Jack Henry Unleashes 23 Mobile Banking Apps Into the iPhone App Store in April

imageWe’ve been closely tracking mobile apps. In the 21 months since Apple opened its App Store, 77 U.S. financial institution added apps, about four per month (see our latest report for more info).

Then last week, 18 new bank apps appeared. And they all shared a certain, shall we say utilitarian, look (see below). Turns out they are pushed out by Jack Henry for its NetTeller clients. While they won’t win any design awards, it’s good to be in the app store.

In total, Jack Henry now has 24 clients represented in the store. All but one, Ohio Valley Bank, were added in April (see table below).

We can now officially report there are more than 100 U.S. financial institution in the iTunes App Store. Just 10,000+ more to go.

Bank Service Name Date
Ohio Valley Bank 2 Feb 2010
Bank of Brookhaven goDough 2 April 2010
Valley View Bank Mobile Banking 2 April 2010
Ohio Valley Financial Group goMobile 5 April 2010
Alpine Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
American National Bank of Texas Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
First Dakota National Bank eMobile Banking 16 April 2010
First Fidelity Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
First National Bank of the Rockies FNBR Mobile 16 April 2010
First State Community Bank FSCB Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Bank of Granite Granite Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Institution for Savings goMobile Banking 16 April 2010
Lone Star National Bank LSNB Mobile 16 April 2010
Mascoma Savings Bank Mobile Banking 16 April 2010
Susquehanna Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
Simmons First Bank Anywhere 17 April 2010
Northway Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
State Bank of Lizton Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
Stonegate Bank Mobile Connect 17 April 2010
Texas Bank and Trust TBT gomobile 17 April 2010
The Bank of Elk River eMobile Banking 17 April 2010
Western National Bank Mobile Banking 17 April 2010
The Bank of Miami TBOM Mobile 17 April 2010
Pendleton Community Bank yourbank2go 17 April 2010
Westerly Community Credit Union WCCUmobile 21 April 2010

Source: AppShopper.com (data drawn from iTunes), 22 April 2010

The two screenshots posted for Western National Bank’s iPhone app, powered by Jack Henry (26 April 2010)

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Why You Should Build an iPad Banking App (Even Though You Don’t Need To)

One week into the iPad era there are still no banks or credit unions with iPad-specific apps (note 1). There also aren’t any major PFM or other financial brands present, other than Square and E*Trade. Mint’s not even there yet.

What’s going on? On Friday, The Financial Brand’s Jeffry Pilcher tweeted the question that’s on a lot of bankers’ minds:

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While I suspect Jeffry is mostly being provocative, it’s a question worth discussing. Should financial institutions build an iPad app?

The Web experience on the iPad is outstanding. It has a lightening-fast Safari browser built in. It loads my bank’s webpage as fast or faster than my MacbookPro or Thinkpad X41. The iPad virtual keyboard makes it easy to type username and password. And for the most part (Flash is a problem), websites look and perform perfectly on the iPad (use ipadpeek.com if you want to see what your webpage looks like in an iPad layout).

So yes, online banking works fine on iPads. But you can say the same thing about most evolutionary products. Telephone calls work fine on corded phones. Cars work fine without cup holders. Refrigerators work fine without ice makers. And so on.

An iPad app isn’t about utility, it’s about a great user experience. The ability to click on a banking button on the main iPad screen and launch a perfectly sized online banking app shaves 30 to 45 seconds off the traditional browser-based approach (open Safari, navigate to my bank, and find the login button). There are also things you can do with an app, such as location-aware ATM/branch finder, that make it a better experience (note 2). 

So here’s why most major financial brands should have an iPad app now:

  • Free publicity (part 1): As of today, there are only 39 iPad apps in the Finance category. Each of the 562,000+ iPad owners, and millions of others browsing the iTunes App Store, would see your brand showcased there.
  • Free publicity (part 2): There was, and is, a tremendous amount of hype around the iPad. Being the first bank/CU in your country/state/region/city/neighborhood with an iPad app will net you numerous mentions online and in print.
  • It’s cool: While financial institutions are rightly focused on the basics right now, there is still considerable value in being seen as a technology leader.
  • It’s inexpensive: Building a basic iPad/iPhone app is a relatively simple project. If it did nothing more than connect to online banking and show nearby ATMs/branches, you’d receive most of the benefits listed above.
  • It’s the future: Apps and widgets will play a large role in banking info delivery going forward, especially in mobile banking. You should be designing apps for every significant platform. In the U.S. that means the iPhone and Android, then iPad and Blackberry after that (see note 3).

And one final note for the 67 U.S. financial institutions that already have iPhone apps. Yes, you still need an iPad one. While the iPhone app runs fine, it is displayed in a small window the size of an iPhone. Users can press a button in the lower-right corner to doublesize the app, but images and text become fuzzy, and it just doesn’t look right (although it is functional as you can see in the screenshots below).

Bank of America’s iPhone app displayed on iPad screen (5 April 2010)
Note: Click on the images below to see the quality difference

              Normal size                                                             Double sized

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Notes:
1. As of 11 PM Pacific April 10, the only major financial brand with an iPad app is E*Trade MobilePro, which is more about stock trading, not banking.
2. For more on financial apps and the iPhone, see our March 2009 Online Banking Report.
3. For more on the importance of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.
4. Hat-tip to Banking Kismet for blogging on the subject.

Mobile Firsts: State Farm Offers Auto Insurance Discounts to Graduates of its Steer Clear iPhone App

imageLast week I talked about how USAA is making the mobile experience better than online thanks to the magic of mobile remote deposit and PIN-based login. For the sake of discussion, I’m defining magic as anything you could not have imagined doing on your mobile phone two years ago (note 1).

The latest novel financial app: State Farm’s Steer Clear program that provides auto insurance discounts “up to 15%” for new drivers (under age 25) that pass its safe driving program. Users can undergo the self-assessment program online or off, but the app makes it easier and with a built-in stopwatch (screenshot below) to track the required 20 practice drives. See how it works in the company’s video below (press release here; iTunes link here). 

image As much as I like it, the State Farm app doesn’t quite make it into the magical category. Had it used GPS to automatically track the 20 practice drives, it might have passed the bar. I’m sure that’s in a future version.

Regardless, it’s clever, unique and positions the company well with the youth market and their parents that often foot the insurance bills. That’s a good return on the small investment needed to port the program over to a mobile app (note 2).

Notes:
1. I am using two years, since that predates the opening of the iPhone App Store in July 2008.
2. Read more about the strategic advantages mobile banking can give your financial institution in our latest Online Banking Report published today.

Citibank, Microsoft Join Forces with Bundle, a Personal Finance Site with a Data Bent

image I had been intrigued about rumors that Microsoft and Citibank were partnering on a joint personal-finance venture called Bundle. I was hoping for the financial services version of an Apple launch.

OK, that’s a little too high of a bar to set. I was really just hoping for the next Mint or at least something we hadn’t seen before. To some extent, Bundle delivered, with Mint-like attention to design and deeper data than we’ve seen previously. But in other ways it’s just a me-too personal finance site, FiLife 2.0. Bottom line, Bundle has been open only a week so it’s way too early to predict where it’s going or how it makes money. 

imageBundle is a personal finance startup backed by Citibank, Microsoft, and Morningstar. Two of the key execs, including CEO Jaidev Shergill, are from Citi Growth Ventures, the group charged with commercializing products and ideas that have bubbled up within the banking giant. The startup also enlisted professional journalists, including Janet Paskin who’s written for Dow Jones’s SmartMoney Magazine among others.

Given that pedigree, the new site is kind of a SmartMoney Magazine meets your credit card statement with some social networking thrown in the mix.  

What distinguishes it from most personal finance content providers is that Bundle showcases proprietary data, sourced from Citibank’s massive card-spending warehouse. The site gives center stage to data and shows household spending personalized to your specific location.

There’s also professional personal finance advice mixed with stories and comment from the community. Even the articles use the database to illustrate points (screenshot 3). 

image Naturally, it’s well-integrated to Facebook. You cannot even comment unless you log in via Facebook Connect. You can follow Bundle on Twitter, of course, but surprisingly there is no blog or RSS feed.

And Bundle already has its own iPhone app called Vice Tracker (iTunes link) that makes shopping for non-essentials into a tongue-in-cheek game. The unique app was added to the store two weeks ago in the Lifestyle category. 

According to the FAQs, Bundle’s business model is advertising, but there are no ads on the site yet, other than the logos of the backers (Microsoft is using its MSN Money brand). Presumably, they are looking for financial advertisers, but the Citibank connection might make that a harder sell.

Analysis
I like what Bundle is doing, creating a consumer-facing company around Citibank’s cardholder data. But I can’t figure out who they are targeting. Maybe they haven’t decided yet.

If they want to attract data junkies like myself, the data needs to be more transparent and they need more robust tools to play with it. I enjoyed being able to compare the spending of my Seattle neighbors against that of my home town in Iowa (it’s surprisingly similar). But I was left with a number of questions: 

  • Where does the spending data come from? The FAQs are vague on saying that it comes from Citibank card data, government sources and “other third parties.” 
  • If it’s primarily Citibank card data, is it really representative of the entire town or just the people that hold Citibank cards? For example, Bundle tells me (screenshot #3)  that the average dining out expense in Seattle is $115 and the most common spot is Starbucks followed by McDonalds. Something seems wrong with that.  
  • And furthermore, are these estimates of all spending or just that on Citibank cards? And which Citi portfolios are included? What about business cards?
  • The graphical bubbles are nice, but I like to view data in tables, especially when trying to drill down and do meaningful analysis. Is there some way to see the underlying numbers?

On the other hand, if Bundle is trying to attract readers looking for personal finance advice and discussion, the data is kind of in the way, more window dressing than anything else.

Final thoughts
The graphics are great and the spending data is interesting. But why would I come back? There’s only so many times in one’s life that you want to compare the shopping habits of your city vs. somewhere else.

Presumably, future versions will allow you to compare your actual spending to the Bundle averages using account-aggregation technology. This is a popular feature of Wesabe, and is one of the major tenets of what we’ve called “social personal finance” (note 1, 2).

I also expect they’ll integrate Bundle into the Citibank cardholder site so its customers can do online comparisons while they are checking their statement online.  If Citi can document a spending lift from bundled Bundle, then the startup has proven its value. Armed with that success, it could be licensed to other big card issuers, increasing the value of the Bundle data for all users, attracting more users and more advertisers. The network effect. Perhaps that’s the end game here. 

#1: Main Bundle page after selecting “Seattle” as location to show spending (29 Jan. 2010)

image

#2: Main page after drilling down through the “Food & Drink” bubble (link)
Note: Top five restaurants for dining out in Seattle are Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway, Red Robin and Cheesecake Factory. That sounds possible, but then the average purchase size is listed at $115. That’s a lot of lattes or Big Macs.

image

#3: The ever-present “spending balls” hover above an article by Bundle Managing Editor Janet Paskin’s short post. The balls compare the spending in Brooklyn with her hometown Seattle 
Note: Brooklyn comes out cheaper, see the solid circles (Brooklyn) in front of the cross-hatched ones (Seattle).

image

Notes:
1. See our previous reports on Social Personal Finance (2007) and Online Investment Communities (2008).
2. Wesabe would seem to be a great acquisition if Bundle wants to add the aggregation technology piece and jump-start its user base.  Blippy-like features would also make the site more sticky.
3. For more background on the software tools being used, see the article on Bundle in Microsoft’s Financial Services publication published 22 Nov. 2009.

What Does the New Apple iPad Mean for Banking?

image_thumb11Apple today introduced its latest invention, a gigantic $499 iPod Touch called the iPad (inset shows iPad, Kindle, vs. iPhone; note 1).

It’s a gorgeous piece of technology that will soon be the movie-watching, ebook-reading device of choice for the rich and famous. But what does it mean for the average financial institution?

Tactically, it should have almost zero impact. Your iPhone/iTouch app should work pretty much the same on the iPad. There may be some design tweaks your programmers will need to understand, but the basic functionality is the same.

It would make a wonderful giveaway item, either as part of a high-end business/private banking package (note 2), or as a sweepstakes prize.     

So those of you who already have an iPhone app launched, or in the pipeline, can stop reading now. But read on if you haven’t yet hopped on the app bandwagon.

___________________________________________________________________________

ipad_portrait_landscape.png

The movement to apps, and away from old-school “browsing,” is unstoppable. The iPad joins a growing list of new devices (Android, Kindle, etc.) that are app-primary, browser-secondary (note 3).

It’s a massive shift that’s happened in less than two years, beginning in July 2008 when Apple opened the iPhone platform.

The popularity of apps is changing how users tap online info. Even power laptop/desktop users are making dramatic changes in their information consumption. For example, within a few months of the Apple app store launch, I had already moved 12 of my routine info-gathering tasks to the iPhone. The speed/convenience of pressing a single button vs. navigating to a website via the browser is a significant improvement in user experience. More than a year later, my habits have changed little. 

The change from serving customers who were “online browsers” and are now “mobile app users” has profound implications for banking. Instead of talking to your customers in batch- mode with built-in time delays, you are now real-time, feeding data to customer on the go, where they need up-to-the-minute status on their cash situation.   

In many ways, the ROI for real-time banking (and here) is more dramatic than online-batch banking. The ability to stamp out POS fraud, to nip budding customer service nightmares, and just plain get closer to the customer, all bring nice returns on the mobile investment (note 3).

Notes:
1. Photo credit: TechCrunch post today.
2. For more info on using a dedicated device for small business customers, see our October Online Banking Report.
3. Groundswell author and Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff calls this the “splinternet.”
4. For more info on financial services opportunities on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.
5. Initial response online was mixed, 2,700 readers of CrunchGear, voted “thumbs sideways” today (link, results at 4PM Pacific below)

ipad_poll.png

Nationwide Insurance is Fourth Financial Institution with Multiple iPhone Apps

image In November, we predicted that large financial institutions would each offer dozens of mobile apps targeted to various lines of business and/or customer segments (previous post). PNC Bank, Wells Fargo and Chase each have two apps in the iPhone store.

Three weeks ago, a fourth financial company added its second app: Nationwide Insurance.

The company originally launched an app (inset) geared towards its insurance customers in April 2009 (press release; iTunes store link). This app is designed to assist its insurance customers when they have an accident. The most recent version includes a toolkit, auto claim form, agent finder and even a flashlight.

Then in mid-December, the company released a second app geared towards automobile shoppers, Cartopia (screenshots below; iTunes link; press release). It helps buyers research prospective cars on the go.

By inputting a vehicle identification number (VIN), consumers can quickly access the following info on a prospective vehicle:

  • Car specs (fuel economy, dimensions, weight, etc.)
  • Average retail and wholesale prices
  • 5-year cost-of-ownership estimates
  • Original warranty info
  • Safety info
  • History of the VIN number, powered by Experian’s AutoCheck (similar to Carfax report; limited to six free lookups each month; note 1)

In addition, users can calculate monthly loan payments with a built-in loan calculator. Nationwide also provides links for customers to call in to apply for vehicle financing and or receive an insurance quote. Unfortunately, there is no online loan application or insurance price quote engine.

Finally, the app contains space to keep notes and rate the cars you are considering purchasing.

Relevance to Netbankers: If you are in the auto loan and/or insurance business, getting your name in front of car buyers as they shop is the ultimate marketing coup. While you may not be able to emulate all the functions in Nationwide’s app (note 2), even a simple loan calculator and note-taking area, along with links to your call center, could drive incremental business.

                                                                                    Cartopia #2 Main Loan info with link to
     Cartopia #1: Splash screen                          insurance quote (via voice call)

image            image

Notes:
1. I was unable to access the report on my test vehicle; the error message said it was temporarily unavailable.
2. Although the app is loaded with features, its UI is a bit clunky and the app is only rated two stars in Apple’s App Store. Consequently, a slimmed down, simpler app, would appeal to many users.  
3. For more info on financial services opportunities on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.

Another Bank Unleashes Remote Deposit for the iPhone: Royal Bank America

image Another bank is about to join USAA (post), WV United FCU  (post), and Randolph-Brooks FCU (post) in the smartphone-enabled deposit sphere. Royal Bank America, a $1.3 billion (asset) Philadelphia-area institution, is in final testing of its new deposit-taking iPhone app called RoyalRDC (iTunes link).

image The new app appeared in Apple’s iTunes store on Monday, but currently the bank is accepting only beta testers (see screenshot below). The app, said to be coming “within weeks,” allows a check to be deposited within 30 seconds using any model iPhone.

The bank is currently promoting the benefits of remote deposit on its home page (see screenshot below). Not only can RDC users skip the trip to the branch, they have 2 additional hours to make a deposit for same-day credit (6 PM instead of 4 PM). That’s an enticing additional benefit nicely highlighted through the shaded-clock image below. 

Royal Bank America homepage (7 Jan. 2010)
Note: This is the homepage view after refreshing the page once; yellow highlight is mine.

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Royal Bank call for beta testers (link)

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Note: For more info on mobile banking on the iPhone, see our March Online Banking Report.

Chase Bank’s Second iPhone App: Gift Planner

imageA few days ago, we predicted there would be tens of thousands of financial institution iPhone apps as the big banks released dozens to support their major business lines. PNC Bank and Wells Fargo were the two examples we cited.

There’s another multi-app bank: Chase. In our search for an iPhone gift planner to replace the web-based Zions Bank service, we ran discovered the bank’s Gift Planner (iTunes link).

Version 1.0 was released in time for the holidays last year (3 Dec. 2008), but it looks like Chase didn’t take over ownership/sponsorship until release 2.0 in August. The app is supported by an excellent small website at yourgiftplanner.com that displays the app and solicits feedback.

image The app and website are 100% Chase branded. The only indication that a third party is involved is a notation in the iTunes store that the app is sold by The Archer Group (inset), a Wilmington, DE-based digital agency.

Evidently, the app didn’t show up on our radar because it’s placed in the App Store Productivity category instead of Financial. The app doesn’t appear to be mentioned on the Chase main website. A site search there came up blank.

Review: It’s great looking app that can be used for any holiday. The app supports “shake for help,” an advanced feature. The integration with your contact list makes it easy to add new contacts without typing, although you must wade through your entire list. And, the imageprocess of adding gifts is a bit tedious. You have to add a gift to the master gift list, then go to each person and add the gift to their profile. It would be better if you could simply type a gift on the fly.

iPhone users have been relatively unimpressed, giving the latest version a 2-star rating out of five; pretty low for a professional app (see inset).

It’s a good branding tool for Chase, but it the app itself could use retooling.

Gift Planner iPhone screenshots (24 Nov 2009)

image   image   image

Gift Planner website (link)

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Note: For more info on mobile banking on the iPhone see our March Online Banking Report.

Mercedes-Benz Financial Launches Car Finance iPhone App

imageAs an analyst who covers new developments in online and mobile finance, I will forever be grateful to Apple for opening up the mobile-phone platform, thereby unleashing a rush of innovations sure to rival the Internet circa 1995 to 2001 (note 1).

The latest financial app is from none other than Mercedes-Benz. The luxury-car maker has several iPhone apps available to its fans, but the latest, which appeared in the App Store last Tuesday, is specifically designed for its finance customers (iTunes link to app). It’s the first captive finance company with its own app, at least in the U.S.

Other than the striking homepage image, the app is pretty pedestrian so far. It allows registered users (note 2) to make a car payment, calculate the pay-off amount, and find dealers and customer service numbers. In other words, it’s a lot like the company’s website ten years ago (note 3).

But that’s OK, for now. Financial brands should take advantage of the free publicity of the iPhone App Store and  post something, even if it’s just a window to their Web app (worked for Bank of America).

Along those lines, SunTrust (iTunes link) is the latest megabank to join the store (last week), leaving US Bank, Capital One, BB&T, and HSBC as the remaining top-10 U.S. retail banks without their own iPhone app. Who will be the last one in?

Mercedes-Benz Financial’s homepage includes iPhone link (6 Oct 2009)

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iPhone landing page (link)

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Notes:
1. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone (March 2009)
2. Users must set up a profile online at Mercedes-BenzFinancial.com  before accessing their accounts via iPhone.
3. But I’m kind of surprised MB didn’t include a payments calculator, standard fare at most car sites.

Watch the First Mobile Payment Made via Starbucks Card iPhone App at Downtown Seattle Location

imageJohn Cook, a Seattle tech blogger at TechFlash, was apparently the first customer to use the new Starbucks Mobile Card iPhone app to purchase coffee at the Seattle Columbia Center Starbucks. The video was posted at 3 PM yesterday. For more info on the app, see yesterday’s post.

He had a little trouble getting the point-of-sale scanner to read his iPhone-app-generated barcode, but after an extra few seconds (25 seconds actually) of wiggling the phone, the transaction worked (the transaction begins at about the 1:19 mark). Hopefully, with a little practice, users will know where to place their phones in front of the scanner for easy reading. He also demonstrates a card reload after the purchase (at 3:05 mark).

Notes:
1. The myStarbucks app has moved up to number 6 in the iTunes app store, while the mobile card is at number 29 (as of 4:30 PM Pacific).
2. The mobile payments capability is live at all 16 test locations as of yesterday.

Starbucks Launches First Dedicated iPhone App for Stored-Value Cards

image This is a huge day, and one that I hadn’t expected for at least another couple years. The convergence of mobile payments and caffeine. What more could a mobile banking geek and coffee connoisseur want? 

Starbucks pioneered stored-value cards and launched its first card in 2001. Today, it became the first company (note 1) to create an iPhone app exclusively for a payments card. Apparently, Finovate alum mFoundry helped build the app (cnet story, thanks Brandon).

Users were offered $5 extra credit on their first Starbucks card reload of $25 or more made from the new app. Registered cardholders received an email notification earlier today urging them to “turn your iPhone into a Starbucks card.” (see screenshot below).

Note, the Starbucks Card Mobile app (app store link) is in addition to the regular myStarbucks app which has a store locator, coffee/drink info and a favorites-sharing function (app store link). That app also launched today (notes 2, 3). 

The app is gorgeous and shows how important design can be in creating a trustworthy and easy-to-use payment product (note 4). For example:

Home screen (left screenshot):

  • The card balance is immediately and prominently displayed

Reload screen (middle screenshot)

  • Uses big, easy-to-read buttonsremember, this is a small screen, with a giant green, full-width Continue button  
  • Current balance repeats at the top

Mobile payment screen (right screenshot)

  • The bar code for mobile point-of-sale payments (test only, see below) is rendered over a background image of the card, complete with card number, a nice touch to reassure users and Starbucks baristas that this is the real thing.

Analysis
Of course, the mobile commerce and banking community will be abuzz about the mobile payments test. At 16 Starbucks locations (8 in Seattle and 8 in Silicon Valley), iPhone users will be able to pay at the counter using a barcode generated on screen (right screenshot). Luckily, several Starbucks are within a couple miles of my home so I’ll be able to report back with results as soon as the test locations are live.

But I think the stored value card management functions are more interesting for the present. Just think if you had an application that looked like this for your debit or credit card. Think of the brand-value uptick, PR notice, and word-of-mouth buzz. 

Starbucks Card Mobile screenshots (23 Sep 2009)

image    image   image     

Email announcing the new mobile card app (sent to a registered Starbucks cardholder in the mobile payments test market, 23 Sep 2009, 12:43 PM Pacific)

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Notes:
1. Starbucks is the first company in the U.S. to have a dedicated app for a payments card. Although unaware of any elsewhere in the world, I would expect that card apps exist, at least in Asian markets.
2. The main Starbucks app is currently the 33rd most popular free app in the store and number 1 in Lifestyle; Starbucks Card Mobile is number 46 overall and 3 in Lifestyle (6 PM Pacific).
Update (9 PM Pacific): myStarbucks has moved to number 19 and Starbucks Card Mobile to 38.
3. The Starbucks apps are huge, 6.3 MB for the regular and 3.7 MB for the card, so makes sure you have good reception or are connected via WiFi.
4. However, I have been unable to log in to my actual Starbucks account as of 7 PM Pacific, owing perhaps to overloaded servers.
5. For more info on financial institution opportunities, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.