CommBank brings mobile banking app to smartwatches

Commonwealth Bank of Australia is following in the footsteps of St George Bank, announcing that it will be launching a banking app for Android and iOS smartwatches.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia has announced that it will be expanding its mobile banking CommBank app to smartwatches on both Android and iOS.

The CommBank app for smartwatches will initially provide customers with three key functions: The ability to check account balances, find the nearest ATM, and make cashless card withdrawals from ATMS.

Lisa Frazier, Commonwealth Bank digital channels executive general manager, said the launch by the bank is the next phase for the company's mobile banking app.

"Mobile continues to be a very important part of banking for Australians. We have 3.3 million customers using the CommBank app, and they're using it extensively," she said. "There are 65 percent of logons to everyday banking, and over AU$100 billion in payments through the phone each year. With the evolution and development of the smartwatch, it's the natural extension from the smartphone."

Frazier said that while there is potential to expand the capabilities of the app further down the track to also include alerts and the ability to make payments, it will be dependent on the evolution of technology and customer feedback. In the meantime, the initial features included in the banking app for smartwatches will be reflective of what customers are currently using the most when banking on their smartphones.

"We've taken what's most popular on the go when people are not necessarily carrying their wallet, but they've got their phone, and we're extending that to the wrist," she said.

The app for Android will be released "within weeks", as it is currently in the final stages of its staff pilot. Meanwhile, the app for iOS is currently in testing phase, and will not be released on the launch day of the Apple Watch. Frazier said the bank wants to pilot the app for iOS on the Apple Watch when it becomes available before officially releasing it.

(Image: Supplied)

The market first saw a national bank leap into smartwatch banking last April, when St George launched its mobile banking application for Sony SmartWatch 2 and later, the Samsung Gear 2.

Frazier said that while banking on smartwatches has been a space the company has been considering, the bank wanted to wait until it was sure the market was ready before it released anything.

"There were mixed reviews when watches first came out. There were a lot of issues with battery life, so it needed to go through some evolutions. But Apple is now saying this is the future, and they create a lot momentum. There were 370,000 smartwatches sold last year. We believe with Apple coming in that it will have broader appeal," she said.

The news from CommBank follows a recent update that the bank made to its mobile banking app. It introduced Tap & Go payments through Host Card Emulation-based technology to any Android smartphone with NFC running KitKat 4.4 and above.