Can CBA's Kaching for Android do NFC? It can't

CBA's new Kaching for Android will not support "Bump" and NFC capabilities.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has launched its popular Kaching banking app on the Google Android platform; however, it does not have support for near-field communication (NFC) capabilities.


David Lindberg (Credit: CNET )

Kaching was released for the Apple iPhone late last year, and since then has racked up more than 365,000 downloads on the App Store. The app is an enhanced everyday banking tool with additional features, such as fund transfers using Facebook or email.

Kaching can be used for MasterCard's PayPass, an NFC payment feature, but it requires iPhones to be equipped with an iCarte case. The case compensates for the iPhone's lack of an NFC chip.

The bank's decision to launch Kaching on the Android platform was spurred on by the popularity of Google OS smartphones.

"Trends now point to Android being one of the two really important ecosystems to support, and we've always said we wanted to support whatever phones our customers were using," CBA executive general manager for cards payments and retail strategy, David Lindberg, said.

The bank will support Kaching for 80 per cent of Android devices — around 13 handsets — currently in circulation, so it can offer the app as a standardised tool, rather than a browser-based experience.

"Some people are going to be upset about that, but we think it's a better trade-off, having a crisp and clean experience for the majority of devices," Lindberg said.

What Kaching for Android lacks, compared to its iOS counterpart, is a new "Bump" feature, which allows instantaneous payments to be made by tapping two phones together. The functionality, announced today, is available on iPhones running iOS 4.2 or above. It is powered by the device's accelerometer and GPS.

Since Bump can be used to transfer money from a CBA account to a non-CBA one, the bank sees it as a useful tool for the merchant community.

Bump is powered by a third-party US-based company, and CBA has licensed its software model. There is currently no working version of Bump for Android available.

Another disappointing feature missing from Kaching for Android is NFC capability. A number of Google Android smartphones already have NFC chips installed.

According to CBA, there are currently no phones in the Australian market that are truly NFC enabled.

"Most Androids that go to market today have an NFC chip, and some claim to have it activated, but they generally only have the radio portion activated," CBA chief marketing and online officer, Andy Lark, said. "They don't have the secure element activated — we actually need to get from Google or from device handset manufacturer the specific code base to be able to do secure NFC transactions on those devices.

"No one has released those yet, and there is no timeline."

Kaching app for Facebook

CBA is currently working on a dedicated Kaching Facebook app, which is expected to be launched by the end of the year. It is currently in beta-testing phase.

Once it is released, customers will be able to access account details and make transactions with Facebook friends. Notable features include the ability to send a request for payment on the social-media website, as well as an option for users to post transactions made via the Kaching app on their Facebook wall.

Payment information posted on a Facebook wall can be customised, according to Lark. He is confident that Kaching on Facebook will be beneficial to consumers and businesses.

"Facebook is the ultimate marketing and distribution channel," Lark told ZDNet Australia. "We do a lot of marketing on Facebook, and it has been hugely effective."

CBA is conscious of the security and privacy concerns posed by exchanging money on a mobile and Facebook. It is offering a 100 per cent security guarantee to cover losses incurred through unauthorised transactions on customer accounts.

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