Xero Touch for Android, First Take: Much-improved native mobile Xero client

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Online accounting specialist Xero has released a new Android app, eschewing HTML5 in favour of native coding, just as with its Apple iOS implementation. A lot snappier than the previous version, the new native Xero Touch app also conforms to the latest Android interface guidelines.

It also plays catch-up with the Apple implementation in terms of functionality, one of the most notable additions being automatic bank reconciliation. This will allow Android users to reconcile their Xero accounts against electronic bank statements from the comfort and convenience of their mobile device.

The free Xero Touch app can be downloaded from the Google Play app store and used to log onto an existing Xero account with either the associated username and password, or, once connected, by assigning a 4-digit PIN code to that account.

The Xero Touch dashboard. Image: Xero

As you might expect, the interface is pared down, resulting in a lot less clutter compared to the browser version. We tried it on a smartphone and a tablet, the first port of call being a simple dashboard showing bank account balances (including PayPal) together with invoice and expense summaries. Individual tabs then take you to manage each of these in more detail with another to list Xero contacts.

Xero Touch now offers automatic bank account reconciliation. Image: Xero

That, however, is about it — if you're expecting to be able to pay suppliers, run reports, file VAT returns or perform other day-to-day management tasks from the new app, prepare to be disappointed. But that's not what Xero Touch is all about; it's simply a tool to allow transactions to be captured and processed on the move to enable small businesses to stay on top of their finances regardless of location — something it does very well.

Raising an invoice in Xero Touch. Image: Xero

Raising a new invoice, for example, proved very quick and easy, and because the end result can be directly emailed from the host mobile it makes it easier to stay on top of the process rather than have to remember to catch up later. Likewise when it comes to expenses, the Xero Touch app enables users to keep up to date with their spending, with a useful facility to take a photo of a receipt and attach it to an expense record. Again this worked well, the only issue being a limit of one image per expense record -- even though the record itself may contain multiple items and the iOS app lets you attach more.

Xero: the host service

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As for the host online accounting service, Xero itself continues to be updated and enhanced with many of the omissions noted in our 2012 review now addressed. Omissions such as support for online filing of VAT returns with HMRC, for example, were added in March last year (2013). Payroll capabilities have also been enhanced, as has the ability to get electronic account feeds from major UK banks rather than have to manually transpose and reconcile statements. Support for purchase orders — one of the most-asked for features — was also added last year.

Pricing remains the same, and with no limits on the number of users who can share a Xero account it's still remarkably affordable. Plans start at just £9/month (ex. VAT), although that's for very small businesses; most customers will end up paying £20/month for the unlimited Standard plan, or £25/month to add multi-currency support and more storage space. As with most cloud-based services, you can trial Xero yourself, for free.