase Bank rolled out a major new release to its iPhone app on Thursday (v. 2.3.1) with the addition of both remote deposit capture and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments (see inset). Chase is the first to support both those important features in its mobile app (note 1). This post covers remote deposit, and I'll look at the P2P feature later.

How it works
I had been looking forward to depositing a check via the magic of the iPhone. But sadly, despite following the directions and capturing a good image of the front and back of the check, the software failed to scan the amount correctly (see screenshot 7).

The Chase app said the check scanned in at $0, despite it being a printed $200 check. I was testing with my trusty version 1 iPhone (circa 2007), which may not have a sharp enough camera. I'll try it on a newer iPhone and update the post. 

Here's the process for new users (click on the thumbnails to view larger versions):

1. The Chase Quick Deposit service has been added to the main navigation bar across the bottom.

2. Customers agree to terms and conditions. Note: The service is limited to $1,000 per day and no more than $3,000 per month, eliminating many businesses as potential users.

3. On the first screen, users enter the dollar amount of the check.

4. The app provides instructions on how to successfully capture the check image.

5. Take pictures of the front and back of the check.

6. Double check image quality.

7. Error message saying that the dollar amount from the scan ($0) did not match the amount entered ($200).

Summary: Despite the glitch on my first deposit attempt, I'm glad to see Chase moving the mobile state-of-the-art forward. I'm sure we'll see remote deposit added to most major mobile banking apps in the near future.

1. Signup screen           2. Customer agreement  3. Enter amount

image    image    image

4. Hints on image capture   5. Photograph the check front and back

image    image

6. View photo results                             7. Error message

image       image

Notes:
1. USAA was the first major bank with mobile remote deposit, launching it in Sep. 2009; while WV United FCU was the very first with it almost exactly one year ago.
2. For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

Comments (2)

The iPad: One Million Shipped in First Month, but Still No U.S. Bank or Credit Union Online Banking Apps

By Jim Bruene on May 3, 2010 5:13 PM | Comments (4)

image Apple today said it has shipped one million iPads (one of which went to a lucky Mint user, see inset). I don't think that's a surprise to anyone who's even mildly interested in tech.

It's debatable whether the iPad is a laptop killer, but if nothing else, it's a really capable portable media and game player. Given its appearances on The Grammys, Modern Family, Lettermen, and so on, and with Apple's cachet, how could the iPad not sell a million?

But the iPhone arrived with even more hype, and it took more than two months to sell a million back in the summer of 2007. But it was much more expensive considering the price of the phone and $800+ per year to AT&T. And there was no App Store back then: it was just email, SMS, Safari, YouTube, stock tracking and of course, my personal favorite, the weather button.

So I'm not surprised the iPad has consumer appeal. But I am surprised that no major U.S. financial brand, other than E*Trade (see screenshots below) has a native iPad app yet in the U.S. store (notes 1, 2). I expected at least a half-dozen by now. But there have been very few new apps in the iPad store across all categories. Only nine new apps have launched since April 3 in the finance category, bringing the total to 39 (see note 3; original post here ).

So, it may not entirely be the fault of the FIs. There is probably a logjam of apps waiting for approval from Apple. We look forward to seeing what the FIs and PFMs bring to the iPad throughout 2010.

E*Trade Apps: iPhone vs. iPad
Note: Relative size is accurate; see CNET's comparison of iPhone vs. iPad versions across 20 popular apps (previous post on why you need an iPad app here)

image      image

Notes:
1. Square also had its app available at launch, although they have yet to launch credit card processing, so it's not really functional yet. Card processing is expected to launch later this week when the iPhone app becomes available.
2. (Updated May 4 with "la Caixa" info and search info) They don't show on my U.S. iPad, but Spain's "la Caixa" added an iPad app to the U.S. store a few days ago (link) and Banco Sabadell has one in the U.S. store (link). Also, I just learned (May 4) that if you search specifically for the Spanish banks on my U.S. iPad, they do show up and have been successfully downloaded.
3. There are many mysteries of the App Store. One new one is the discrepancy between what's shown on my iPad vs. what's in the iTunes store. On my iPad, 30 finance apps showed on April 3, and there are now 39, for a growth of 9. iTunes shows 61 available today, up 18 from the 43 available on April 3. None of the extra 22 in iTunes are from financial institutions.
4. For more on mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

Comments (4)

New American Express iPhone App Does Away with Pesky Online Enrollment

By Jim Bruene on April 29, 2010 7:06 PM | Comments (5)

image As I've pointed out, the key to boosting mobile banking adoption is to make the user experience better than the desktop computer/browser version. But many banks shoot themselves in the foot immediately by requiring existing online banking users to first log in to online banking to enroll in mobile banking (see note 1).

I've never quite understood the logic. Why can't online banking customers use their existing credentials to log in via the mobile app? What's the new risk? If anything, you are more likely to get your credentials stolen via desktop login than mobile login (at least for now).

imageSo far, the mobile banking apps I've used have required initial activation via online banking (see note 2). I'm sure their security folk can sleep better knowing that I've proven ownership of the phone before logging in from it. But you don't have to prove you own the PC before using it, so what's the difference?

But finally, one of my financial providers, American Express, launched an iPhone app (note 3; iTunes link) that I can use right away by logging in with my online banking credentials (see screenshot below). I expect this will soon become the industry standard.

American Express iPhone app screenshots (version 1.1)

image     image

American Express mobile landing page (link, 29 April 2010)

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Notes:
1. Even more important is enabling online enrollment of customers NOT using online banking; but that's a trickier, albeit potentially lucrative, project.
2. I am using mobile iPhone banking at Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and US Bank. While BofA, Wells and Chase (Update April 30, Chase has online enrollment for text messaging only; you can sign on to its iPhone app with your online banking credentials) all have a relatively painless 60-second signup process, US Bank's is truly cumbersome. It's a ten-screen experience that not only takes several minutes, but also requires the creation of not one, but two new PINs. A 4-digit one for transferring funds via mobile and a six-digit one for use in subsequent mobile app logins. While I'm all for simplified logins, six-digit PINs are not standard and many users will have a tough time remembering it. Many users may resort to using their mobile number, which kind of defeats the purpose. Use four digits and block access after four attempts.
3. The American Express app was released March 31 and a new update was released today.
4. For more on mobile banking see our recent Online Banking Reports.

Comments (5)

Jack Henry Unleashes 23 Mobile Banking Apps Into the iPhone App Store in April

By Jim Bruene on April 26, 2010 10:07 PM | Comments

imageWe've been closely tracking mobile apps. In the 21 months since Apple opened its App Store, 77 U.S. financial institution added apps, about four per month (see our latest report for more info).

Then last week, 18 new bank apps appeared. And they all shared a certain, shall we say utilitarian, look (see below). Turns out they are pushed out by Jack Henry for its NetTeller clients. While they won't win any design awards, it's good to be in the app store.

In total, Jack Henry now has 24 clients represented in the store. All but one, Ohio Valley Bank, were added in April (see table below).

We can now officially report there are more than 100 U.S. financial institution in the iTunes App Store. Just 10,000+ more to go.

Bank Service Name Date
Ohio Valley Bank - 2 Feb 2010
Bank of Brookhaven goDough 2 April 2010
Valley View Bank Mobile Banking 2 April 2010
Ohio Valley Financial Group goMobile 5 April 2010
Alpine Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
American National Bank of Texas Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
First Dakota National Bank eMobile Banking 16 April 2010
First Fidelity Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
First National Bank of the Rockies FNBR Mobile 16 April 2010
First State Community Bank FSCB Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Bank of Granite Granite Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Institution for Savings goMobile Banking 16 April 2010
Lone Star National Bank LSNB Mobile 16 April 2010
Mascoma Savings Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Susquehanna Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
Simmons First Bank Anywhere 17 April 2010
Northway Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
State Bank of Lizton Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
Stonegate Bank Mobile Connect 17 April 2010
Texas Bank and Trust TBT gomobile 17 April 2010
The Bank of Elk River eMobile Banking 17 April 2010
Western National Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
The Bank of Miami TBOM Mobile 17 April 2010
Pendleton Community Bank yourbank2go 17 April 2010
Westerly Community Credit Union WCCUmobile 21 April 2010

Source: AppShopper.com (data drawn from iTunes), 22 April 2010

The two screenshots posted for Western National Bank's iPhone app, powered by Jack Henry (26 April 2010)

image     image

Comments

Why You Should Build an iPad Banking App (Even Though You Don't Need To)

By Jim Bruene on April 11, 2010 9:51 AM | Comments (4)

One week into the iPad era there are still no banks or credit unions with iPad-specific apps (note 1). There also aren't any major PFM or other financial brands present, other than Square and E*Trade. Mint's not even there yet.

What's going on? On Friday, The Financial Brand's Jeffry Pilcher tweeted the question that's on a lot of bankers' minds:

                     image

While I suspect Jeffry is mostly being provocative, it's a question worth discussing. Should financial institutions build an iPad app?

The Web experience on the iPad is outstanding. It has a lightening-fast Safari browser built in. It loads my bank's webpage as fast or faster than my MacbookPro or Thinkpad X41. The iPad virtual keyboard makes it easy to type username and password. And for the most part (Flash is a problem), websites look and perform perfectly on the iPad (use ipadpeek.com if you want to see what your webpage looks like in an iPad layout).

So yes, online banking works fine on iPads. But you can say the same thing about most evolutionary products. Telephone calls work fine on corded phones. Cars work fine without cup holders. Refrigerators work fine without ice makers. And so on.

An iPad app isn't about utility, it's about a great user experience. The ability to click on a banking button on the main iPad screen and launch a perfectly sized online banking app shaves 30 to 45 seconds off the traditional browser-based approach (open Safari, navigate to my bank, and find the login button). There are also things you can do with an app, such as location-aware ATM/branch finder, that make it a better experience (note 2). 

So here's why most major financial brands should have an iPad app now:

  • Free publicity (part 1): As of today, there are only 39 iPad apps in the Finance category. Each of the 562,000+ iPad owners, and millions of others browsing the iTunes App Store, would see your brand showcased there.
  • Free publicity (part 2): There was, and is, a tremendous amount of hype around the iPad. Being the first bank/CU in your country/state/region/city/neighborhood with an iPad app will net you numerous mentions online and in print.
  • It's cool: While financial institutions are rightly focused on the basics right now, there is still considerable value in being seen as a technology leader.
  • It's inexpensive: Building a basic iPad/iPhone app is a relatively simple project. If it did nothing more than connect to online banking and show nearby ATMs/branches, you'd receive most of the benefits listed above.
  • It's the future: Apps and widgets will play a large role in banking info delivery going forward, especially in mobile banking. You should be designing apps for every significant platform. In the U.S. that means the iPhone and Android, then iPad and Blackberry after that (see note 3).

And one final note for the 67 U.S. financial institutions that already have iPhone apps. Yes, you still need an iPad one. While the iPhone app runs fine, it is displayed in a small window the size of an iPhone. Users can press a button in the lower-right corner to doublesize the app, but images and text become fuzzy, and it just doesn't look right (although it is functional as you can see in the screenshots below).

Bank of America's iPhone app displayed on iPad screen (5 April 2010)
Note: Click on the images below to see the quality difference

              Normal size                                                             Double sized

 image      image

Notes:
1. As of 11 PM Pacific April 10, the only major financial brand with an iPad app is E*Trade MobilePro, which is more about stock trading, not banking.
2. For more on financial apps and the iPhone, see our March 2009 Online Banking Report.
3. For more on the importance of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.
4. Hat-tip to Banking Kismet for blogging on the subject.

Comments (4)
Categories: Apple, Mobile Banking, iPad, iPhone

Mobile Firsts: State Farm Offers Auto Insurance Discounts to Graduates of its Steer Clear iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on March 10, 2010 7:03 PM | Comments (2)

imageLast week I talked about how USAA is making the mobile experience better than online thanks to the magic of mobile remote deposit and PIN-based login. For the sake of discussion, I'm defining magic as anything you could not have imagined doing on your mobile phone two years ago (note 1).

The latest novel financial app: State Farm's Steer Clear program that provides auto insurance discounts "up to 15%" for new drivers (under age 25) that pass its safe driving program. Users can undergo the self-assessment program online or off, but the app makes it easier and with a built-in stopwatch (screenshot below) to track the required 20 practice drives. See how it works in the company's video below (press release here; iTunes link here). 

image As much as I like it, the State Farm app doesn't quite make it into the magical category. Had it used GPS to automatically track the 20 practice drives, it might have passed the bar. I'm sure that's in a future version.

Regardless, it's clever, unique and positions the company well with the youth market and their parents that often foot the insurance bills. That's a good return on the small investment needed to port the program over to a mobile app (note 2).

Notes:
1. I am using two years, since that predates the opening of the iPhone App Store in July 2008.
2. Read more about the strategic advantages mobile banking can give your financial institution in our latest Online Banking Report published today.

Comments (2)

Citibank, Microsoft Join Forces with Bundle, a Personal Finance Site with a Data Bent

By Jim Bruene on January 29, 2010 5:21 PM | Comments (1)

image I had been intrigued about rumors that Microsoft and Citibank were partnering on a joint personal-finance venture called Bundle. I was hoping for the financial services version of an Apple launch.

OK, that's a little too high of a bar to set. I was really just hoping for the next Mint or at least something we hadn't seen before. To some extent, Bundle delivered, with Mint-like attention to design and deeper data than we've seen previously. But in other ways it's just a me-too personal finance site, FiLife 2.0. Bottom line, Bundle has been open only a week so it's way too early to predict where it's going or how it makes money. 

imageBundle is a personal finance startup backed by Citibank, Microsoft, and Morningstar. Two of the key execs, including CEO Jaidev Shergill, are from Citi Growth Ventures, the group charged with commercializing products and ideas that have bubbled up within the banking giant. The startup also enlisted professional journalists, including Janet Paskin who's written for Dow Jones's SmartMoney Magazine among others.

Given that pedigree, the new site is kind of a SmartMoney Magazine meets your credit card statement with some social networking thrown in the mix.  

What distinguishes it from most personal finance content providers is that Bundle showcases proprietary data, sourced from Citibank's massive card-spending warehouse. The site gives center stage to data and shows household spending personalized to your specific location.

There's also professional personal finance advice mixed with stories and comment from the community. Even the articles use the database to illustrate points (screenshot 3). 

image Naturally, it's well-integrated to Facebook. You cannot even comment unless you log in via Facebook Connect. You can follow Bundle on Twitter, of course, but surprisingly there is no blog or RSS feed.

And Bundle already has its own iPhone app called Vice Tracker (iTunes link) that makes shopping for non-essentials into a tongue-in-cheek game. The unique app was added to the store two weeks ago in the Lifestyle category. 

According to the FAQs, Bundle's business model is advertising, but there are no ads on the site yet, other than the logos of the backers (Microsoft is using its MSN Money brand). Presumably, they are looking for financial advertisers, but the Citibank connection might make that a harder sell.

Analysis
I like what Bundle is doing, creating a consumer-facing company around Citibank's cardholder data. But I can't figure out who they are targeting. Maybe they haven't decided yet.

If they want to attract data junkies like myself, the data needs to be more transparent and they need more robust tools to play with it. I enjoyed being able to compare the spending of my Seattle neighbors against that of my home town in Iowa (it's surprisingly similar). But I was left with a number of questions: 

  • Where does the spending data come from? The FAQs are vague on saying that it comes from Citibank card data, government sources and "other third parties." 
  • If it's primarily Citibank card data, is it really representative of the entire town or just the people that hold Citibank cards? For example, Bundle tells me (screenshot #3)  that the average dining out expense in Seattle is $115 and the most common spot is Starbucks followed by McDonalds. Something seems wrong with that.  
  • And furthermore, are these estimates of all spending or just that on Citibank cards? And which Citi portfolios are included? What about business cards?
  • The graphical bubbles are nice, but I like to view data in tables, especially when trying to drill down and do meaningful analysis. Is there some way to see the underlying numbers?

On the other hand, if Bundle is trying to attract readers looking for personal finance advice and discussion, the data is kind of in the way, more window dressing than anything else.

Final thoughts
The graphics are great and the spending data is interesting. But why would I come back? There's only so many times in one's life that you want to compare the shopping habits of your city vs. somewhere else.

Presumably, future versions will allow you to compare your actual spending to the Bundle averages using account-aggregation technology. This is a popular feature of Wesabe, and is one of the major tenets of what we've called "social personal finance" (note 1, 2).

I also expect they'll integrate Bundle into the Citibank cardholder site so its customers can do online comparisons while they are checking their statement online.  If Citi can document a spending lift from bundled Bundle, then the startup has proven its value. Armed with that success, it could be licensed to other big card issuers, increasing the value of the Bundle data for all users, attracting more users and more advertisers. The network effect. Perhaps that's the end game here. 

#1: Main Bundle page after selecting "Seattle" as location to show spending (29 Jan. 2010)

image

#2: Main page after drilling down through the "Food & Drink" bubble (link)
Note: Top five restaurants for dining out in Seattle are Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway, Red Robin and Cheesecake Factory. That sounds possible, but then the average purchase size is listed at $115. That's a lot of lattes or Big Macs.

image

#3: The ever-present "spending balls" hover above an article by Bundle Managing Editor Janet Paskin's short post. The balls compare the spending in Brooklyn with her hometown Seattle 
Note: Brooklyn comes out cheaper, see the solid circles (Brooklyn) in front of the cross-hatched ones (Seattle).

image

Notes:
1. See our previous reports on Social Personal Finance (2007) and Online Investment Communities (2008).
2. Wesabe would seem to be a great acquisition if Bundle wants to add the aggregation technology piece and jump-start its user base.  Blippy-like features would also make the site more sticky.
3. For more background on the software tools being used, see the article on Bundle in Microsoft's Financial Services publication published 22 Nov. 2009.

Comments (1)

What Does the New Apple iPad Mean for Banking?

By Jim Bruene on January 27, 2010 3:08 PM | Comments (4)

image_thumb11Apple today introduced its latest invention, a gigantic $499 iPod Touch called the iPad (inset shows iPad, Kindle, vs. iPhone; note 1).

It's a gorgeous piece of technology that will soon be the movie-watching, ebook-reading device of choice for the rich and famous. But what does it mean for the average financial institution?

Tactically, it should have almost zero impact. Your iPhone/iTouch app should work pretty much the same on the iPad. There may be some design tweaks your programmers will need to understand, but the basic functionality is the same.

It would make a wonderful giveaway item, either as part of a high-end business/private banking package (note 2), or as a sweepstakes prize.     

So those of you who already have an iPhone app launched, or in the pipeline, can stop reading now. But read on if you haven't yet hopped on the app bandwagon.

___________________________________________________________________________

ipad_portrait_landscape.png

The movement to apps, and away from old-school "browsing," is unstoppable. The iPad joins a growing list of new devices (Android, Kindle, etc.) that are app-primary, browser-secondary (note 3).

It's a massive shift that's happened in less than two years, beginning in July 2008 when Apple opened the iPhone platform.

The popularity of apps is changing how users tap online info. Even power laptop/desktop users are making dramatic changes in their information consumption. For example, within a few months of the Apple app store launch, I had already moved 12 of my routine info-gathering tasks to the iPhone. The speed/convenience of pressing a single button vs. navigating to a website via the browser is a significant improvement in user experience. More than a year later, my habits have changed little. 

The change from serving customers who were "online browsers" and are now "mobile app users" has profound implications for banking. Instead of talking to your customers in batch- mode with built-in time delays, you are now real-time, feeding data to customer on the go, where they need up-to-the-minute status on their cash situation.   

In many ways, the ROI for real-time banking (and here) is more dramatic than online-batch banking. The ability to stamp out POS fraud, to nip budding customer service nightmares, and just plain get closer to the customer, all bring nice returns on the mobile investment (note 3).

Notes:
1. Photo credit: TechCrunch post today.
2. For more info on using a dedicated device for small business customers, see our October Online Banking Report.
3. Groundswell author and Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff calls this the "splinternet."
4. For more info on financial services opportunities on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.
5. Initial response online was mixed, 2,700 readers of CrunchGear, voted "thumbs sideways" today (link, results at 4PM Pacific below)

ipad_poll.png

Comments (4)

Nationwide Insurance is Fourth Financial Institution with Multiple iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on January 11, 2010 6:57 PM | Comments (2)

image In November, we predicted that large financial institutions would each offer dozens of mobile apps targeted to various lines of business and/or customer segments (previous post). PNC Bank, Wells Fargo and Chase each have two apps in the iPhone store.

Three weeks ago, a fourth financial company added its second app: Nationwide Insurance.

The company originally launched an app (inset) geared towards its insurance customers in April 2009 (press release; iTunes store link). This app is designed to assist its insurance customers when they have an accident. The most recent version includes a toolkit, auto claim form, agent finder and even a flashlight.

Then in mid-December, the company released a second app geared towards automobile shoppers, Cartopia (screenshots below; iTunes link; press release). It helps buyers research prospective cars on the go.

By inputting a vehicle identification number (VIN), consumers can quickly access the following info on a prospective vehicle:

  • Car specs (fuel economy, dimensions, weight, etc.)
  • Average retail and wholesale prices
  • 5-year cost-of-ownership estimates
  • Original warranty info
  • Safety info
  • History of the VIN number, powered by Experian's AutoCheck (similar to Carfax report; limited to six free lookups each month; note 1)

In addition, users can calculate monthly loan payments with a built-in loan calculator. Nationwide also provides links for customers to call in to apply for vehicle financing and or receive an insurance quote. Unfortunately, there is no online loan application or insurance price quote engine.

Finally, the app contains space to keep notes and rate the cars you are considering purchasing.

Relevance to Netbankers: If you are in the auto loan and/or insurance business, getting your name in front of car buyers as they shop is the ultimate marketing coup. While you may not be able to emulate all the functions in Nationwide's app (note 2), even a simple loan calculator and note-taking area, along with links to your call center, could drive incremental business.

                                                                                    Cartopia #2 Main Loan info with link to
     Cartopia #1: Splash screen                          insurance quote (via voice call)

image            image

Notes:
1. I was unable to access the report on my test vehicle; the error message said it was temporarily unavailable.
2. Although the app is loaded with features, its UI is a bit clunky and the app is only rated two stars in Apple's App Store. Consequently, a slimmed down, simpler app, would appeal to many users.  
3. For more info on financial services opportunities on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.

Comments (2)

Another Bank Unleashes Remote Deposit for the iPhone: Royal Bank America

By Jim Bruene on January 7, 2010 6:33 PM | Comments (1)

image Another bank is about to join USAA (post), WV United FCU  (post), and Randolph-Brooks FCU (post) in the smartphone-enabled deposit sphere. Royal Bank America, a $1.3 billion (asset) Philadelphia-area institution, is in final testing of its new deposit-taking iPhone app called RoyalRDC (iTunes link).

image The new app appeared in Apple's iTunes store on Monday, but currently the bank is accepting only beta testers (see screenshot below). The app, said to be coming "within weeks," allows a check to be deposited within 30 seconds using any model iPhone.

The bank is currently promoting the benefits of remote deposit on its home page (see screenshot below). Not only can RDC users skip the trip to the branch, they have 2 additional hours to make a deposit for same-day credit (6 PM instead of 4 PM). That's an enticing additional benefit nicely highlighted through the shaded-clock image below. 

Royal Bank America homepage (7 Jan. 2010)
Note: This is the homepage view after refreshing the page once; yellow highlight is mine.

image

Royal Bank call for beta testers (link)

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Note: For more info on mobile banking on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.

Comments (1)

Chase Bank's Second iPhone App: Gift Planner

By Jim Bruene on November 24, 2009 7:02 PM | Comments (2)

imageA few days ago, we predicted there would be tens of thousands of financial institution iPhone apps as the big banks released dozens to support their major business lines. PNC Bank and Wells Fargo were the two examples we cited.

There's another multi-app bank: Chase. In our search for an iPhone gift planner to replace the web-based Zions Bank service, we ran discovered the bank's Gift Planner (iTunes link).

Version 1.0 was released in time for the holidays last year (3 Dec. 2008), but it looks like Chase didn't take over ownership/sponsorship until release 2.0 in August. The app is supported by an excellent small website at yourgiftplanner.com that displays the app and solicits feedback.

image The app and website are 100% Chase branded. The only indication that a third party is involved is a notation in the iTunes store that the app is sold by The Archer Group (inset), a Wilmington, DE-based digital agency.

Evidently, the app didn't show up on our radar because it's placed in the App Store Productivity category instead of Financial. The app doesn't appear to be mentioned on the Chase main website. A site search there came up blank.

Review: It's great looking app that can be used for any holiday. The app supports "shake for help," an advanced feature. The integration with your contact list makes it easy to add new contacts without typing, although you must wade through your entire list. And, the imageprocess of adding gifts is a bit tedious. You have to add a gift to the master gift list, then go to each person and add the gift to their profile. It would be better if you could simply type a gift on the fly.

iPhone users have been relatively unimpressed, giving the latest version a 2-star rating out of five; pretty low for a professional app (see inset).

It's a good branding tool for Chase, but it the app itself could use retooling.

Gift Planner iPhone screenshots (24 Nov 2009)

image   image   image

Gift Planner website (link)

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Note: For more info on mobile banking on the iPhone see our March Online Banking Report.

Comments (2)

Mercedes-Benz Financial Launches Car Finance iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on October 6, 2009 11:33 AM | Comments (2)

imageAs an analyst who covers new developments in online and mobile finance, I will forever be grateful to Apple for opening up the mobile-phone platform, thereby unleashing a rush of innovations sure to rival the Internet circa 1995 to 2001 (note 1).

The latest financial app is from none other than Mercedes-Benz. The luxury-car maker has several iPhone apps available to its fans, but the latest, which appeared in the App Store last Tuesday, is specifically designed for its finance customers (iTunes link to app). It's the first captive finance company with its own app, at least in the U.S.

Other than the striking homepage image, the app is pretty pedestrian so far. It allows registered users (note 2) to make a car payment, calculate the pay-off amount, and find dealers and customer service numbers. In other words, it's a lot like the company's website ten years ago (note 3).

But that's OK, for now. Financial brands should take advantage of the free publicity of the iPhone App Store and  post something, even if it's just a window to their Web app (worked for Bank of America).

Along those lines, SunTrust (iTunes link) is the latest megabank to join the store (last week), leaving US Bank, Capital One, BB&T, and HSBC as the remaining top-10 U.S. retail banks without their own iPhone app. Who will be the last one in?

Mercedes-Benz Financial's homepage includes iPhone link (6 Oct 2009)

image

iPhone landing page (link)

 image

Notes:
1. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009)
2. Users must set up a profile online at Mercedes-BenzFinancial.com  before accessing their accounts via iPhone.
3. But I'm kind of surprised MB didn't include a payments calculator, standard fare at most car sites.

Comments (2)

Watch the First Mobile Payment Made via Starbucks Card iPhone App at Downtown Seattle Location

By Jim Bruene on September 24, 2009 4:39 PM | Comments (5)

imageJohn Cook, a Seattle tech blogger at TechFlash, was apparently the first customer to use the new Starbucks Mobile Card iPhone app to purchase coffee at the Seattle Columbia Center Starbucks. The video was posted at 3 PM yesterday. For more info on the app, see yesterday's post.

He had a little trouble getting the point-of-sale scanner to read his iPhone-app-generated barcode, but after an extra few seconds (25 seconds actually) of wiggling the phone, the transaction worked (the transaction begins at about the 1:19 mark). Hopefully, with a little practice, users will know where to place their phones in front of the scanner for easy reading. He also demonstrates a card reload after the purchase (at 3:05 mark).

Notes:
1. The myStarbucks app has moved up to number 6 in the iTunes app store, while the mobile card is at number 29 (as of 4:30 PM Pacific).
2. The mobile payments capability is live at all 16 test locations as of yesterday.

Comments (5)

Starbucks Launches First Dedicated iPhone App for Stored-Value Cards

By Jim Bruene on September 23, 2009 6:35 PM | Comments (3)

image This is a huge day, and one that I hadn't expected for at least another couple years. The convergence of mobile payments and caffeine. What more could a mobile banking geek and coffee connoisseur want? 

Starbucks pioneered stored-value cards and launched its first card in 2001. Today, it became the first company (note 1) to create an iPhone app exclusively for a payments card. Apparently, Finovate alum mFoundry helped build the app (cnet story, thanks Brandon).

Users were offered $5 extra credit on their first Starbucks card reload of $25 or more made from the new app. Registered cardholders received an email notification earlier today urging them to "turn your iPhone into a Starbucks card." (see screenshot below).

Note, the Starbucks Card Mobile app (app store link) is in addition to the regular myStarbucks app which has a store locator, coffee/drink info and a favorites-sharing function (app store link). That app also launched today (notes 2, 3). 

The app is gorgeous and shows how important design can be in creating a trustworthy and easy-to-use payment product (note 4). For example:

Home screen (left screenshot):

  • The card balance is immediately and prominently displayed

Reload screen (middle screenshot)

  • Uses big, easy-to-read buttons--remember, this is a small screen, with a giant green, full-width Continue button  
  • Current balance repeats at the top

Mobile payment screen (right screenshot)

  • The bar code for mobile point-of-sale payments (test only, see below) is rendered over a background image of the card, complete with card number, a nice touch to reassure users and Starbucks baristas that this is the real thing.

Analysis
Of course, the mobile commerce and banking community will be abuzz about the mobile payments test. At 16 Starbucks locations (8 in Seattle and 8 in Silicon Valley), iPhone users will be able to pay at the counter using a barcode generated on screen (right screenshot). Luckily, several Starbucks are within a couple miles of my home so I'll be able to report back with results as soon as the test locations are live.

But I think the stored value card management functions are more interesting for the present. Just think if you had an application that looked like this for your debit or credit card. Think of the brand-value uptick, PR notice, and word-of-mouth buzz. 

Starbucks Card Mobile screenshots (23 Sep 2009)

image    image   image     

Email announcing the new mobile card app (sent to a registered Starbucks cardholder in the mobile payments test market, 23 Sep 2009, 12:43 PM Pacific)

image

 

Notes:
1. Starbucks is the first company in the U.S. to have a dedicated app for a payments card. Although unaware of any elsewhere in the world, I would expect that card apps exist, at least in Asian markets.
2. The main Starbucks app is currently the 33rd most popular free app in the store and number 1 in Lifestyle; Starbucks Card Mobile is number 46 overall and 3 in Lifestyle (6 PM Pacific).
Update (9 PM Pacific): myStarbucks has moved to number 19 and Starbucks Card Mobile to 38.
3. The Starbucks apps are huge, 6.3 MB for the regular and 3.7 MB for the card, so makes sure you have good reception or are connected via WiFi.
4. However, I have been unable to log in to my actual Starbucks account as of 7 PM Pacific, owing perhaps to overloaded servers.
5. For more info on financial institution opportunities, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

Comments (3)

ING Direct Releases Home Loan Toolkit for the iPhone

By Jim Bruene on September 4, 2009 12:05 AM | Comments (1)

imageHave I mentioned that the iPhone is amazing? I'm not sure if it's because it's so useful having a computer in my pocket 24/7, or that it gives me so much material for Netbanker and Online Banking Report (probably the latter).

Now that we are beginning the second year of the App Store, we are starting to see some more interesting things on the finance front. For the first year it was all about tip calculators, balance inquiry, ATM locators, and manual-entry expense trackers.

This summer, we're beginning to see the bigger potential with the launch of remote check depositing from WV United Credit Union and USAA (which also loaded helpful auto insurance features into its app). And Apple's new OS 3.0, which supports push notifications, will be a boon to mobile banking apps.

But that's just the beginning. There will be an app for anything you might want to do with your finances. The latest: a free Home Loan Toolkit for prospective home buyers from ING Direct Australia. The app appeared in the U.S. App Store yesterday (here).  There's no mention of it on the bank's website yet, but Google pointed me to the well-designed microsite (here) supporting the app (screenshot below).  

It's pretty straightforward with just three functions:

  • Calculators to determine how much you can afford to borrow and what the payments would be
  • A call-me request form
  • Average home prices by area

Screenshots from ING Direct Australia's new iPhone app (3 Sep 2009)

image   image   image

 image       image 

ING Direct Australia iPhone Home Loan Toolkit microsite (link, 3 Sep 2009)
Note: The five iPhone screenshots (above) rotate through the iPhone pictured below. Alternatively, users can scroll through the screens with the control under the phone.

image

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Note: For more info on the native iPhone apps, see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.:

Comments (1)

Don't Waste the Marketing & Communication Benefits of an iPhone App Update

By Jim Bruene on August 31, 2009 4:29 PM | Comments

image I've written plenty about the importance of the iPhone App Store, both here and in Online Banking Report (note 1). But there's one subtle side benefit I hadn't thought too much about previously. 

Every time a new version of a native app is released, users must take action to download it if they want the new features. While this process used to be a nightmare in the desktop software days where users had to use floppy disks, CDs or large downloads to reinstall the software, it's an absolute breeze on the iPhone and usually takes less than a minute from start to finish. And there's no restarting the iPhone or choosing installation options. It's just a one-click process plus the input of your iTunes password if you weren't already logged in.

So why is this process a benefit? Because each time a new release is available a little icon shows on top of the App Store icon (see screenshot 1 below). Users then press the App Store icon, choose update, and they see a list of applications with updates available (screenshot 2). At that point users choose to update them all or look at them individually.

We believe most users are interested enough in their financial apps to take a look at the update, at least until the novelty of the mobile app wears off some years in the future. This provides financial institutions a free marketing opportunity to not only explain the new features of the app, but also deliver other marketing messages. You are much more likely to make an impression with your customers during the update process, compared to sending out a random marketing email.

In the three bank examples below, only USAA (screenshot 3) uses the opportunity to further cement its relationship with mobile customers, touting its new remote deposit capabilities along with several other enhancements. Wells Fargo (screenshot 4) takes a matter-of-fact, "we're fixing bugs" approach that is OK, but still misses the chance to communicate with users. But Chase (screenshot 5) completely annoys users with two sentences of marketing speak that says nothing about the update. 

Lessons for financial & mobile marketers: Whenever you release an update for your mobile app (note 2), take the opportunity to communicate with your customers as follows:

  • Clearly explain the benefits of the changes to the app
  • Highlight one or two related benefits of the app
  • Mention any related news or promotions
  • Strike a good balance between disseminating technical info and marketing new benefits

Screenshots

1. Main iPhone screen shows                        2. The Updates page shows the 4 apps
    that 4 app updates are                                       that have new versions available.
    available (right side halfway down).

image      image

3. USAA's latest update explains the specific changes made and provides several new benefits to using the app.

image

4 & 5. On the other hand, the Wells Fargo and Chase update messages are sparse. The Wells Fargo update appears to be a minor bug fix, so we'll cut them some slack for the terse message. However, Chase, with a minor update (2.0.1 update) to its major 2.0 release (released Aug 25), says absolutely nothing in 24 words of marketing-speak: 

We're listening -- You asked for a fully native iPhone banking application. This Chase iPhone app is built exclusively for iPhone and iPod touch users.

Seriously Chase, this is the best you could come up for the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of iPhone users waiting for your updated app? At least the bank gets points for brevity.

                   Screenshot 4                                                             Screenshot 5

image       image

Note:
1. For more info on the importance of a native iPhone app see Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.
2. The same advice holds true for communicating online banking improvements as well, although the communication methods are different (email, newsletter, statement insert, blog, interstitials, log-off messages, etc.).

Comments

Banking Apps in the Google Android Market vs. Apple iPhone App Store

By Jim Bruene on August 24, 2009 6:10 PM | Comments (4)

image A few weeks ago, we noted a milestone at Apple's iPhone App Store, 1000 apps available in the finance category (U.S. store). I was been curious how that compared to Google's Android Market so today I did a quick comparison.

The Android market now has a respectable 211 apps in the finance category. However, few financial institutions have staked a claim. Only, Bank of America and Alliant Credit Union, had branded apps (see note 1, 2).

In comparison, the iTunes App Store has 11 U.S. banking apps and 3 from U.S. credit unions. That's up from 6 banks and no credit unions when we published our most recent report on the subject (see note 3).  See the the following table for details. Did I miss any? Let me know in comments or email jim@netbanker.com

  Google Android (Rank) Apple App Store (Rank)
Number of finance apps 211 1,089
Number of U.S. bank-branded apps (note 1)

(number shown is rank in the finance category)
#2 Bank of America #1 Bank of America
#2 USAA
#3 Chase
#4 Wells Fargo
#10 E*Trade
#13 Citibank
#28 & 32 PNC Bank
#43 BBVA Compass
#156 IBC
#409 1st Mariner Bank ATM/Branch locator
#962 Plaza Bank Mtg Calc
Number of CU-branded apps #30 Alliant CU -- ATM Locator #185 Tech CU
#327 CUloc8 (TDECU)
#411 iDeposit (WV United FCU)

Source: Online Banking Report tally, 24 Aug 2009

1. In addition, Qualcomm's Firethorn unit has an app that works with several dozen banks and card issuers including Citi, Chase, Wachovia, SunTrust and USAA. It's ranked tenth in the Android Market and 15th in the iPhone App Store. Also, in the Android Market, Visa has a beta app that works with Chase cards ranked #77. However, according to commenters, that test is ending in September.
2. There are another 15-20 international banks listed in the iPhone App Store.
3. Our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking was published March 11, 2009.

Comments (4)

USAA Hits 1 Million Mobile Users; Grabs Great Press Coverage with Remote Deposit Feature

By Jim Bruene on August 10, 2009 11:04 AM | Comments

imageThe New York Times ran a positive piece on USAA's mobile efforts today, leading with the bank's innovative mobile rimageemote check deposit service. A feature the bank announced in June and is rolling out this week.

USAA is the first major financial institution to use the iPhone's camera to allow customers to upload paper checks for automatic deposit. However, it was beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU, which launched a cruder version two weeks ago (previous post).

The San Antonio-based bank with 7.2 million customers, now has one million mobile users, a 14% penetration rate, up from 11% in May. It's the second U.S. financial institution (after Bank of America with more than 3 million; see note 1) to officially hit the million mark, though Chase/WaMu and Wells/Wachovia are believed to have passed that milestone last year.

Financial institution lesson: Mobile banking, and the iPhone specifically, still make a great story for the press (and customers). If you're first in your market with an iPhone app, or some other mobile milestone, let the media know.

Live demo of USAA's Deposit@Home iPhone app
Starts at 1-minute mark

Note:
1. 43% of BofA's mobile customers access via iPhone or iPod Touch. The bank does not yet support text-banking, so it's user base is skewed towards smartphone users.
2. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking

Comments

1,000th iPhone Finance Application Added to Apple App Store Today

By Jim Bruene on July 30, 2009 6:23 PM | Comments

imageToday marked an Apple App Store milestone of sorts, the 1000th application available in the Finance category (USA store). Finance is less than 2% of the total store, which now stands at 63,300, according to AppShopper.com

Lucky number 1000 was Easy Mortgage (iTunes link), a $0.99 mortgage calculator from Italian developer Nexus (screenshot below).

image Four other new Finance apps debuted today, just missing the 1000 mark: 

  • #997 MLM: A multi-level marketing guide from PTAJ Marketing for $2.99
  • #998 Renting: A guide to renting a house or apartment from also from PJAT Marketing for $2.99
  • #999 Forex: A guide to foreign exchange trading again from PJAT Marketing
  • #1001 TaxTax: A $1.99 sales tax calculator from Canbuffi Web Development

Bottom line: These thousand apps are just the tip of the iceberg for the Finance category. It will likely grow to well over 10,000 during the next few years as most major banks and credit unions add their own apps to the mix. 

Currently, there are fewer than 50 financial institutions with their own dedicated app, including eight of the top 15 (most popular based on recent download volume): 1st (Bank of America), 2nd (Chase), 3rd (Wells Fargo), 4th (PayPal), 8th (E*Trade), 12th (Citibank), 13th (USAA) and 14th (multiple banks via Firethorn).    

For more info on the features and benefits of a good financial institution iPhone app, see our recent Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009). 

Comments
Categories: Apple, Mobile Banking, iPhone

WV United Federal Credit Union is First with iPhone-based Remote Check Scan & Deposit

By Jim Bruene on July 12, 2009 5:37 PM | Comments (2)

imageIn June, we reported on USAA's upcoming iPhone app that will support remote check deposits. But it looks like they were beaten to market by tiny WV United FCU headquartered in Charleston, WV. Haven't heard of WV United? They have just six employees, $11 million in assets, and 3,000 members.

But somehow they were able to pull off something that no other financial institution has yet to accomplish, accepting paper check deposits via a native iPhone application (iTunes link, see note 1 and 2). The application was added to the iPhone App Store on July 4, and the CU wasted no time in heralding the innovation with a homepage banner (see screenshot below).

imageThe application could not be simpler. Users take a picture by pressing the button on the left (see inset), verifying that the image is readable, then uploading with the button on the right. WV United uses the member's mobile phone number to apply it to the correct account. The latest iPhone OS 3.0 is required.

The credit union also accepts deposits via in-home scanners using secure file transfers powered by LeapFile (co-branded site here).

It appears both services simply send images to the credit union where an employee manually converts them to ACH items. According to the E-Deposit customer agreement, the first 10 items each month are free; a $1 fee per item for the remainder of the month is charged. This allows for collection of a bit of fee revenue from small business members, while enabling most consumers to use it free of charge.

Certainly, fraud possibilities exist. But the CU's normal deposit-processing controls should mitigate most of the risk (see E-Deposit funds availability policy here). 

Mitek Systems introduced a mobile remote-deposit system last year (post here), but it's not yet in production at any financial institutions. 

imageAnalysis: Although not a feature that will see widespread usage, mobile check deposits will prove convenient for certain customers, especially mobile small businesses. More importantly, it helps differentiate between online and mobile services.

So, for raising the bar in mobile banking, we are awarding WV United with our first OBR Best of the Web award for 2009 (note 3). In the 12 years we've given the award, WV United is by far the smallest financial institution to win. 

WV United FCU homepage with iPhone banner (11 July 2009)

image

iPhone app landing page (link)

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Notes:
1. Sometimes it's nice to be small. WV United has six employees total, according to NCUA data. Most large banks would have a project team larger than that just to do the feasibility study on mobile remote-deposit capture.
2. For more info on the importance of iPhone applications for financial services, see our recent full report: Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via the iPhone.
3. OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to companies that pioneer new online and mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important development. WV United is the 74th recipient of the designation since we began awarding it in 1997.

Comments (2)

Another reason for banks to push out a native iPhone app

By Jim Bruene on May 28, 2009 10:46 AM | Comments

imageRumors abound that Apple will super-size its iPod Touch next year with a 7- to 10-inch-screen version. VentureBeat has a compelling picture (inset), although it's not likely to be authentic.

The thinking is that this device fits nicely between the $299 iPod Touch and the $999+ MacBook with a price in the
$600- to $700-range.

The device is expected to run the iPhone OS and use the same touchscreen interface as its much-smaller siblings. That makes it the perfect in-home device for running any of the 40,000+ apps available in App Store. 

Why it's important
Because there are apps for everything, this device could become the de facto controller for key in-home systems running the television, DVR, telephone (especially if it has a built-in web cam), heating and air conditioning, plus the audio system, of course. It will also be perfect for checking the weather in the morning, the traffic on the way out the door, reading feeds, twittering, and sharing YouTube videos and photos with visitors at the kitchen table. 

And while those are the interesting uses, the Apple device will also be a convenient way to access all types of information, from Google, to ESPN, to your bank balance, all with the touch of button.

Significance for banks and credit unions
If Apple works its magic yet again, this device could end up in the living room of half the upscale households in the world.

image While this device can run a browser to access any website, the user experience is much better with a native app (see note 1). And when push notifications become available in the next OS release, it will be even better.

Note:
1. For more information on why you must build a native iPhone app for your financial institution, see our recent Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking.

Comments
Categories: Apple, iPhone

Technology Credit Union and TDECU are first CUs with native iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on May 22, 2009 9:42 AM | Comments (3)

More than 10 months after the iPhone App Store launched, two U.S. credit unions have joined the application marketplace, which numbers more than 40,000 in the U.S. store alone.

The first was Texas Dow Employees Credit Union (TDECU), whose ATM and shared-branch locator, Culoc8, launched on April 29, according to the company's Twitter page (below, link). image

image

The TDECU app (see inset) is unbranded and can be offered by other CUs to their members. 

Eaton Family Credit Union is offering CuLoc8 to members on its website (see below).

image

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

image Yesterday, Tech CU, became the first credit union with a full-featured branded native iPhone app (App Store link, see note 1). The app (see below) includes full online banking functionality and an ATM/shared branch finder (second screenshot). The credit union also added something we haven't seen yet, an iPhone optimized feed of its blog, Money Savvy (third screenshot). Nice touch.

Tech CU has offered a mobile website since Sept. 2007. 

image    image   image

Note:
1. America First Credit Union was the first CU with native iPhone support via its participation in Firethorn's shared mobile banking app which launched in Nov. 2008.

Comments (3)

Intuit's Quicken Online Releases Native iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on May 2, 2009 9:22 AM | Comments (1)

imageYesterday, Intuit launched its first native app for the iPhone, Quicken Online Mobile. It's already risen to number four in the Finance category (note 1), and will likely hit number one given the number of Intuit fans using the iPhone. Currently, E*Trade's new Mobile Pro claims the top spot.

imageIntuit has incorporated some interesting features including this user-friendly "what's left until payday" feature. Users can access a graphical map of their future balance level (below) and get a warning (right) if the account looks like it will run out before the next payday.

image

image Intuit also uses the GPS/location-based capabilities of the iPhone with a built-in ATM finder (click on inset for larger view). And finally, users are able to input transactions on the fly to get a real-time look at the impact to their budgets on the latest expenses.

The two-minute YouTube video (link) is worth watching to see how to position your iPhone PFM as a mobile financial assistant (speaker is Intuit product manager, Barron Ernst):

There are a number of personal finance apps available on the iPhone platform including Mint, Wesabe (announced Tuesday at FinovateStartup), MoneyTrackin, iBearSoft Software, and dozens more. 

Notes:
1. Quicken's mobile app is number four in the free apps section of the iTunes Finance apps section as of 8:30 AM Pacific time, 2 May 2009. It has 73 user reviews with an average 4-star rating (excellent). In comparison, Mint which launched its iPhone app in December has nearly 13,000 reviews.
2. According to VentureBeat, Quicken Online passed the 1-million user mark in mid-April.

Comments (1)

Apple iPhone Print Advertisements Feature Personal Finance Apps

By Jim Bruene on April 16, 2009 5:06 PM | Comments

image_thumb8Apple must be one of the more lucrative advertisers these days at the Wall Street Journal. Apple has bought the back page more times than I can count to show off the iPhone and more-importantly, the diversity of applications available (see inset, note 1).

Lately, Apple has run "theme" ads showing applications related to a single category. Last week (Thurs, 9 April), the back of the A section showed personal finance apps (see left column below). Yesterday, the apps all supported small business and ran on the back of Marketplace (B) section (see right column below).

The only app to make both lists: personal finance superstar, Mint, which even scored top billing in the personal finance page, occupying the upper-left corner, where it's blurb would likely score the highest readership. 

The Apple website also has themed app guides. The managing money page (see screenshot below) features again features Mint, which gets the biggest graphic, Bank of America, who's app was featured in dozens of Apple ads in 2008 and earlier this year, Bloomberg, Gas Cubby, iXpenseIt, Save Benjis, and Home Finder.

Bottom line: Financial institutions should think about how to add similar money management functionality to their mobile and online offers. As Aite's Ron Shevlin pointed out in a comment here last week (emphasis added):

.....(the FinovateStartup participants) you talk about are helping people manage their financial lives, while the banks are [still] focused on helping people manage their financial accounts.

Big difference.

Table: iPhone apps listed in recent WSJ ads (clockwise from upper left)

Personal Finance Theme Small Business Theme
Helping you stretch your budget, one app at a time. Helping you run your small business, one app at a time.
Date: 9 April 2009 Date: 15 April 2009
Mint.com (PFM) Credit card terminal
Gas Cubby (mileage tracker) Print & share (document management)
Spotasaurus (parking finder) FedEx Mobile
RepairPal (mechanic finder) Jott (voice recording/transcription)
AllRecipes.com (recipe finder) iXpenseIt (expense report mgmt)
GoodGuide (product finder) Jobs - Time Tracking
WootWatch (cheap gadgets) Analytics App (website analytics)
Save Benjis (shopping comparison) LinkedIn
RN Dining (rewards dining) LogMeIn (remote computer access)
Find an Apartment YellowPages.com
Cellfire (mobile coupons) Mint.com
Barista (how to guide) Quicksheet (spreadsheet)
Wi-Fi finder Air Sharing (file manager)
CompareMe (price calculator) Nomina (name/trademark search)
Loan Shark (loan tool) SimpleMind Xpress (brainstorming)
Small Spend (mini PFM) Keynote Remote (presentation tool)

Apple's Money Management page on its Website (link, 16 Apr 2009)

image_thumb1

Notes:
1. My apologies for the image quality, taken via iPhone naturally.
2. For more info, see our latest Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

Comments

MasterCard Launches ATM Hunter iPhone App

By Jim Bruene on April 10, 2009 5:56 PM | Comments

image A few weeks ago there wasn't a single dedicated ATM finder in Apple's App Store, and now there are three, not counting the bank-branded versions (more on that below). MasterCard is the latest entrant with a cute app called ATM Hunter (see inset; iTunes link) launched six days ago.

The free app can lead you and your iPhone to any of more than one million ATMs worldwide. The app automatically senses your location and lists nearby machines. And it's integrated with Google maps so you can map the location with a single click.

Unlike other ATM finders, MasterCard's version has a helpful filter to zero in on the following ATM types:

  • surcharge-free
  • drive-thru
  • wheelchair accessible
  • 24-hour
  • deposit sharing

It also has a "share" function (upper-right of second screenshot below) that allows you to text the ATM location to a friend or to yourself for later reference. 

Here's what's in the app:

                         Main page                                   List after "location" search

image     image

              Filtering by feature                                           ATM detail

image     image 

The launch is supported with a webpage at MasterCard's Priceless.com (see screenshot below).

Bottom line: It's an excellent app that should prove popular; however, I wonder if MasterCard is encroaching a bit on its banking clients' turf. Location-based ATM/branch finders are one of the cornerstones of a retail bank's mobile application (note 1). If customers are already using MasterCard's app, they have less reason to go mobile with their own financial institution.

On the other hand, the vast majority of financial institutions that don't yet have their own mobile app can safely recommend MasterCard's app and keep customers from using a banking competitor's app. 

MasterCard's ATM Hunter landing page (link, 10 April 2009)

image

Notes:
1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking: iPhone Edition.
2. Apple is approaching 1 billion downloads since the App Store opened last July. The company is celebrating the coming milestone with a $15,000 gift to the person that downloads lucky 1 billion. It also has a huge ticker on its website (below) that counts to the big number in real time (here).

Billion-download counter at Apple's website (10 April 2009, 6 PM Pacific)

image

Comments

New Features in iPhone OS 3.0 will Help Banking Apps

By Jim Bruene on April 2, 2009 6:02 PM | Comments

imageApple's new iPhone operating system was announced last week. There are more than 100 new features that will make the phone even more valuable plus 1,000 new APIs to keep developers innovating like mad. The new OS will be available "this summer."

Most changes are relatively minor, but two are significant for online banking and personal finance apps:

    image

  • Push notifications: Apple currently offers this feature only on its built-in email and SMS application (see screenshot below). But with OS 3.0, application developers can push notifications to the iPhone without the app being launched. For banks, that means you can show users when a new transaction, message, or alert is available to view.
  • imageIn-app purchases: This is probably less important for financial institutions who generally don't charge transaction fees for mobile or online services. However, non-bank financial apps can now charge transaction fees for value-added services such as an expedited payment or a credit score. The transactions are processed via Apple so now customers needn't provide the app developer their credit card number.

imageBottom line: We believe every financial institution large enough to offer online banking should support the iPhone platform. With OS 3.0, it's even more important to be in the App Store. For more information, see the latest Online Banking Report on Mobile 3.0 -- iPhone Edition (see announcement post).

 

 

 

 

iPhone home screen (30 March 2009) >>>
Here's my main iPhone screen showing push alerts (clockwise) for new text messages (11), new emails (196), voice mails (6), and application updates (2).

Comments
Categories: Apple, Mobile Banking, iPhone

New Online Banking Report Published: Mobile 2.0 -- iPhone Edition

By Jim Bruene on March 16, 2009 5:55 PM | Comments

image This is a report I've been meaning to write for a few months, but it kept getting pushed back for more pressing (Growing Deposits in the Digital Age) or timely (Year-end Wrap and Forecast) reports.

But a few days ago, we put the finishing touches on the latest Online Banking Report. It will be mailed to subscribers by the end of this week. It's also available online here. There's no charge for current subscribers; others may access it immediately for US$495.

--------------------------------------------------------

Mobile Banking 2.0: iPhone Edition
How to build a smartphone app even
your CFO will love

In the report (press release), we outline the reasons why every financial institution should consider an iPhone app, even if it's just a simple surcharge-free-ATM/branch finder like 1st Mariner Bank (iTunes link; see note 1) or a one-screen interface to your mobile website, essentially what Bank of America started with last year. Being on the iPhone is like having a website in 1995. Just by being there, even if it's crappy, you are ahead of the curve. And for the rest of time, you can brag that you were an early adopter of all things mobile.

And the icing on the cake, you get to slap Apple iPhone pictures all over your website. Baltimore, MD-based 1st Mariner, a bank that doesn't appear to even support basic mobile banking (note 2) has the most iPhone-ish website in the land (see screenshots below).

The report also looks at:

  • Mobile banking application market (Apple's App Store, RIM's Blackberry App World, and Google's Android Market)
  • Mobile banking forecast (U.S.)
  • 33 features to consider for your mobile banking app
  • Leveraging iPhone hype to increase interest in financial products and services
  • Legal issues in mobile banking from our guest columnists at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel

1st Mariner Bank homepage (16 March 2009)
Note: Nice job with the St. Patty's day theme too!

image

1st Mariner iPhone landing page (16 March 2009)

image

Notes:
1. The 1st Mariner app, built by PointAbout, identifies the nearest of 16,000 surcharge-free MoneyPass ATMs. It also features other integrated apps for local weather, lowest gasoline prices, accident alerts, traffic (powered by MapQuest), grocery stores, and Zagat restaurant listings (but not reviews or ratings).
2. Ironically, if you navigate to the bank's website on your iPhone, you cannot even see its iPhone homepage graphic (shown above) because the graphic is Flash-based which is not supported by the iPhone's Safari browser

Comments

RIM's New Blackberry App World Includes Wells Fargo, E*Trade, Fidelity, and Bank of America

By Jim Bruene on March 11, 2009 6:30 PM | Comments (3)

image_thumb[12]It will be a long time before the new mobile application markets, Google's Android Market and RIM's Blackberry App World, get anywhere close to Apple's App Store in breadth or depth. Currently, there are 162 apps listed across all categories in the Android market and 88 for the Blackberry (North America), compared to more than 25,000 for the iPhone (U.S.).

However, Blackberry already has tied the iPhone in one sub-category, big-name U.S. financial services companies. As of today, each has four. Bank of America is the only one supporting both.    

iPhone App Store Blackberry App World*
Bank of America Bank of America
Chase Wells Fargo
Citibank E*Trade
PNC Bank Fidelity Investments

*Blackberry App World also has an Obopay mobile payments app with ties to Citibank.

Financial institution opportunities: The list of participating financial institutions won't stay short for long. You must support iPhone and Blackberry users, the sooner you do so, the more free publicity you can garner. For more information, see our latest Online Banking Report, published today, Mobile Banking 2.0: iPhone Edition.

Blackberry App World Finance & Banking section
(9 March 2009, 10 PM Pacific)

image_thumb[2]

Comments (3)

Allpoint Surcharge-Free ATM Finder Launches on iPhone

By Jim Bruene on March 4, 2009 4:43 PM | Comments (5)

image This is the application I wanted to build, a surcharge-free ATM finder, but my business partner wisely talked me down from that ledge last month (see note 1). I can officially deep-six that idea with the launch of Regular Rate and Rhythm Software's Allpoint ATMs: Surcharge-free ATM Locator.

The app went on sale today in the Apple App Store for a one-time $1.99 fee (iTunes link). The app, which directs users to one of 37,000 Allpoint ATMs, could not be simpler: 

  • Launch the app
  • See the nearest Allpoint ATM
  • Tap for walking/driving directions courtesy of Google maps (see inset

Using WiFi, it took 19 seconds from the moment I pressed the application button to when the nearest ATM location was listed, inside a Safeway five blocks away (note 2). With WiFi off (Edge network), it took just 4 seconds longer. Mapping the location, if necessary, took a few more seconds.

There are very few finance apps where users will willingly pay a fee. But this ATM finder, which saves about two bucks every time its used (note 3), should be popular at $1.99. Of course, it won't be long before the free, ad-supported version comes along, so the windfall may be short-lived.

Bottom line: This is a great tool for credit unions, community banks, and direct banks looking to compete against the massive ATM networks of the major banks. The best strategy is to build this right in to your own iPhone/Android/Blackberry app. But until then, you can at least point customers to this app.

Notes:
1. While it's a great opportunity for financial institutions, or scrappy coders to build, it's ultimately not what we want to focus on. Still, it could be a gold mine, at least until financial institutions, especially credit unions and community banks, start adding it to their own iPhone applications.
2. This was news to me, even though I've lived in then neighborhood for a decade. 
3. Assuming you would otherwise use an ATM which levies a $2 surcharge.

Comments (5)
Categories: ATMs, iPhone

Blaze Mobile Wallet Transforms iPhone into Payments Device at the Point of Sale (sort of)

By Jim Bruene on March 3, 2009 5:22 PM | Comments (1)

image It will take years before the mobile phone fulfills its promise as a true mobile payments device. Or will it?

If you don't mind a bit of a work-around and you limit your purchases to MasterCard PayPass-enabled merchants, you can pay by cell phone today thanks to Blaze Mobile.

How it works:

  1. Download the Blaze Mobile Wallet at the Apple App Store (iTunes link), cost $1.99 (note 2).
  2. Sign up for a Blaze pre-paid MasterCard issued by MetaBank
  3. Affix the MasterCard PayPass RFID sticker to the back of your iPhone
  4. Wave and pay at MasterCard PayPass terminals

Granted, few people will go through this trouble just to buy an Arby's sandwich without pulling out their plastic (note 1). However, it shows that the technology is available today to enable at least some mobile payments. And for financial institutions, it provides a cool way to differentiate debit and credit cards.

Notes:
1. According to MasterCard, there are 463 PayPass locations within 25 miles of my Seattle location. 
2. The wallet also works on other mobile platforms, see the company's website.
3. Previous post on paying via credit card stickers (here).
4. For more info see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Payments.

Comments (1)

Citibank Launches Dedicated iPhone Application

By Jim Bruene on March 2, 2009 2:52 PM | Comments

image Earlier today, Citibank launched a dedicated iPhone app (iTunes link) powered by mFoundry. Previously, certain Citi cardholders could use the Firethorn iPhone app, but there was no App Store listing under the Citi brand.

The app, which is free to download, is currently number 10 in the App Store Finance (free) category. It will likely rise to the top, at least briefly, as Citi customers download the app.

The app is featured on the Citi homepage today (see first screenshot below) and is front and center on the Citi Mobile landing page (second screenshot below). The bank has also posted a nine-screen demo of the app here (see inset).

Anyone that's ever used a mobile website will appreciate the Citi login screen (see inset below). A jumbo-sized numerical keypad is included below the signin area to make typing the PIN easier on the small screen. image

The Citi application does the usual four functions:

  • check balances
  • transfer funds
  • pay bills
  • find Citi branches and ATMs

The bank wisely informs users that their iPhone access can be deactivated immediately in the event of a lost or stolen phone by calling its toll-free number.

With this launch, four of the 10 largest U.S. consumer banks have a dedicated presence in the Apple App Store: Bank of America, Chase, and PNC Bank.

Citibank homepage features the iPhone app (2 March 2009)

image

Left: Landing page for Citi Mobile (link, 2 March 2009)

image    

The Citibank application page in the iTunes App Store (link, 2 March 2009)

image

Note:
1. See our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking for more information on the market. 

Comments

PNC Bank Launches iPhone Mobile Banking in Apple App Store

By Jim Bruene on February 12, 2009 4:42 PM | Comments (3)

image You'd think that seven months after Apple launched the App Store for the iPhone, it would no longer be news when a U.S. bank adds an application to the store.

It's not like a cost-prohibitive slotting fee is involved. Developers pay Apple exactly zero dollars to be listed in the store (note 1). Apple's revenue is from the 30% share of any fees charged for an app. All the bank apps are free, so that's not an issue.

But it is news since the addition of PNC Bank two weeks age (app here) brings the grand total of bank-specific apps to four, five if you count PayPal. Even if you include the several dozen banks supported by Firethorn's multi-bank app, there are still no more than 40 banks supported (note 2). And there's not a single credit union, yet. 

Here are the five App Store participants in order of their appearance:

Wells Fargo has an iPhone app, but it's not yet shown up in the official App Store.

PNC mobile banking app
PNC's entry is a full-featured app powered by mFoundry. Along with balance and transaction activity, it includes bill pay, funds transfer, and an ATM finder with location-based capabilities. Users must enable mobile banking from within online banking in order to use the app.

The app has risen from number 17 in the Finance category a week ago to 13 today (note 3). However, the app has not yet made it to the PNC website (note 4).

PNC iPhone App screenshots (11 Feb 2009)

image        image

image

Notes:
1. The app does need to be approved by Apple, a process that can take weeks or longer.
2. Users can also track thousands of financial institutions through Mint or PageOnce.
3. Bank of America is #1, Chase is #4, PayPal is #5, Mint is #6, Firethorn is #9.
4. A PNC.com site search for "iphone" yielded just one result, an iphone listed in a mobile banking compatibility table. (Off topic: Note to PNC Bank, your site search doesn't function in Firefox 3.0).
5. For more information on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking and the latest forecast in last month's Online Banking Report Online & Mobile Forecast.

Comments (3)

Bank of America Knocks Mint Off Top of iPhone App Store Finance Category

By Jim Bruene on January 20, 2009 11:37 PM | Comments

image Bank of America, which has been at or near the top of the Finance category (free apps) in the iPhone App Store since its July 11 launch, was back at the top today (12:45 PM Pacific). Mint, which has been number one since its Dec. 22 launch, moved to number two.

Contributing to the rise in the App Store standing is BofA's purchase of a feature spot in the iTunes store (see screenshot below). The release of a new version Dec. 28, is also helping the download count. 

The BofA application now leverages the location-based capabilities of the iPhone, automatically showing nearby ATMs without inputting a Zip code (see video below, posted in the BofA mobile media center here).


iTunes App Store main page
(20 Jan. 2009)

image

Note: For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking.

Comments

Chase Bank, Mint Top the Charts with New iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on December 22, 2008 10:17 AM | Comments (1)

imageimage No one knows for sure how Apple compiles the list of its top-selling iPhone apps, but it's related to how many are sold during the past few hours. I've seen speculation that the measurement period is 2 hours (see note 1).

But there is no doubt about the benefits of rising to the top. The winner receives prime exposure in the iTunes Store and on the iPhone itself (see screenshots below).

I've checked the Finance category rankings dozens of times since the store opened in July, and the top app had always been Bloomberg with Bank of America usually the runnerup.

But Friday, a new top seller emerged in the Free list in the Finance category (note 2), Chase Mobile  while Bloomberg and BofA were each knocked down a spot to numbers 2 and 3. The Chase app was released just one week ago (12 Dec). But by Saturday morning (20 Dec), Chase had already been replaced at the top by online personal finance startup Mint, which released its iPhone app Monday (15 Dec), but it didn't show up in the iTunes store until 1 AM Friday.  Mint stayed at the top all weekend and is still number one now (10 AM Pacific, 22 Dec).

imageIn the screenshot below and right, you can see the free publicity derived from holding the top spot. Also, note that you should put your name into the application. Bank of America, ranked number 3, neglected to include its name in the title, so it loses some branding value. Although, they would have to use BofA to fit into the space.  

Chase App (link to iphone App)
The Chase app itself is attractive and is similar to Bank of America's with a login button to the website and an ATM/branch-finder utility. As of this evening, 64 reviews have been posted with an average 3.5-star rating out of five, slightly better than the 3-star rating of Bank of America's iPhone app with similar features.

Mint App (link to iPhone app)
As expected from a company that is carefully using design to help distinguish it from the pack, Mint's new app is great looking. Across all aggregated accounts, the mobile app shows account balances, transactions, and progress towards budget goals. A nifty alerts icon on the bottom provides a convenient way for users to keep tabs on important info on the go.

Another difference from most banking apps: Mint lets users choose whether they want password protection enabled after their initial login. If you choose to log out, then the app erases all data in memory, and you must log back in next time. If you choose not to log out, then your data remains visible until the next visit with no login required (note 4). This is a great convenience, but something that may not be allowed at regulated financial institutions.

Some users have reported trouble with the app on older phones. On my first-generation iPhone running version 2.1 software, the Mint app wouldn't download. But once I upgraded the iPhone software to version 2.2, it downloaded flawlessly and all functions worked perfectly. In Mint's forum, some users were reporting problems with the Budget feature, but it seems to work fine for me (forum thread) (note 3).

Top Apps in the finance category of iTunes' App Store
(7 PM Pacific, 19 Dec 2008) 

image

 Top free finance apps list displayed on iPhone:
          at 7 PM Pacific, Fri. Dec. 19                               at  2 PM Pacific, Sat. Dec. 20  image        image

Chase Mobile iPhone app                    Mint iPhone app main screen
main screen
(19 Dec 2009)                          (19 Dec 2009)

image       image

Notes:
1. That 2-hour window could be about right. When I made this screenshot, the new Mint app was at number 10; two hours later (9 PM) it had risen to number 5 (see screenshot above). By 9 AM Saturday morning (20 Dec) it had risen to number 1.

2. The App Store divides the top apps into two categories, free and paid. The top 20 free apps are listed on the right side and the top 20 paid apps are listed on the left. The apps in the middle are listed by newest first.

3. These operating system incompatibilities, a real problem in pre-1995 online banking services, had largely been left behind when banks embraced the Web in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, mobile banking will add to your tech-support costs. 

4. Mint also reminds users that they can choose to lock their entire iPhone for extra security.

5. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking

Comments (1)

Bank of America Sponsoring Popular iPhone Tip Calculator CheckPlease

By Jim Bruene on December 8, 2008 2:06 PM | Comments

image Like much of the Internet, many free iPhone apps have embedded advertising as their revenue model. The most popular tip calculator, and third-most-popular app in the finance category, CheckPlease, added advertising across the top of its calculator in its version 3.3 release (Nov. 12).

The current sponsor? Bank of America mobile banking, which has the second-most-popular finance app in the iPhone App Store. The advertising is handled by Mobclix, an advertising network focused on the iPhone and Android markets that debuted at TechCrunch50 in September. In a half-dozen visits, I've seen only the BofA ad. But the developer, Hardy Macia, says he's seen several movies advertised on the app. 

Clicking on the BofA ad (first screenshot) takes users to the BofA landing page (second screenshot on right) hosted within the App Store environment, i.e., the pages are not displayed within the normal Safari environment. The only navigation options are:

  • Learn more (see 3rd screenshot)
  • Download (see 4th screenshot)
  • Visit bofa.mobi
  • Close (the X in the lower-right) which takes you back to the CheckPlease app

CheckPlease is a product of Catamount Software which has developed mobile personal finance software since 1994, when it launched PocketMoney for the Apple Newton. PocketMoney is now available for the Palm and iPhone. The company just added an ad-free version of CheckPlease for $0.99.

The free CheckPlease iPhone app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times according to its developer and owner of Catamount Software, Hardy Macia.

      CheckPlease iPhone App                       BofA landing page

  photo (2)          photo 

          Learn More page                                 Download page (note 1)

  photo (3)         photo (4)

Note:
1. Surprisingly, the buttons on this page are not clickable. To download the BofA app, iPhone users must close this screen and open the App Store button on the home screen(s) of their iPhone.

Comments

New Account Aggregator PageOnce May Be Third Largest Mobile Banking Provider for the iPhone

By Jim Bruene on November 5, 2008 6:06 PM | Comments (1)

image I check the Finance applications in the Apple iTunes store at least once per week to see which of the companies we track has posted an app. But I missed one of the most popular finance apps, because it's categorized under Productivity.

An iPhone application called A Personal Assistant (iTunes link) from PageOnce has been downloaded more than 200,000 times according to the publisher. The application is an account aggregation service that automatically downloads balance and transaction activity from financial, billing, and other service providers.

imageIn an interview on FastCompany TV (here), co-founder Guy Goldstein said that 65% of users are checking financial accounts through its account aggregation app. Assuming 100,000 total active users, that would imply more than 60,000 iPhone users tracking financial accounts via the PageOnce app (see inset).

That would likely make PageOnce the third largest provider of banking info to the iPhone, trailing only BofA and Firethorn (see note 1).

During the FastCompany interview, Goldstein identified one focus to be banking and bill pay transactions, and said that plans are in place to add bill pay functionality to the app.

Palo Alto-based PageOnce opened to the public in July. The company also offers a Web-based version of the account aggregation service (screenshot below), but sees its core audience being smartphone users. The company launched a Blackberry version a few days ago (see homepage below, company post here).

Implication for Netbankers
Because mobile website navigation is relatively more difficult, the allure of having all your personal and financial info in one place is stronger for smartphone users than for website users. 

However, users are still very concerned about handing their passwords to an unknown startup such as PageOnce. But convenience-minded consumers will do it if there are no viable alternatives from trusted brands such as banks, credit unions and card issuers. If you work at a financial institution, and you still have development dollars available, move the iPhone app up your priority list.

Or partner with someone that already has an app and get your brand on that precious screen. PageOnce is actively looking for partners and has already announced three, none in the financial sector.

PageOnce homepage (5 Nov. 2008)

image

Notes:
1. Firethorn added a mobile banking app two weeks ago (post here) that has risen to fourth most popular, behind Bloomberg, Bank of America, and Check Please, a tip calculator (see previous coverage here).

2. For more info on the mobile area, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking.

Comments (1)

Citibank Credit Cards Coming to the iPhone Nov. 1, Powered by Firethorn

By Jim Bruene on October 27, 2008 6:14 PM | Comments (1)

image Firethorn (owned by Qualcomm) has a new iPhone app called Mobile Banking for AT&T Customers. The app is currently ranked number eight in the finance category of the Apple iTunes App Store (see screenshot below). Of the transactional services, only PayPal and BofA's Mobile Banking are higher.

Firethorn iPhone app (27 Oct 2008) The application can be used to access online banking at any of the ten financial institution holding companies, and their subsidiaries, currently supported by Firethorn:

  • 1st Bank (Colorado)
  • America First Credit Union
  • Arvest
  • BancorpSouth
  • Caroline First
  • Mercantile Bank
  • Suntrust
  • Synovus
  • USAA
  • Wachovia (now owned by Wells Fargo)

The Firethorn application has 27 reviews so far and has scored a 4-star average (out of 5), much better than the typical finance app (see previous coverage here). The main complaint is lack of coverage for the user's bank, which is not the fault of the app.  In comparison, Bank of America's app garnered 434 reviews and a 2.5-star rating.

I downloaded the application today and, unfortunately, I don't have an account at any of the financial institutions; however, that will change next week if they hit the dates contained in the Featured Providers page.

Here are coming-soon financial institutions:

  • Citi Cards (Citibank) "coming Nov. 1" (previous press release here)
  • Chase Bank "coming soon"
  • Regions Bank "beginning this fall"

Firethorn Mobile Banking on AT&T in Apple iTunes App Store (27 Oct 2008)

Comments (1)

ANZ Bank Brings Account Aggregation to Australia; Introduces Robot Mascot Qi

By Jim Bruene on October 20, 2008 6:47 PM | Comments (1)

imageWhile making the rounds in the Finovate networking room last week, I saw an intriguing graphic on Yodlee's big-screen monitor (see inset). It turns out to be Qi (pronounced "key"), the robot mascot for Yodlee's latest aggregation client, Australia's ANZ Bank, which launched that day (press release). The new service is called MoneyManager (see screenshot below; note 1).

The cute little beast also appears in the bank's new iPhone promo on the ANZ website (here). The webpage features the app running in a full-size iPhone emulator. But that's not what you notice first. The bank uses a little programming trick to turn your curser into a GIANT robot hand (see screenshot below). It's a little disconcerting at first, but it does get your attention and proves you are dealing with a creative enterprise. I like it.

According to Rob Findley, blogging at The Bank Channel, MoneyManager can be used by any Australian and does NOT require an ANZ account relationship.

ANZ's iPhone webpage with giant robot hand curser (19 Oct 2008)

ANZ iPhone app with giant robot hand curser (19 Oct 2008)

ANZ's MoneyManager webpage features a less intrusive view of Qi, the robot mascot (19 Oct. 2008)

image

Note:
1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Account Aggregation.

Comments (1)

Moneytrackin' is First Major Online Personal Finance Management App to Make it Into the Apple App Store

By Jim Bruene on September 30, 2008 8:05 PM | Comments (2)

image I'm certain most major PFM providers will have an iPhone app within the next six to 12 months. It's a valuable product extension from a functionality standpoint (see note 1). Even more important are the marketing benefits from blogger/press coverage and the App Store listing itself. 

Mint posted a blog entry last week reviewing ten iPhone finance apps. The post drew two dozen comments, most asking when a Mint app would be released for the iPhone. Mint Product VP Aaron Forth replied, "We are busy working on one now."

Most of the better-funded PFM companies are likely working on an iPhone app, but the approval process at Apple can easily take a month or more (one developer's story is chronicled here). So we expect to see them trickle out over the coming months.

Moneytrackin iphone app for personal finance management 30 Sep 2008 The first established online PFM to make it into the iPhone App Store is Moneytrakin', the Barcelona, Spain-based multi-language, multi-currency PFM (note 2). We covered its launch more than two years ago (here).

The company recently announced it had surpassed 5 million transactions tracked. Assuming 250 per customer, that's 20,000 active users. According to Compete, U.S. website traffic averages 1,000 to 2,000 per month. But many (most?) of Moneytrackin's customers are outside the United States.

The Moneytrackin' program, released on Sept. 19, is currently the seventh most popular app in the Finance category.

Notes:
1. For more information, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features.

2. There are at least a dozen check registers and mini PFMs in the App Store, but none are from established online PFM providers. The only exception is iBuxfer, which claims to work with Buxfer using its API, but was not developed by the company. And in fact, according to the comments in the App Store, may be violating Buxfer's terms of service. All the more reason to get your own app into the store before someone else does.

Comments (2)

Will eWallets Make a Comeback on the iPhone?

By Jim Bruene on September 2, 2008 12:29 PM | Comments (4)

image Since the July opening of Apple's App Store, we've been tracking the apps in the Finance category (see previous coverage here). But there are also several apps in the Productivity category of interest to financial institutions: the eWallets.

Ilium's eWallet for iPhoneThere are two wallets available in the U.S. iTunes store:

  • eWallet from Ilium Software: #46 in popularity in Productivity with a cost of $9.95 and rated 3.5 stars (out of 5) across 143 reviews (see inset)
  • Memengo Wallet: #48 in Productivity with a $0.99 cost and rated 4 stars across 43 reviews (website)

Web-based eWallets never took off because of security concerns and because they provided only marginal improvements in desktop productivity. However, a mobile version has more utility owing to sticky notes with password reminders and credit card info, helpful to users away from their desks.

How it works
Storage of usernames and passwords for websites is the primary use of eWallet, but it also has a Finance category (see inset above) where users can store credit card numbers and contact info (see screenshots below).

That info is helpful when using a card to make a purchase online or through the mobile phone. It's also a great place to store the info in case the card itself is lost or stolen.

Financial institution opportunities
While these apps haven't gained an overwhelming following, a financial institution could offer a free version that highlights its own card offerings while providing storage space for other card numbers. That way, you get your logo on the iPhone instead of Mint, Wesabe, or some other financial institution. 

The bank-branded eWallet could also include a financial calculator and direct connection to online banking.

Ilium iPhone eWallet showing credit card info    eWallet showing credit card detail

 Note:
1. For more info see our Online Banking Repot on Mobile Money & Payments.

Comments (4)

First Sales Report on an iPhone Finance App: Tipulator Downloaded 3,200 Times

By Jim Bruene on August 15, 2008 5:13 PM | Comments

imageAccording to TechCrunch, the $0.99 tip calculator app from TapTapTap has been downloaded 3,200 times in the month it's been available. Net income to the developer, after Apple takes its 30% cut, is $2,200.

TapTapTap also markets a much more sophisticated location-based search tool that has generated $50,000 in revenues for the developer.

Tipulator is ranked number 20 in our Aug. 5 rundown of the top-20 banking and finance apps. Today it ranked number 27.

Apple ranks the most popular apps within each category, but does not provide download totals. Tipulator numbers were provided by developer.

What it means
1. iPhone users, so far, are willing to pay for apps. Who would have thought that more than 3,000 people would go to the trouble to download an app to help them multiply their bill times 15% to 20%? And there are two tip calculators that ranked higher in the App Store.

2. There is real demand for mobile financial tools, even very simple ones. Financial institutions should consider launching a branded calculator app in the Apple App Store.

Comments

Top 20 Finance & Banking Apps in Apple's App Store

By Jim Bruene on August 5, 2008 4:40 PM | Comments (2)

image It's been almost a month since Apple launched its App Store for native iPhone apps. According to the company, 25 million have been downloaded, an impressive one-million-per-day pace (11 Aug update: The company reported 60 million downloads, with $30 million in sales, during the first 30 days.)

Luckily for banking geeks, Apple added a Finance category (see screenshot below), so it's easier to track what's popular in our sector. As of early today, a total of 42 finance apps were listed. The 20 most popular were (note 1): 

Rank Name Type Price Release* Rating** Num***
1 Bloomberg News Free 16 July 4 337
2 CheckPlease Tool to split dinner bills Free 31 July 3 77
3 Mobile Banking (BofA) Banking Free 4 July 2.5 323
4 PayPal Payments Free 1 July 2 85
5 Balance Expense register Free 30 July 4.5 41
6 Puluwai Real Estate Search Real estate Free 20 Jun 3.5 38
7 3in1 Mortgage Calc Calculator Free 30 Jul 3.5 7
8 TipCalc Tip calculator Free 19 Jul 3.5 6
9 TipTap Tip calculator $0.99 1 Aug 4 30
10 Budget Personal finance mgr $1.99 24 Jul 3.5 37
11 MyAccounts to Go View accounting info Free 15 Jul 2.5 16
12 Swissquote Stock quotes Free 17 Jul 3 2
13 LoanCalc Calculator $0.99 26 Jul 3 18
14 Mortgage Payment Calc Calculator $0.99 2 Aug 3 9
15 Day Bank Expense register $3.99 14 Jul 3.5 64
16 SplashMoney Banking & PFM (note 2) $9.99 24 Jul 3 84
17 iXpenselt Expense register $4.99 9 Jul 3.5 52
18 PocketMoney Personal finance mgr $9.99 1 Aug 3 55
19 LoanShark Calculator $4.99 30 Jul 4.5 5
20 Tipulator Tip calc $0.99 30 Jul 4 33

Source: Netbanker/Online Banking Report analysis of Apple App Store data, 5 Aug 2008
PFM = Personal financial management
Bank of America iphone app (5 Aug 2008)*Release date of latest version; there may have been previous versions released earlier; currently reviews carry over from previous versions
**Average user rating on 1-to-5 point scale
***Number of user reviews posted

 What's notable:

  • Nine apps have a download fee ranging from $0.99 to $9.99
  • Only four have a user-rating of 4.0 or better (on a five-point scale): Balance (4.5), Bloomberg (4.0), LoanShark (4.5) and TipTap (4.0)
  • Three apps, including two of the most popular, are rated below 3.0: BofA (2.5), PayPal (2.0) and MyAccounts to Go (2.5)
  • The most-reviewed apps are Bloomberg (337 user reviews) and BofA's mobile banking (323) (see previous coverage)

What's innovative:
I haven't used any of the apps yet, but from reading the descriptions, there's not much new here (notes 3, 4). The apps fall into four main categories:

  • Tip calculators
  • Other financial calculators such as loan payments
  • Expense/check registers
  • Personal finance tracking apps

Even though these functions aren't very advanced, the ability to access them easily from your mobile phone makes them more interesting. And banks looking to create a useful iPhone app should take note. BofA was criticized in early user reviews for posting little more than a landing page for its normal mobile banking screen (see screenshot above).

Financial institutions would likely find a more receptive audience if a couple useful functions were added to the application besides an online banking login screen. It would be relatively trivial to add an expense register, tip calculator and other calculator functions to the banking app. 

Apple App Store Finance category (5 Aug 2008)

Notes:
1. Apple does not provide any metrics on how many times the apps have been downloaded. It just lists them in rank order.

2. Download transactions from more than 200 financial institutions supporting Intuit's DirectConnect

3. The most interesting app is SplashMoney's account aggregation app that allows you to download transactions from more than 200 financial institutions that support Intuit's Direct Connect.

4. See our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking for more info.

Comments (2)

Kiwibank Uses iPhone Launch to Spark Interest in Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on July 12, 2008 9:46 AM | Comments (2)

image Kiwibank has one of the most eye-catching homepage designs in the world.  Who can resist a lime green Smart Car with four monstrous speakers strapped to the roof?

As I was obsessing about iPhone apps this week (see note 1), I ran across Kiwibank's landing page for iPhone banking (see second screenshot below). Now that the iPhone has gone global, we'll see if more banks leverage the iPhone hype, something that didn't really happen in the United States so much. According to CNet Australia, ANZ is building an iPhone-specific interface, but a search of the ANZ website found nothing.

Kiwibank's homepage iPhone promo, one of three rotating in the lower right, leads to the not-so-exciting landing page. Still, when you are riding the hype, you don't necessarily have to put that much effort into your own work (see note 2), just grab ahold of Apple's coattails and hang on tight.

Kiwibank homepage featuring iPhone promo (11 July 2008)

Kiwi Bank hompage with iPhone banking ad (11 July 2008)

Kiwi Bank iPhone banking landing page (11 July 2008)

image

Notes:
1. Yesterday, I promised it was my last iPhone post for a while, but I couldn't resist one more. Consider it a Saturday bonus post.

2. Case-in-point, the BofA non-app app being dissed by the vast majority of early-early-adopter reviewers at the Apple App Store (see yesterday's post).

Comments (2)

Bank of America iPhone Mobile Banking App Criticized in Early-User Reviews

By Jim Bruene on July 11, 2008 11:58 AM | Comments (2)

image The good news: Of the 135 free applications in the new iTunes App Store, Bank of America's is a solid number 20, three spots ahead of PayPal, according to rankings within iTunes this morning.

The bad news: The first batch of reviewers hated the app. Their main complaint: It's not really a native app, just a front door to the bank's existing mobile site.

The reviews: On a 5-star scale with one star the lowest choice, the app has only a 1.5-star rating (see note 1). Of the 81 reviews, only 19 rated it above one star. Throwing out the five 5-star ratings which are probably from people associated with the product, that leaves only 14 above the bottom rating, an abysmal score by any standard. Following is the breakdown:

Stars Number of Votes                            My Comments
*****             5 I'm skeptical of the objectivity of these reviews
  ****              0 Other than the suspect 5-star fans above, no one was willing to go 4 stars
   ***               6 Only six legit users were even OK with the app
    **             8 Most of these were critical in their comments
     *                62 one star is the lowest choice on the review form

Source: Online Banking Report review of iTunes data, 11AM PST, 11 July 2008

What's innovative?
1. I was astounded to see 81 reviews in the App Store already. It just opened this morning! It should be noted that you don't have to actually download the app to post a review. So if and when you post an app here, be prepared for criticism. Even more important, this demonstrates the impact the user voice will have going forward (see note 2).

2. Early adopters, especially techies, can be brutally honest, especially with large corporate efforts deemed lame. But even though the overall grade was very poor, a number of reviewers pointed out that the automatic ATM locator was a significant improvement.

3. BofA needs to upgrade this app ASAP. Some of the criticisms about font size and design can be fixed relatively easily.

Summary
Despite the harsh criticism from the first batch of reviewers, I think BofA did the right thing strategically. It's too bad they didn't have something a little flashier, but the bank will get far more mileage by being the first bank in the App Store that it will lose by disappointing the mobile early adopters. It's unlikely they will lose any business from the negative reviews. They are mostly in the "you should have done better" category, not the "BofA sucks" variety.

You have only one chance to be first, and BofA took it. No one else will ever be able to say they were the first bank in the iPhone (who's going to be the first credit union?). But the bank better get cracking on version 2.0! (see note 3)

Notes:
1. The only other app from a financial services company was Paypal, which mustered a meager 2-star rating. But it elicited only one-sixth the number of reviewers, just 13. Because you don't have to actually download the app to post a review, BofA may be getting slammed by people just reading the reviews and jumping on the bandwagon with me-too critiques.

2. See our latest Online Banking Report for more on the growing importance of user reviews. We've also published reports on Mobile Banking and Mobile Payments.

3. This post marks the end of iPhone week at Netbanker. We'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

Comments (2)

Bank of America and PayPal are Only Financial Brands in Apple's App Store at Launch

By Jim Bruene on July 10, 2008 12:43 PM | Comments

Bank of America once again proved its mobile mettle as the only financial institution to have a native app available at the launch of Apple's new App Store (note 1). PayPal also launched an app on Day 1 (see screenshot below). Both are free.

Bank of America iPhone 2.0 App in Apple App Store in iTunes (10 July 2008)

Bank of America iPhone native app in iTunes App Store (10 July 2008)

Apple launched the store today within iTunes (see note 1). There are 552 apps at launch according to Pinch Media, Here's the price breakdown:

  • Free - 135
  • $0.99 - 85
  • $1.99 to $3.99 - 110*
  • $4.99 - 62
  • $5.99 to $8.99 - 35*
  • $9.99 - 82
  • more than $10 - 40*

The new Finance category in the App Store has 23 entries at launch. Most are small utilities for calculating tips or splitting the dinner check. Only two recognizable brands are available, PayPal (lower left) and Bank of America, which by design or omission, is listed not with its name but as simply "mobile banking."

Finance listings in Apple App Store in iTune 7.7 (10 July 2008)

23 Finance apps in Apple's App Store (10 July 2008)

 

PayPal App (10 July 2008)

PayPal app in iTunes Apple App Store (10 July 2008)

Notes:

*Interpolated from graph, plus or minus 3%

1. To view the App Store, download iTunes v. 7.7. Some users including myself (Windows bug?) have reported not being able to see it even after updating iTunes. I was able to access through this link published by TechCrunch.

Comments

USAA and Provident Bank Post iPhone Web Apps in Apple's Directory

By Jim Bruene on July 9, 2008 10:02 AM | Comments

USAA iPhone mobile banking app (July 2008) It took almost six months, but Bank of America finally has company in Apple's iPhone Web App Directory (see note 1).

USAA posted its iPhone-optimized Web app on July 2 (here). USAA's browser-based app can be used by anyone with online access to their USAA accounts
(see note 2).

The resolution in the screenshot (right) is not great, but you can see the bank is using large iPhone-like icons to navigate to the main functions:

  • Balance/transaction inquiry
  • Funds transfer
  • Bill payment
  • Stock trading
  • Order auto insurance cards

Provident Bank added its mShift-powered solution to the Apple directory June 11. Users are able to perform all typical online banking functions: balance/transaction inquiry,image transfer funds, and pay bills. Its pedestrian format (see below) is clearly built to work across many different mobile devices. The small links would be harder to navigate on an iPhone compared to USAA's icons.

See previous iPhone banking coverage here.

Notes:
1. BofA was first in the United States. Germany's Postbank was the first bank in the world in the app directory, beating BofA by a few weeks last fall.

2. These are mobile browser-based solutions optimized for the iPhone. They are NOT native apps running on the iPhone OS, soon to be featured in Apple's App Store (see previous post).

Comments
Categories: Apple, Mobile Banking, USAA, iPhone

Put Your Bank in Apple's iPhone 3G App Store

By Jim Bruene on June 10, 2008 5:49 PM | Comments (3)

I've written about how the iPhone could change the way consumers use mobile phones to access data (see note 1). But this slide from the Steve Jobs keynote yesterday at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), says it much better:

Steve Jobs keynote slide showing iPhone advanced feature usage

In case you can't read the slide, it says that 98% of iPhone users use the built-in Safari browser, 94% use email and 90% use text messaging. That's an amazing level of usage for what used to be considered "advanced" smartphone features. So far, the impact on ecommerce companies has been relatively small, with just 6 million users worldwide. But with Apple dropping the price by 50% to $199, there will soon be 10, 20, or 30 million Americans connecting to the Web via iPhone. If 90%+ use the browser and messaging, it will have a major impact in online/mobile banking usage.

New App Store
imageAnd to help those millions of new users find useful things to do on their phone, Apple is building a new App Store, accessible directly from the main deck of the iPhone once users download the 2.0 software in July. The App Store will include thousands of applications optimized for the iPhone that can be downloaded over the air.

Quickbooks on iphoneSome will have a cost, with the developer keeping 70% of the revenue, but most are expected to be free. Since there is NO COST to list your app in Apple's App Store (see update below), financial services companies should rush to get their app loaded as close to the July 11 launch date as possible.

So far, only two banks, Bank of America and Germany's Postbank, have included their apps in the current online applications directory (here). A number of other financial apps are listed including Wesabe, Buxfer, and the latest, QuickBooks from Intuit (see inset right and screenshots below). Expect many more in the months and years to come.

Update 11 June: Important clarification from commenter "gerontius" (number 3 below). The current app directory includes webpages optimized for the iPhone. The new App Directory will include "native" apps that run directly on the iPhone operating system. That makes the bar quite a bit higher, depending on what you want to do. 

 

Bank of America Bank of America on iphone   Buxfer Buxfer on iphone 

myBudget myBudget on iphone       Postbank Postbank ibanking on iphone

 

Wesabe Wesabe on iphone          Yodlee  Yodlee on iphone


Note:

1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking

Comments (3)

Tech Credit Union, Wachovia Create First iPhone Buttons

By Jim Bruene on January 21, 2008 12:01 PM | Comments (1)

At least two financial institutions moved quickly to add an iPhone button for their websites:

  1. image Tech Credit Union was the first financial institution to let us know with a comment posted to NetBanker by Gabriel Garcia  at 9:50 AM Thursday
  2. image However, Wachovia may have beaten them to it, since the bank already programmed the feature in advance of the Jobs announcement according to the Director of Emerging Trends, Ilieva Ageenko, who posted this comment at 4:30 PM Thursday. Ilieva also said that Wachovia is working on an iPhone optimized homepage. 

Kudos to both financial institutions, first for adapting quickly to the iPhone opportunity, and more importantly by getting the word out by commenting on an industry blog. Anyone else add an iPhone Web Clip to their website? Let us know by adding your comment to the original post here.

Comments (1)
Categories: Tech CU, Wachovia, iPhone

Put Your Bank on the iPhone Main Screen

By Jim Bruene on January 16, 2008 10:07 PM | Comments (8)

imageYou don't have to be Google, NBC or Steve Jobs's cousin to get your logo placed on one of the most coveted pieces of real estate on the planet, the main screen of Apple's iPhone. Now anyone can do it for about the cost of phone service for a month. 

When we first wrote about the iPhone a year ago (here), we created a fake picture of it with a Wells Fargo logo superimposed on the main screen (see inset). At that time, we would never have guessed that a year later Apple would enable any website to create an iPhone main screen icon by simply dropping a line of code into their website. 

It's as simple as creating favicons, those little symbols that appear next to your URL in the browser address bar. Here's a simple 25-word explanation of how to do it. For more info, consult the Apple iPhone Dev Center here.

Once you have the code installed, users with updated iPhone software will be able to install your icon by navigating to your page, clicking on the plus button at the bottom of the screen, and selecting "Add to Home Screen."

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iPhone Compatibility at the Largest U.S. Banks

By Jim Bruene on January 2, 2008 5:32 PM | Comments (6)

As I was holding my family's place in a long line over the holidays (note 1), I took the opportunity to look at the 20 largest U.S. retail banks through my iPhone. They are all passable as long as you are willing to take the time to zoom in and navigate with your finger on the touchscreen. 

The best-looking sites are those with relatively simple hompage designs, notably ING Direct and HSBC and to a lesser extent Wells Fargo. But the hands-down winner is Bank of America, the only top-20 U.S. bank with an iPhone-optimized homepage.

This provides BofA with several short-term advantages:

  • Bragging rights as the first major bank to design for the iPhone
  • A spot on Apple's directory of Web apps for iPhone (here) (screenshot below)  
  • Several mentions in tech and personal finance blogs
  • An entree to the 1.4 million, decidedly upscale, iPhone users

Note:

1. Survey of 20 largest U.S retail banks, by deposit size, made at 4 PM on Dec. 24 from Seattle IP address through iPhone browser on AT&T Edge network.

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