Commonwealth Bank has outlined its plans to offer near-field communication (NFC) payments and peer-to-peer payments for iPhone users through a new app called Kaching — but you'll need a bank supplied case and there's no Android option on the agenda straight away.While NFC can potentially be used for all kinds of applications, the main driver behind adding it to phones has been the notion of exchanging payments. NFC lets devices in close proximity communicate wirelessly with each other, which makes it possible to (for example) pay for something simply by swiping your phone over a payment terminal.
The cheesily-named Kaching application will let Commonwealth Bank customers send peer-to-peer payments through mobile phones using your existing address book; via email in the same way; or through Facebook. Typical usage scenarios might be splitting a restaurant bill, paying a babysitter, or even pay pocket money to your kids. You can share payments with non-Commonwealth Bank customers, who can download an app to have the payment shared to their own account. The app will also offer the vast majority of NetBank functions; the idea is that you'll use it rather than the existing NetBank app (or site).
Those payment sharing features don't require NFC, but if you want to make contactless payments using the PayPass system, you'll need NFC abilities. The app offers real-time updates, so you can see a payment has been made as soon as it has been processed.
The big challenge for anyone wanting to use NFC is the fact that not many phones in the local market have built in NFC capabilities. There's a handful of Android models that offer it, but not generally through major carrier deals. Commonwealth is sidestepping the issue by supplying an iCarte case with a built-in NFC chip which can be used with any iPhone 3GS, 4 or 4S model. The bank says its iPhone app has been downloaded 1.9 million times, so that's still a healthy pool of users to draw on.
Where does that leave Android customers? "This application was designed very specifically for one device," cards GM David Lindberg told media at the launch. "The way to win in this space is to take care of the tiny details." So we'll ask again: Android? "Whatever smartphones our customers are using, we will design applications for it. We will shortly also be launching an Android version of this application. What it won't be is an iPhone app retro-fitted to Android."
Kaching officially launches today, but the app isn't immediately available; you can pre-register at the link below. The app will be free, and Commonwealth Bank officials at the launch were at pains to emphasise that there won't be any charges for using it to make peer-to-peer payments. You will have to pay for the case, though the final price hasn't been set.
Tempted by the ability to pay anyone and make quick purchases? Aching for an Android alternative? Tell us in the comments.