The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has promised that it will release its Kaching app to Android users within six weeks, albeit without enabling internal near-field communication (NFC) chips for contactless transactions. That, according to senior bank executives, is the fault of Google, device manufacturers and a fragmented ecosystem.
The Kaching app represents the Commonwealth Bank's push into contactless and peer-to-peer payments via mobile phone, and is currently only available to iPhone users. An Android version of the app has been in internal testing for some time, however.
Andy Lark, chief marketing officer of the Commonwealth Bank, told ZDNet Australia today that the release of Kaching for Android without integration with phones' built-in NFC hardware is the fault of Google and device manufacturers that have not been able to keep up with the bank's proposed release timetable.
"Our challenge on Android, frankly, has been [the fact that] we've been waiting for NFC clarity from Google. We haven't got it, so we've made a decision to go ahead and get Kaching out there with some other features that we think people will love," Lark said.
Michael Harte, chief information officer of the Commonwealth Bank, highlighted the lighter side of the situation, saying, "surely you pick up on the irony that there's a bank in Australia pushing companies like Apple and Google to keep pace".
The bank released its first iteration of Kaching onto the iPhone platform in October last year. The app requires the purchase of an NFC-enabled case accessory to allow the iPhone to use contactless payments, after Apple skipped the inclusion of an NFC chip in the iPhone 4S. Since then, Apple has won itself a patent for a mobile-wallet platform built around an integrated NFC chip, fuelling speculation that its next model will include an NFC chip.
Several Android handsets currently on the market have on-board NFC capability; for example, the flagship Samsung Galaxy Nexus. For organisations like the Commonwealth Bank to get access to the NFC chip, however, device manufacturers need to allow access. Lark said that this access is something that the Commonwealth Bank is currently missing.
Lark added that the bank wants to enable the NFC capability of Kaching for those Android phones that have the necessary hardware as soon as possible after the app's release.
The Commonwealth Bank has tested the other capabilities of the Kaching app for Android successfully with the main devices currently in market, including Samsung and HTC, and is now in what it calls "long-tail testing" of other devices on the market.