The Financial Services Industry Looks Beyond the iPad

by on May 30, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2012 Issue of Consulting Insights.
 
A year ago in the Spring 2011 Issue of Consulting Insights, we discussed the retail financial services industry’s first steps in the mobile tablet space, highlighting early adopters of the iPad such as E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade. These innovators were among the first to experiment with different techniques to adapt mobile content for the larger tablet screen.

The industry has come a long way in 12 months. A growing number of firms, like Charles Schwab, Citi, Discover and Vanguard, have introduced their first iPad apps. Today, though, new devices are beginning to catch the industry’s attention. With Android tablets gaining popularity, financial services firms have begun to develop apps for use with these alternative devices.

Banks & Card Issuers Take the Lead
 
The earliest firms to embrace the iPad mostly came from the brokerage space, looking to use the device’s larger screen and greater computing power to provide a stronger mobile research and trading environment. Interestingly, the first Android tablets have come from the bank and card issuer segment of the industry.
 
In October 2011, American Express was the first firm we track to introduce an Android tablet app, simultaneous to the launch of its iPad app. Citi and Bank of America, which had previously launched iPad apps in 2011, followed with Android tablet apps in early 2012.
 
In all three cases, the new Android tablet apps closely resemble the iPad version in design and capabilities. They display account information in similar ways and provide access to transaction tools with the same essential workflow. For example, Citi’s spending graphs and Bank of America’s calendar view work equally well on both the iPad and Android tablets.
 


American Express Public Site Android Tablet App Promotion
 
New Player in Tablet Computing: Amazon
 
Even though design translates well between tablets, the number of Android-powered devices on the market poses a daunting challenge for developers. This may explain why some firms have focused on Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
 
Amazon has emerged as a rival for Apple on the tablet market with a strong technology background and a built-in audience for its e-books. The Kindle Fire offers a smaller seven-inch screen, but still provides key tablet capabilities – a color touchscreen, built-in WiFi and competitive computing power – for a much lower price tag than an iPad.
 
Citi’s Kindle Fire app stands out among financial services firms. It adapts the firm’s iPad app, including its graphs, transaction interfaces and educational content. Unfortunately, the app is not available on any other Android tablets.
 
Other firms, like Chase and Wells Fargo, also support the Kindle Fire. Their apps are two of the most popular free finance apps in the Amazon Appstore, as are apps from Bank of America, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade. However, these apps have much more in common with the firms’ Android smartphone apps. Many of these firms have developed an app optimized for the iPad, but have not yet extend those tablet enhancements to the Kindle Fire.
 
Apple Still Dominates the Tablet Market
 
While Android tablets are gaining acceptance, they have a long way to go to truly rival iPad. Apple’s original tablet accounts for the vast majority of tablets sold, and all projections are for that dominance to continue despite the rise of competitor devices. Apple’s new iPad, announced March 8, 2012, improves on previous versions with enhancements such as a retina display and 4G connection, raising expectations for the class of devices.
 
The iPad’s popularity has forced financial services firms to start developing platforms and tools for tablet computers. Indeed, far more apps have been introduced for the iPad than Android tablets in the last 12 months. The iPad’s evolution will likely drive development on existing tablet apps as firms search for ways to take advantage of its latest capabilities.
 
The Future of Android Tablets
 
As we’ve seen, though, iPad apps can serve as a model for additional tablets, expediting development for other devices. It’s taken roughly two years for the industry as a whole to embrace the iPad. Android tablet development in the financial services industry stands perhaps just a year behind the iPad and its suite of financial services apps could be set to catch up quickly.