Commonwealth Bank Explains Why Its Android App Was A Bookmark

When the Commonwealth Bank rolled out its Android app in February, it copped a lot of criticism from Lifehacker readers (amongst others) for being not much more than a bookmark to the NetBank site. According to CommBank executives, that was largely due to security concerns, but the future of its app strategy will be centred on HTML5 rather than platform-specific apps.

I've spent the day at a Commonwealth Bank media session on how it is evolving its technology strategy to meet customer needs, and I'll be writing that up in more detail later. But I couldn't resist the opportunity to ask: why wasn't the Android app made into more of a full-featured application?

According to head of online banking Drew Unsworth, the main reason the bank rushed an application to market was to make sure there was a legitimate Commonwealth Bank app in the Android Market and ensure scammers couldn't roll out potentially dodgy alternatives. "The key was to remove those and to give customers an entry point to remove those," he told Lifehacker.

While some of the bank's current iPhone apps do use phone-specific features, Unsworth said that long-term development strategies would centre around HTML5. An iPad-specific NetBank app will launch in May, but Unsworth noted that this was developed in HTML5 and can be easily ported to other platforms or made available generally via a browser. "The app that we did for the iPad was done in HTML5, so we can take it to any device. That's the way that we would be going in the future."


Comments

    Who owns the pic?
    Are they real or test account numbers?

    So what they're saying is they don't want any tech-savy customers. Ok.

      Your being stupid. This single minded "we need an app for EVERYTHING" philosophy is dumb. HTML5 is the future. Devs can spend time on one mobile site rather than making an app for iOS, Android, W7, Symbian (cough). Grow up and get your head outta the gutter.

        You're failing to use correct punctuation

        The problem I have is with having a hosted website vs a local application. You are forced to rely on "the cloud" for everything. If you want to check you balance you need to be online, if you want to look at your scheduled transfers you need to be online. There is no need for this, there is no good reason this information cannot be stored locally and refreshed when you have an available connection. "HTML5" (and more specifically it's supporting technologies) are web page technologies. Tell me this, how would you enable NFC linked to your bank account using a web page? Why do I have to wait for images/full page text/javascript/markup to download every time I click a button? This stuff can all be kept locally, you should only be transferring the information you actually NEED from the bank, if you want to updated your locally stored balance the only information that you should need to flow from the bank is your balance, not 20 or so images and another 10k of javascript to make sure the "app" looks and feels like a real application. Stop spurting BS about HTML5 being the only way to go, HTML5 has it's place, but it sure isn't to replace local applications.

          And how would you suggest updating account details and figures without 'the cloud'? Would you like someone to know your account figures and details if your phone got stolen? How would it authenticate? Through a stored text file of the username and password?

      HTML 5 future spec enables offline cache - though as as been pointed out you'd probably not want any offline information in a bank application.

      In fact the html 5 offline mode is why Google cancelled gears: http://www.w3.org/TR/offline-webapps/

      HTML 5 allows the user to use whatever device without needing anything more than a URL.

    smart.

    Smart move by CBA!

    Between Apples 30% gouge of subscription customers and Androids malware, HTML5 is the only valid option for the future.

    Since there is major fragmentation between Apples offerings, Googles offerings, HPs offering(ie, not code once but 3 times), the only true way to cheaply to get to all of those potential customers is the web browser.

    I would like to see Amazon/Sony/Netfilx pull their apps from all app stores only to replace it with a HTML5 apps. That way Amazon/Sony/Netflix get to control their content - not let Apple or Google control it, nor take a slice of the money.

    I don't know why more companies don't take this strategy rather than pushing out half-assed efforts on a heap of platforms.

    I have a bookmark on NAB online banking which renders properly on the iPhone. No need to have a separate app. More interfaces means more maintenance and opening up more access mediums could introduce more potential issues/concerns.

    @Cameron - if anything they are saying they don't want any fanboys like you who are demanding native apps.

    HTML5 is more than capable and a smart technical decision for this business.

    While the CBA iPhone app may actually be a real app, the netbank part of it is just a bookmark to the mobile (HTML) version of Netbank, it opens in safari. The only time I fire up the CBA app on my iphone is when I'm looking for an ATM. Otherwise I just navigate to netbank from within safari, because that's exactly where you end up

    I'd like the Commonwealth Bank to release a Comsec app that has a widget where we can view the current value of shares we own (similar to the battery hogging Bloomberg widget). HTML5 apps are fine for ones you launch, but not suitable for widgets.

    Whether it's a website or not, the CBA app does more than enough for me. Though I'm still annoyed by not being able to create 3rd party accounts/BPAY billers... I get that it may be for security, but it's quite frustrating.

    In any case, HTML5 is the right decision.

    Having a "webapp" rather that a full-blown locally hosted app has advantages - it ensures that you have the latest available data on your finances, not something that could be weeks old stored locally. It means the app only has to be upgraded in ONE place, not on thousands of devices - which means everyone runs the SAME VERSION. And it ensures that, should your device get stolen, there is nothing financially embarassing or vulnerable locally. That being said, some sort of local "atm and branch finder" would be nice. I imagine this could be done via the webapp too, taking the GPS readings from your device.

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