The Commonwealth Bank today launched an Android version of its Kaching mobile payment app, and is planning a version for Facebook. The bank is proclaiming Kaching a success (with 150,000 uses a day) and seems intent on making it one of its major platforms, but with no NFC support yet on Android and an oscillating development strategy, there are elements of the product which still seem confusing.
When Kaching first rolled out, it seemed, frankly, rather awkward. One big selling point was the use of near field communications (NFC) but since the iPhone — the official development target — didn't support it, customers who wanted it had to pay up extra money for an iCarte to wrap around their phone. As well as requiring extra expense and bulk, reports of faulty cases were rife; the review case that CommBank sent me never worked at all.
Given that, it's perhaps unsurprising that at the Android briefing today the peer-to-peer payment options were lauded as the most used feature of Kaching to date, and a new 'bump' feature to transfer payments between iPhones (using the accelerometer and GPS rather than any direct data transfer) was being highlighted. A future Kaching release will also allow non-bank customers to accept payments through the app, an option CommBank believes will appeal to small businesses.
The Android app looks incredibly like its iPhone counterpart. That's a bit surprising, given that last October CommBank cards GM David Lindberg was adamant that the app would be designed to work well with Android. “Whatever smartphones our customers are using, we will design applications for it," he said at the time. "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."
Nine months later, that's exactly what it is. It's a point the bank's own blog entry reinforces: "In the end we’ve tried to make them as close as possible."
"Our users live in a very diverse world," chief marketing office Andy Lark said by way of explanation. "They want a commonality across different devices." Actually, I'd like an app that looks like it was designed for the platform I'm running it on, but I guess you can't please everybody.
The Android app doesn't run on every device out there, but the bank estimates 80 per cent of current users can run it"There will be people upset by that, but we think it's better to have that crisp user experience," Lindberg said.
More disappointing is that it can't use the NFC chip in newer phones, though that comes down to Google not having integrated NFC security code into current Android releases. Without that, the phones can securely receive NFC data, but can't send it.
By the end of the year, CommBank also plans to have a version of Kaching integrated into Facebook, letting you check your balance and send payments to others. Bank officials were quick to stress that users will be able to control whether they announce payments via their Facebook wall, and to emphasise that the product won't launch until they can offer a security guarantee similar to the 100 per cent coverage given with Kaching on mobiles. However, given Facebook's total lack of communication on security matters, even that wouldn't persuade me to use it. What do you think?