April 20, 2012

As tablet computers proliferate, banks continue to race to keep up with new tablet banking options. In March, both Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America and New York-based Citi released mobile applications developed specifically for the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. The announcements were made little more than a week apart.

The Citibank Kindle Fire Edition app features many of the same rich graphics and interactivity that the bank's Apple iPad app offers, including in-depth personal financial management tools and interactive charts, as well as access to financial education resources and Citibank's real-time Twitter customer support. But while the tablet apps are similar, the bank stresses that the new app was designed exclusively for the Kindle Fire, "with every component, graphic, touch action, button and slider customized to the tablet's modified operating system, form factor, screen size and resolution," according to a release.

[Check out the Best iPad Banking Apps and tips on how to create a great tablet experience.]

Similarly, the new Bank of America Kindle Fire app offers the same functionality as the bank's iPad app, including account overviews, bill pay and fund transfer. And like the iPad app, the Kindle Fire app moves beyond the traditional ledger layout to blocks and tiles that can be tapped and swiped. But the Kindle Fire app's user interface is slightly different and made to work with the device's unique screen size and operating system, says Mark Warshawsky, senior vice president and mobile channel executive at Bank of America.

"It's important to take the time to invest in these unique experiences," Warshawsky notes. "We don't just port the same app from one device to another. It's really about maximizing reach to customers and providing the best experience possible on the device that they choose to use."

On the Cutting Edge

Tracey Weber, Citi's managing director for consumer Internet and mobile banking in North America, says Citi is always assessing new devices that are gaining traction, and the bank saw the release of the Kindle Fire as a prime opportunity to connect with more customers. "When Amazon announced the Kindle Fire and the price point it was at, it was clear that it would be a hot item for the holidays," she tells BS&T.

Both the Bank of America ($2.1 billion in assets) and the Citi ($1.9 billion in assets) Kindle Fire tablet apps join existing rosters of mobile app offerings from the banks that include apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, as well as Android smartphones. In addition, Bank of America offers apps for Windows and BlackBerry smartphones. Both banks say the new releases are an integral part of a mobile and digital strategy that emphasizes accessibility and convenience for customers.

According to Citi's Weber, tablet innovations in particular are a key part of Citi's mobile strategy. She notes that Citi has a small, specialized team dedicated to creating and upgrading tablet apps. "It's a really big focus area for us moving forward," she says. "There's a huge opportunity to deepen our relationship and engagement with customers."

At the same time, as Bank of America rolled out its Kindle Fire app, it also rolled out a tablet-optimized banking app for Android 3.0+ devices. BofA's Warshawsky says the bank will continue to introduce new apps as new devices come out. "Whether it's new capabilities or new devices, we're always going to invest in things that make the experience better for customers," he says of the bank's continuing mobile strategy.

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