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How to Create a Superior Tablet Banking App

As banks race to roll out mobile apps for iPads, Kindle Fires and other increasingly popular tablet devices, they need to do more than just port over their existing smartphone apps. Industry leaders reveal what goes into creating an engaging and rich tablet-specific experience.

Moving Beyond the iPad

Like Intuit's offering, most tablet banking apps have been designed for Apple's (Cupertino, Calif.) iPad. In fact, as of August 2011, not one of the largest 25 U.S. banks by deposit size was offering an app for a tablet other than the iPad, according to Javelin's 2011 Mobile Banking Financial Institution Scorecard. Development of apps for other operating systems generally fell by the wayside as banks scrambled to meet consumer demand for iPad apps, says Javelin's Monahan.

The tablet market continues to develop quickly, though, and in the short time since Javelin released the research, banks have begun introducing apps for Android-based tablets, which are starting to catch up to the iPad. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, Android tablets held 29 percent of the global market in the fourth quarter of 2010, while iPads held 68.2 percent. By the fourth quarter of 2011, the Boston-based company reports, the iPad's market share dropped to 57.6 percent while Android tablets' share rose to 39.1 percent.

Part of that shift could be due to devices such as the Kindle Fire, an e-reader/tablet combination released by Amazon this past November at a price of $199. Although Seattle-based Amazon hasn't revealed sales numbers, analysts estimate that between 5 million and 6 million Kindle Fires were sold in the fourth quarter of 2011. And banks have taken note -- financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase, Citi, PNC and Wells Fargo have started offering apps for the Kindle Fire in the Amazon Marketplace.

"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," says Citi's Weber, who notes that her bank quickly got to work developing an app tailored specifically for the device; the app officially was released in March. Weber adds that Citi will continue to watch for similar developments in the tablet space. "We're always assessing what devices are out there and gaining traction," she notes. "Our goal is to be wherever our customers are, wherever they need us."

Whether creating tablet apps for Apple's iOS, the Android operating system or even Windows, bringing solutions to market quickly will help banks stay competitive, stresses Javelin's Monahan. But they must offer differentiating features, such as remote deposit capture, person-to-person payments and personal finance management, she adds.

And beyond building customer-facing apps, banks should also consider leveraging tablet apps for internal purposes, the experts agree. Cognizant's Subramanian says the vendor is working with several institutions on internal apps for tablets. "There's so much opportunity for productivity in internal mobile applications," he says, "but they just don't get the spotlight."

[Check out a slideshow of The Best iPad Banking Apps.]

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