iPad and iPhone apps are currently all the rage among Australia's largest banks, but Westpac subsidiary St George Bank late last week bucked the trend by launching what it said was the first mobile banking application in Australia to focus on the emerging Android platform.
In addition, a similar app for Research In Motion's BlackBerry Torch handset will soon follow, according to the bank. The Android application is available now and can be downloaded from the Google Apps Marketplace.
"We realise many consumers are choosing Androids or BlackBerrys and we're really pleased to be able to provide these customers with a purpose-built Mobile Banking application," St George Bank's chief information officer (CIO) Dhiren Kulkarni said in a statement.
Kulkarni said some 600,000 customers were already logging into its existing iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad applications each month, constituting more than 250,000 financial transactions and more than a million inquiries a month. The CIO said there was no doubt the new Android and BlackBerry applications will prove as popular.
The new Android app will allow customers to log onto online banking to access their accounts and conduct common activities such as checking their balances, transferring funds, paying bills, viewing interest and so on. Customers can also locate their nearest St George Bank ATM or branch, view the bank's contact details and information about financial products.
The news comes as many industry pundits are predicting the Android platform will eventually come to dominate the mobile ecosystem. Unlike Apple's iOS operating system, the Android platform is being launched by many different handset manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson and LG.
In June, John Mooney (the chief operating officer of mobile developer MIA International) said that where MIA used to be commissioned to develop an app for the iPhone platform, now its customers wanted the same app to be on Android as well.
However, Microsoft has also recently thrown a wildcard into the smartphone wars by launching its Windows Phone 7 operating system on a variety of handsets in Australia to positive reviews. Some organisations, such as Australia Post and Fairfax, for example, have already launched Windows Phone 7 applications.
"We're very proud to be one of the first apps showcased on the Windows Phone 7," said Australia Post's general manager of digital and contact centres Brady Jacobsen recently in a statement. "The Australia Post app demonstrates our commitment to our customers who want to interact with Australia Post services, electronically."