Author: Alan Brown
What’s really interesting about iOS8 and the latest Apple phones? And what does a bigger screen, Action Extensions and Touch ID mean for mobile banking?
The iPhone 6 and its updated mobile operating system iOS8 were released last month with all usual the Cupertino fanfare.
New Apple products are always a big deal but what caught the eyes of those of us in software development is that Apple themselves are trumpeting it as the best thing for app developers since sliced bread (well, OK, since the App Store.)
“iOS 8 is the biggest release for developers since the introduction of the App Store.“ – Apple
After a little deliberation, here’s what we think is really interesting about iOS8 and the latest Apple phones, and what they could mean for mobile banking.
Bigger screens and better keyboards change what phones are for
The new offerings from Apple continue the trend of increasing screen sizes with successive releases of. The iPhone 6 sports a 4.7” screen whilst the new ‘plus size model’, the iPhone 6 Plus, has an even larger, 5.5” screen.
That’s an increase in size of 1.5” between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 Plus – it might not look like very much on the page but it means that the iPhone 6 Plus has almost double the viewing area of its predecessor.
The iPhone 6 Plus model also crams in almost 20% more pixels per inch, allowing users to see finer details and developers to make things smaller without losing crispness or readability.
We know that’s important to our users because our recent survey of building society and banking customers revealed that around 35% of people would be more likely to use mobile banking if their phones had larger screens.
But I don’t think the new iPhones will just lead to more people using mobile banking, I think it will change what we think of as ‘mobile’ banking and the features we include in mobile applications.
Along with their bigger screens the new Apple phones come with Quicktype (that’s predictive text to you and me) 3rd party keyboards, but these are less likely to make an impact on mobile banking, at least while there are security concerns around Full Access mode.
Bigger screens and easier typing means that tasks people might have been reluctant to attempt on a mobile device – tasks with a lot of data entry like opening a bank account – become a lot easier.
Connecting digital banking to our digital lives
Traditionally Apple’s mobile operating systems have drawn a heavy curtain between the different apps on a device. Broadly speaking their phones expect you to use one app at a time and each app exists in its own space.
For some tasks that’s OK but it doesn’t reflect real life where our activities are overlapping and interrelated. Anyone who has ever tried to log in to a website or application using a password manager on an iPhone knows how frustrating it is to try to juggle two forcibly separated apps that should be working together.
iOS8’s Action Extensions allow developers to draw back the heavy curtain and create apps that can cooperate by offering up some of their functions to the other applications on a device.
For example, it could mean mobile banking applications that can help you answer that most basic shopping question – ‘can I afford this?’ – without exiting your web browser or shopping app.
iOS’s updated notification centre will also help to spread information to where it’s needed so we can carry on doing the things we want to be doing.
Up until now, notifications have been a way to let you know something interesting has happened, without you having to stop what you’re doing.
Of course if you wanted to respond to the notification you did have to stop what you were doing and open the appropriate app, even if you just wanted to acknowledge that you got the message.
From now on developers can add simple (and secure) actions such as ‘accept’ or ‘decline’ to notifications. So perhaps the next time your bank’s fraud team want to know if you recognise a transaction you’ll just be able to click ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without having to stop what you’re doing and call them.
Touch ID brings biometrics to apps
Perhaps the biggest news for mobile banking though is that Touch ID – the iPhone’s fingerprint recognition technology – is now available to applications.
Previously a user could use Touch ID to identify herself to her phone but not to any of the applications on that phone. Now that’s changed, and it could have a big impact on both security and usability.
For years, passwords have been tolerated as the ‘least worst’ option for authentication – users find it incredibly difficult to create and remember strong passwords and entering them into mobiles can be particularly frustrating.
Fingerprint recognition significantly reduces the risks posed by weak, lost or stolen passwords when it’s included as a second authentication factor. It can also replace password authentication with a seamless, almost invisible, layer of security that doesn’t get between users and their data.
And fingerprint scanning isn’t just a futuristic technology of earlier adopters. Our recent research showed that fingerprint recognition was a more popular biometric technology than iris scanning, face recognition or voice activation and almost 60% of the people we spoke to said they’d be more likely to use mobile banking if they could use a fingerprint scanner.
Image of iPhone 6 courtesy of Flickr Omar Jordan Fawahl