Mobile Moves Beyond iPhone

LAKE JACKSON, Texas-Credit unions are expanding beyond Apple's iPhone to develop mobile banking applications for other devices, in particular those running the Google Android operating system.

In the year since Lake Jackson, Texas-based Texas Dow Employees CU appeared at Apple's App store with the first credit union locator application, nearly 100 CUs have followed suit with locator and mobile banking applications.

Most mobile members at $29-million Sunset Science Park FCU use an iPhone, which is why the Portland, Ore.-based CU offers an iPhone application, according to Judy Makela. "The iPhone is the dominant platform, and it is a managed platform which means better security. However, Android is building momentum." The CU plans to release Android and BlackBerry mobile banking apps this year.

Currently, no CUs offer mobile banking applications for "Droid." And only San Jose, Calif.-based Meriwest CU has a mobile banking app for BlackBerry devices.

That's all about to change. Several credit unions told Credit Union Journal that they will soon release mobile banking applications that will accommodate a range of devices and operating systems-including the iPad.

Until now, Android and BlackBerry weren't popular enough to merit mobile banking apps, said many of the CUs. But the usage numbers are steadily changing, especially for Android devices.

Educators CU of Racine, Wis. thinks the number of members using Android is "catching up quickly" to iPhone users, according to Michelle Gabor, VP-eServices at the $1.2-billion CU. About 2,000 visits to the Educators mobile site in June were from Droid phones, whereas 11,000 were from iPhones, she said.

Alliant CU of Chicago will launch an iPhone mobile banking app next month, followed by an Android app, said Ed Langel, director, electronic services at the $7.2-billion CU. iPhone's first because visitors use the Apple phone more than any other device to access the CU's mobile website, with more than 9,000 visits from an iPhone in July and nearly 3,700 from an Android device.

Sneaking up behind Android is the iPad, with nearly 800 visits, Langel said. "It's pretty amazing that with iPad so new, it already passed iPod and BlackBerry."

"The initial volume of iPad traffic on our website has been impressive," agreed Fred Hagerman, SVP, CMO at $7-billion Firstmark Credit Union, San Antonio, Texas. The iPad is among the top five devices used to access the CU's mobile site and will merit its own Firstmark mobile banking application next year, he said.

The $1.1-billion Meriwest CU decided to launch mobile banking apps for both iPhone and BlackBerry devices in March. Although BlackBerry isn't as widely used by Meriwest members, "the app was developed to provide a channel to our business users and those who have smart phones provided through their company, which in many cases is a BlackBerry," said Tony Cortez, VP-marketing.

Sunset Science Park FCU has been reluctant to develop a BlackBerry app, said Makela. "It seems that companies supply people with their BlackBerry, rather than people purchasing them on their own. Because of this, most companies block their employees from downloading apps unless they are approved."

Devices and operating systems aside, mobile banking access is heating up, said the CUs interviewed. "Mobile usage on our website continues to grow, and we will continue to increase expenditures supporting the channel," Hagerman said.