Does Online Banking Need its Own iPad App?

First Apple came out with the iPhone and it changed the landscape for mobile devices. People began to see the power of TIME (technology, information, media, and entertainment) converging in a device that could fit in their pocket.

Developers latched onto the popularity and now there is pretty much an application that will do anything from calculating nutritional values at fast food restaurants, to applications that utilize GPS to provide walking directions to the closest ATM. Early on, most (myself included) felt that downloadable applications for financial institutions were akin to developing software for PC banking of the 90s. I, for one, felt that the premise of having consumers go to a site to download a specific application would be foolish when we have become so accustomed to having the browser be our gateway.

I may, however, have been premature to think that was the case. Apple certainly changed the rules and the habits of consumers and today it is a reasonable strategy to develop online banking applications that run on the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry platforms. Now, along comes the iPad which will require its own development efforts. Should banks develop specific iPad applications?

The short answer is yes; it is inexpensive, it gives the financial institution publicity, and perhaps will draw in some new business. The difficulty, however, lies in the fact that the mere form factor of the iPad does not really make it a mobile device and perhaps downloading a banking application on it will not be necessary.

Have

you seen what your bank website will look like on an iPad? Go to the site www.ipadpeek.com and take a look. Most sites on the iPad come across as pretty impressive. In fact, why not just utilize existing online banking and bill pay applications meant for access from PCs and Macs and focus application development on the smaller form factors devices?

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) in fact recently announced that they will be dropping mobile browser based banking and instead focus on SMS and downloadable applications -- primarily because of low usage. I wonder how much the iPad played in their decision? Perhaps the writing is on the wall when it comes to offering access to financial services where a three prong approach would be:

* Continue to develop and enhance traditional online banking for access from desktops, laptops, MacBooks, netbooks, iPads, etc.

* Develop further functionality around SMS -- an extremely popular and widely accepted method of communication.

* Develop downloadable applications for the largest market share smartphones, such as the iPhone, Blackberry and Android.

What do you think?

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