Well That Didn’t Take Long: Financial Services Firms Launch The First Apple Watch Apps

by on May 04, 2015

applewatch2After months of anticipation, the first Apple Watches reached consumers’ hands (and wrists) this past week. Discussing the outlook for wearable tech in the past, we’ve pointed out, “The launch of an Apple-branded smartwatch may be the catalyst needed to spur smartwatch app development by major financial services firms.” That prediction turned out to be accurate, although even we were surprised at how quickly it was proved so.

As of last week, six of the 24 firms tracked by our Mobile Monitor service had updated their iPhone apps to support the Apple Watch – Charles Schwab, Citi, Discover, E*TRADE, Fidelity and USAA. In comparison, only Fidelity (Pebble) and USAA (Android Wear) have watchapps for smartwatches that were earlier to market.

Watchapp capabilities will obviously differ between that diverse set of banks, brokerages and credit card issuers. In most – but not all – cases, clients can use their Apple Watch to monitor their accounts by viewing balances and receiving notifications. Investors can also review markets and look at watch lists or quotes. Design also varies, as firms use different techniques to condense detailed information displays for a much smaller screen. Often, this means new graphs, charts or other visualizations.

ETRADE_Apple_Watch_App_Sample_Screenshots

E*TRADE Apple Watch App Sample Screenshots

Charles Schwab and E*TRADE in particular make clear that their watchapps are not meant to stand on their own, but rather integrate with the iPhone app. Schwab notes that clients can “initiate an order and complete it on the mobile app on your iPhone,” while E*TRADE touts the ability to “Handoff to pick up where you left off on your Apple Watch.” Given the inherent limitations of a smartwatch, it’s important for watchapps to facilitate client activities rather than silo them onto specific devices. It will be interesting to see what other types of capabilities will emerge that don’t have a direct analog with existing iPhone app functionality.

Clearly, these firms hope to benefit from associating their brand with the next hot technology trend.  There’s also a benefit to the Apple Watch to have more firms developing watchapps. We’ve seen this kind of buy-in from financial services firms around Apple Pay, where getting credit cards linked was crucial to get the service off the ground. The more apps available for Apple Watch, the more value its users will get out of the product, and the more they’d be inclined to keep using it in their daily lives. Apple seemed to be successful enlisting partners for Apple Pay, and the activity around the launch of the Apple Watch shows the same effect.