When reading about mobile commerce, you could be easily forgiven for thinking that everyone has an iPhone. And if recent news coverage is to be believed, no one has a Nokia anymore. But neither is true.
Recently I took delivery of my first Android device, after my trusty Nokia E71 finally gave up the ghost. Whilst the Nokia was a stalwart companion for many years, wear & tear had taken its toll. After tweeting about the change of devices, the very kind people at Nokia offered me a two-week loan of an E6, the latest ‘version’ of my old phone.
This has put me in the fortunate position to run a little experiment: how do Android and Nokia (Symbian) mobile devices compare when accessing mobile finance services?
For the experiment I used the following parameters
- Must be a UK service
- Must be a service I currently use
- Must be free
- Must be a mobile commerce service (no dissatisfied fowl based apps).
Finally, I’m going to be a wee bit circumspect here with a few of the services tested. Not because I want to avoid heaping praise (or scorn) about a particular service, but rather that I’m going not provide lots of information to those pesky ID thieves.
App#1: Personal Banking
At first glance, the homepage of my bank doesn’t appear to mention mobile banking services, which is a wee bit confusing, as I get SMS alerts from them at least once a week. After more careful inspection, the link to their iPhone app is spotted. Clicking on this, I am then presented with all the options: there is the (obligatory) iPhone app, information on SMS alerts and instructions requesting a cut-down app (balance, statement and top-up) for other devices.
Android: I follow the instructions for requesting the cut-down app, which involve sending an SMS. Nothing happens. So I resend. Nothing. I give up.
Next I try their website in the Android browser. I get presented with mobile web landing page, with offers me the choice of that iPhone app again or a mobile friendly version of the site. I go for the later. The web page fails to load. After a few retries, I spot the problem – it is trying to serve an iPhone friendly webpage which my Android device fails to load. Not sure where the problem really lies, but either way I can’t access the site.
So the only thing I can access as an Android user, are the SMS alerts.
Nokia: Unlike the Android, when I send the SMS requesting the cut-down app I get a response. But whilst the app downloads, it fails to install. The Nokia isn’t yet supported, but plenty of other models are.
Next I tried the website, which like the Android initially takes me the mobile landing page that offers the iPhone app. But, when I go the mobile website, unlike the Android device – the page loads, I can log in and I have full access to my bank account. The high resolution screen of the Nokia and the keyboard make this a much better experience than expected.
Winner: Even though neither device had a dedicated device, the Nokia did succeed in logging in, and (potentially) will have a cut-down app in the near future.
However, the SMS alerts meant I did get some service no matter what type of device I had.
App#2: Credit Card
Similar to my bank, the card issuer I use has an SMS alert service that sends out weekly balance alerts and payment reminders. On their home page mobile access is clearly highlighted, and unlike my bank their rich app is for more than just the iPhone, with Android and Blackberry supported.
Android: Using Google Goggles I scan the QR code on the website (and eventually) this is recognised, and the Android app is then installed.
Logging in I come across a problem that is common theme with the rest of the sites. I use a password manager to create unique credentials for every site I use. On my laptop this is handled very transparently, but when logging in to Apps on a mobile device, you really feel the pain of entering a 12-digit password, particularly on a touch screen.
However once in, the app is full featured; allowing me to check balances, statements, loyalty points and make payments.
Nokia: No dedicated app, so I try accessing the website. Rather than pixel-for-pixel replicating the fill site as my bank did, I get a mobile web version of the site, which loads quickly. Whilst the site is cut-down, functionality is the same as the full site.
Winner: Android. But with a caveat – the credit card app doesn’t provide an option to store the password, and so would require me to enter my (purposely) fiddly password every time. So the app doesn’t make access a great deal friendlier than the Nokia with the mobile web edition of the site.
Like a lot of people I’m a regular user of PayPal. For their mobile App, PayPal have added a number of P2P payment features; including the ability to ‘bump’ two phones together to transfer funds.
Android: Initially the installation of the app fails. Not due to an issue with the App per se, but rather with a limitation with the Android OS. Whilst I have a large (and mostly empty) SD card in my phone, not all Apps support installing on to the card (and in fact you can’t decide were Apps installed, they go where they go).
After deleting a few Apps, PayPal is then installed.
Through the App I can not only view my PayPal account, but also access the P2P payment functionality. One nice feature is that this is integrated with the phone’s contacts.
Nokia: Whilst there is a PayPal App for Nokia, at the time of writing it isn’t compatible with the E6. I was able to access the full PayPal site through the browser, which does include the P2P functionality, but not the ‘bump’ method of making a proximity P2P payment.
Winner: At the moment the Android is the winner, but once the App is updated for the E6, then this could be a draw.
Time for some retail therapy, there are huge number of online shopping sites, so for this experiment I go with the largest in the UK.
Android: Both US and UK versions of the Android App are available. Of the Apps tested, Amazon was one of the few that allowed new users to sign-up for the service on the device.
Once installed the App provided a mobile optimised view of the UK Amazon service. Even 1-Click purchasing is supported, although personally I’m not sure if I could trust myself to not accidently click on random items as I browser and end up with a lot of unintentional purchases.
Nokia: No app for Nokia, but when using the browser I as given the option of using a mobile optimised version of the service or the full site.
Winner: If you aren’t a big user of 1-click, then this was very close to a draw. Both devices enabled me to browse and shop on Amazon.
So after all that hard work, time to reward myself with a Pizza. The nearest big chain pizza delivery service to me is Papa John (other pizza vendors are available). They have a mobile web service but no Apps for any device, so it is a straight draw. They also send out marketing messages via SMS, so again a draw here.
Overall the Android is just ahead in terms of mobile support. Once the PayPal and my Bank’s Apps are updated for the E6, then it could be said the Nokia would be actually just ahead as its browser seemed to be more robust when dealing with the websites I encountered.
It is a very interesting experience coming to familiar services through the lens of a new mobile device platform, as it gives you an insight in to how new users of a mobile service experience mobile services.
There was a great deal of inconsistency in terms of how companies promoted mobile services and the experience as an end-user.
Mobile is no-longer an optional channel, but just having an iPhone app is not going to fully address your customers mobile access needed.
When launching a mobile service you need to
- Ensure your mobile service is clearly promoted on your homepage
- If possible, enable sign-up from the mobile device/service as increasingly consumers are using mobile as their primary internet access channel
- Just having an iPhone app will only provide access to a subset of your customers
- Determine which platforms are used in your market, and have a strategy to address them
- Remember SMS is accessible to all, followed by USSD and mobile web
- Mobile web versions of your sites enable you to reach more customers, use device detection to ensure the best possible user experience
- Think about how you deal with password, particularly for devices with virtual keyboards