I have been getting slowly frustrated with my bank, First Direct who I joined soon after they launched, because they were then offering the latest technology in telephone banking. Removing the frustration of having then to go physically to the bank to get anything done. Back then this was quite revolutionary. But they have not kept that zeal going and everyone else has caught up with them, and overtaken them. Time to find a new bank.
Well now we have moved on from that position through the internet to mobile banking. My idea was to evaluate the various banks that I could move to in terms of their mobile offerings, and choose the one with the best mobile presence.
Lets define what I am looking for here. The mobile app should be fast, and integrate well with the Android user experience. I have seen many apps transferred from iOS that don’t adapt to the way Android works. I don’t care about the Apple app as I will never use that. My bag is security so it needs to have good security. Preferably integrate with Lastpass so I can have a password that is too complicated to remember.
I have no interest in offers, cash-back, or other gimmicks, just a business like interface that presents clear information and allows simple actions.
Here is a list of the main contenders and their current rating on the Google store:
First direct 3.3
This one I know well, it works OK but is essentially a iOS app transported to Android. It is slow and clunky, every menu item or back button involves some spinning icon wait time. Getting to the login screen takes about 20 seconds. They do some funny stuff to stop me using Laspass to log on. I cannot paste my password in, password for the mobile app is limited to 8 characters. If you change focus to another app it may log you out. The menu button just shows the about page, you have to use the iOS style menu button at the top of the screen to navigate. and the back button only works sometimes. I am sure that all the apps here have these sorts of problems, but many of these aspects I can’t evaluate without signing up for an account.
This is clearly the same as the First Direct app, and this is to be expected as they are the same banking group. They have these offers and rewards on the front screen, this just says to me our service is so bad we have to offer you stuff to use it.
Lloyds Bank 4.2
This is clearly better, but why have an ATM finder in there, I can get that from my mapping app (I use osmand which is based on the Open Street Map data, so better than Google. The login is through convoluted letter selection from a password, so I have to have a password that I can remember and can’t use Lastpass to store it in, thus reducing my security.
This feels like I am in kindergarten. and there is a login by the selection of digits from a pass number. Even harder to remember a complex number, and reduced entropy of only providing 3 digits. I have enough stupid PIN number to remember I don’t want any more. This feels like the best so far though.
Metro Bank 3.9
Well what about the new comers to the banking market, perhaps they can produce a decent mobile app. Looking through the comments it seems that setting this up is a pain, lost of PINs and pass-codes before you can start. Summarising the comments they say it is a workable app, clunky, but functional.
Well at this point I cam across a news item on the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30849322 saying that two new banks offering internet only service were starting up. Atom bank have a website, and are recruiting people but there is nothing to see in the way of a mobile app to look at yet. The other is a German bank Fidor. So let us have a look at their German offering.
This looks much more professional. They have widgets so show current status, so you can see these without opening the app. The app itself uses the Android 9 dot pattern for authentication, easy to remember and enter on a mobile, hard to guess. There are not many reviews there, only one describing issues. The news article says that this is launching in the UK in March, so not long to wait.