First Sales Report on an iPhone Finance App: Tipulator Downloaded 3,200 Times

imageAccording to TechCrunch, the $0.99 tip calculator app from TapTapTap has been downloaded 3,200 times in the month it’s been available. Net income to the developer, after Apple takes its 30% cut, is $2,200.

TapTapTap also markets a much more sophisticated location-based search tool that has generated $50,000 in revenues for the developer.

Tipulator is ranked number 20 in our Aug. 5 rundown of the top-20 banking and finance apps. Today it ranked number 27.

Apple ranks the most popular apps within each category, but does not provide download totals. Tipulator numbers were provided by developer.

What it means
1. iPhone users, so far, are willing to pay for apps. Who would have thought that more than 3,000 people would go to the trouble to download an app to help them multiply their bill times 15% to 20%? And there are two tip calculators that ranked higher in the App Store.

2. There is real demand for mobile financial tools, even very simple ones. Financial institutions should consider launching a branded calculator app in the Apple App Store.

Top 20 Finance & Banking Apps in Apple’s App Store

image It’s been almost a month since Apple launched its App Store for native iPhone apps. According to the company, 25 million have been downloaded, an impressive one-million-per-day pace (11 Aug update: The company reported 60 million downloads, with $30 million in sales, during the first 30 days.)

Luckily for banking geeks, Apple added a Finance category (see screenshot below), so it’s easier to track what’s popular in our sector. As of early today, a total of 42 finance apps were listed. The 20 most popular were (note 1): 

Rank Name Type Price Release* Rating** Num***
1 Bloomberg News Free 16 July 4 337
2 CheckPlease Tool to split dinner bills Free 31 July 3 77
3 Mobile Banking (BofA) Banking Free 4 July 2.5 323
4 PayPal Payments Free 1 July 2 85
5 Balance Expense register Free 30 July 4.5 41
6 Puluwai Real Estate Search Real estate Free 20 Jun 3.5 38
7 3in1 Mortgage Calc Calculator Free 30 Jul 3.5 7
8 TipCalc Tip calculator Free 19 Jul 3.5 6
9 TipTap Tip calculator $0.99 1 Aug 4 30
10 Budget Personal finance mgr $1.99 24 Jul 3.5 37
11 MyAccounts to Go View accounting info Free 15 Jul 2.5 16
12 Swissquote Stock quotes Free 17 Jul 3 2
13 LoanCalc Calculator $0.99 26 Jul 3 18
14 Mortgage Payment Calc Calculator $0.99 2 Aug 3 9
15 Day Bank Expense register $3.99 14 Jul 3.5 64
16 SplashMoney Banking & PFM (note 2) $9.99 24 Jul 3 84
17 iXpenselt Expense register $4.99 9 Jul 3.5 52
18 PocketMoney Personal finance mgr $9.99 1 Aug 3 55
19 LoanShark Calculator $4.99 30 Jul 4.5 5
20 Tipulator Tip calc $0.99 30 Jul 4 33

Source: Netbanker/Online Banking Report analysis of Apple App Store data, 5 Aug 2008
PFM = Personal financial management
Bank of America iphone app (5 Aug 2008)*Release date of latest version; there may have been previous versions released earlier; currently reviews carry over from previous versions
**Average user rating on 1-to-5 point scale
***Number of user reviews posted

 What’s notable:

  • Nine apps have a download fee ranging from $0.99 to $9.99
  • Only four have a user-rating of 4.0 or better (on a five-point scale): Balance (4.5), Bloomberg (4.0), LoanShark (4.5) and TipTap (4.0)
  • Three apps, including two of the most popular, are rated below 3.0: BofA (2.5), PayPal (2.0) and MyAccounts to Go (2.5)
  • The most-reviewed apps are Bloomberg (337 user reviews) and BofA’s mobile banking (323) (see previous coverage)

What’s innovative:
I haven’t used any of the apps yet, but from reading the descriptions, there’s not much new here (notes 3, 4). The apps fall into four main categories:

  • Tip calculators
  • Other financial calculators such as loan payments
  • Expense/check registers
  • Personal finance tracking apps

Even though these functions aren’t very advanced, the ability to access them easily from your mobile phone makes them more interesting. And banks looking to create a useful iPhone app should take note. BofA was criticized in early user reviews for posting little more than a landing page for its normal mobile banking screen (see screenshot above).

Financial institutions would likely find a more receptive audience if a couple useful functions were added to the application besides an online banking login screen. It would be relatively trivial to add an expense register, tip calculator and other calculator functions to the banking app. 

Apple App Store Finance category (5 Aug 2008)

Notes:
1. Apple does not provide any metrics on how many times the apps have been downloaded. It just lists them in rank order.

2. Download transactions from more than 200 financial institutions supporting Intuit’s DirectConnect

3. The most interesting app is SplashMoney’s account aggregation app that allows you to download transactions from more than 200 financial institutions that support Intuit’s Direct Connect.

4. See our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking for more info.

Kiwibank Uses iPhone Launch to Spark Interest in Mobile Banking

image Kiwibank has one of the most eye-catching homepage designs in the world.  Who can resist a lime green Smart Car with four monstrous speakers strapped to the roof?

As I was obsessing about iPhone apps this week (see note 1), I ran across Kiwibank’s landing page for iPhone banking (see second screenshot below). Now that the iPhone has gone global, we’ll see if more banks leverage the iPhone hype, something that didn’t really happen in the United States so much. According to CNet Australia, ANZ is building an iPhone-specific interface, but a search of the ANZ website found nothing.

Kiwibank’s homepage iPhone promo, one of three rotating in the lower right, leads to the not-so-exciting landing page. Still, when you are riding the hype, you don’t necessarily have to put that much effort into your own work (see note 2), just grab ahold of Apple’s coattails and hang on tight.

Kiwibank homepage featuring iPhone promo (11 July 2008)

Kiwi Bank hompage with iPhone banking ad (11 July 2008)

Kiwi Bank iPhone banking landing page (11 July 2008)

image

Notes:
1. Yesterday, I promised it was my last iPhone post for a while, but I couldn’t resist one more. Consider it a Saturday bonus post.

2. Case-in-point, the BofA non-app app being dissed by the vast majority of early-early-adopter reviewers at the Apple App Store (see yesterday’s post).

Bank of America iPhone Mobile Banking App Criticized in Early-User Reviews

image The good news: Of the 135 free applications in the new iTunes App Store, Bank of America’s is a solid number 20, three spots ahead of PayPal, according to rankings within iTunes this morning.

The bad news: The first batch of reviewers hated the app. Their main complaint: It’s not really a native app, just a front door to the bank’s existing mobile site.

The reviews: On a 5-star scale with one star the lowest choice, the app has only a 1.5-star rating (see note 1). Of the 81 reviews, only 19 rated it above one star. Throwing out the five 5-star ratings which are probably from people associated with the product, that leaves only 14 above the bottom rating, an abysmal score by any standard. Following is the breakdown:

Stars Number of Votes                            My Comments
*****             5 I’m skeptical of the objectivity of these reviews
  ****              0 Other than the suspect 5-star fans above, no one was willing to go 4 stars
   ***               6 Only six legit users were even OK with the app
    **             8 Most of these were critical in their comments
     *                62 one star is the lowest choice on the review form

Source: Online Banking Report review of iTunes data, 11AM PST, 11 July 2008

What’s innovative?
1. I was astounded to see 81 reviews in the App Store already. It just opened this morning! It should be noted that you don’t have to actually download the app to post a review. So if and when you post an app here, be prepared for criticism. Even more important, this demonstrates the impact the user voice will have going forward (see note 2).

2. Early adopters, especially techies, can be brutally honest, especially with large corporate efforts deemed lame. But even though the overall grade was very poor, a number of reviewers pointed out that the automatic ATM locator was a significant improvement.

3. BofA needs to upgrade this app ASAP. Some of the criticisms about font size and design can be fixed relatively easily.

Summary
Despite the harsh criticism from the first batch of reviewers, I think BofA did the right thing strategically. It’s too bad they didn’t have something a little flashier, but the bank will get far more mileage by being the first bank in the App Store that it will lose by disappointing the mobile early adopters. It’s unlikely they will lose any business from the negative reviews. They are mostly in the “you should have done better” category, not the “BofA sucks” variety.

You have only one chance to be first, and BofA took it. No one else will ever be able to say they were the first bank in the iPhone (who’s going to be the first credit union?). But the bank better get cracking on version 2.0! (see note 3)

Notes:
1. The only other app from a financial services company was Paypal, which mustered a meager 2-star rating. But it elicited only one-sixth the number of reviewers, just 13. Because you don’t have to actually download the app to post a review, BofA may be getting slammed by people just reading the reviews and jumping on the bandwagon with me-too critiques.

2. See our latest Online Banking Report for more on the growing importance of user reviews. We’ve also published reports on Mobile Banking and Mobile Payments.

3. This post marks the end of iPhone week at Netbanker. We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

Bank of America and PayPal are Only Financial Brands in Apple’s App Store at Launch

Bank of America once again proved its mobile mettle as the only financial institution to have a native app available at the launch of Apple’s new App Store (note 1). PayPal also launched an app on Day 1 (see screenshot below). Both are free.

Bank of America iPhone 2.0 App in Apple App Store in iTunes (10 July 2008)

Bank of America iPhone native app in iTunes App Store (10 July 2008)

Apple launched the store today within iTunes (see note 1). There are 552 apps at launch according to Pinch Media, Here’s the price breakdown:

  • Free – 135
  • $0.99 – 85
  • $1.99 to $3.99 – 110*
  • $4.99 – 62
  • $5.99 to $8.99 – 35*
  • $9.99 – 82
  • more than $10 – 40*

The new Finance category in the App Store has 23 entries at launch. Most are small utilities for calculating tips or splitting the dinner check. Only two recognizable brands are available, PayPal (lower left) and Bank of America, which by design or omission, is listed not with its name but as simply “mobile banking.”

Finance listings in Apple App Store in iTune 7.7 (10 July 2008)

23 Finance apps in Apple's App Store (10 July 2008)

 

PayPal App (10 July 2008)

PayPal app in iTunes Apple App Store (10 July 2008)

Notes:

*Interpolated from graph, plus or minus 3%

1. To view the App Store, download iTunes v. 7.7. Some users including myself (Windows bug?) have reported not being able to see it even after updating iTunes. I was able to access through this link published by TechCrunch.

USAA and Provident Bank Post iPhone Web Apps in Apple’s Directory

USAA iPhone mobile banking app (July 2008) It took almost six months, but Bank of America finally has company in Apple’s iPhone Web App Directory (see note 1).

USAA posted its iPhone-optimized Web app on July 2 (here). USAA’s browser-based app can be used by anyone with online access to their USAA accounts
(see note 2).

The resolution in the screenshot (right) is not great, but you can see the bank is using large iPhone-like icons to navigate to the main functions:

  • Balance/transaction inquiry
  • Funds transfer
  • Bill payment
  • Stock trading
  • Order auto insurance cards

Provident Bank added its mShift-powered solution to the Apple directory June 11. Users are able to perform all typical online banking functions: balance/transaction inquiry,image transfer funds, and pay bills. Its pedestrian format (see below) is clearly built to work across many different mobile devices. The small links would be harder to navigate on an iPhone compared to USAA’s icons.

See previous iPhone banking coverage here.

Notes:
1. BofA was first in the United States. Germany’s Postbank was the first bank in the world in the app directory, beating BofA by a few weeks last fall.

2. These are mobile browser-based solutions optimized for the iPhone. They are NOT native apps running on the iPhone OS, soon to be featured in Apple’s App Store (see previous post).

Put Your Bank in Apple’s iPhone 3G App Store

I’ve written about how the iPhone could change the way consumers use mobile phones to access data (see note 1). But this slide from the Steve Jobs keynote yesterday at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), says it much better:

Steve Jobs keynote slide showing iPhone advanced feature usage

In case you can’t read the slide, it says that 98% of iPhone users use the built-in Safari browser, 94% use email and 90% use text messaging. That’s an amazing level of usage for what used to be considered “advanced” smartphone features. So far, the impact on ecommerce companies has been relatively small, with just 6 million users worldwide. But with Apple dropping the price by 50% to $199, there will soon be 10, 20, or 30 million Americans connecting to the Web via iPhone. If 90%+ use the browser and messaging, it will have a major impact in online/mobile banking usage.

New App Store
imageAnd to help those millions of new users find useful things to do on their phone, Apple is building a new App Store, accessible directly from the main deck of the iPhone once users download the 2.0 software in July. The App Store will include thousands of applications optimized for the iPhone that can be downloaded over the air.

Quickbooks on iphoneSome will have a cost, with the developer keeping 70% of the revenue, but most are expected to be free. Since there is NO COST to list your app in Apple’s App Store (see update below), financial services companies should rush to get their app loaded as close to the July 11 launch date as possible.

So far, only two banks, Bank of America and Germany’s Postbank, have included their apps in the current online applications directory (here). A number of other financial apps are listed including Wesabe, Buxfer, and the latest, QuickBooks from Intuit (see inset right and screenshots below). Expect many more in the months and years to come.

Update 11 June: Important clarification from commenter “gerontius” (number 3 below). The current app directory includes webpages optimized for the iPhone. The new App Directory will include “native” apps that run directly on the iPhone operating system. That makes the bar quite a bit higher, depending on what you want to do. 

 

Bank of America Bank of America on iphone   Buxfer Buxfer on iphone 

myBudget myBudget on iphone       Postbank Postbank ibanking on iphone

 

Wesabe Wesabe on iphone          Yodlee  Yodlee on iphone

Note:

1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking

Tech Credit Union, Wachovia Create First iPhone Buttons

At least two financial institutions moved quickly to add an iPhone button for their websites:

  1. image Tech Credit Union was the first financial institution to let us know with a comment posted to NetBanker by Gabriel Garcia  at 9:50 AM Thursday
  2. image However, Wachovia may have beaten them to it, since the bank already programmed the feature in advance of the Jobs announcement according to the Director of Emerging Trends, Ilieva Ageenko, who posted this comment at 4:30 PM Thursday. Ilieva also said that Wachovia is working on an iPhone optimized homepage. 

Kudos to both financial institutions, first for adapting quickly to the iPhone opportunity, and more importantly by getting the word out by commenting on an industry blog. Anyone else add an iPhone Web Clip to their website? Let us know by adding your comment to the original post here.

Put Your Bank on the iPhone Main Screen

imageYou don't have to be Google, NBC or Steve Jobs's cousin to get your logo placed on one of the most coveted pieces of real estate on the planet, the main screen of Apple's iPhone. Now anyone can do it for about the cost of phone service for a month. 

When we first wrote about the iPhone a year ago (here), we created a fake picture of it with a Wells Fargo logo superimposed on the main screen (see inset). At that time, we would never have guessed that a year later Apple would enable any website to create an iPhone main screen icon by simply dropping a line of code into their website. 

It's as simple as creating favicons, those little symbols that appear next to your URL in the browser address bar. Here's a simple 25-word explanation of how to do it. For more info, consult the Apple iPhone Dev Center here.

Once you have the code installed, users with updated iPhone software will be able to install your icon by navigating to your page, clicking on the plus button at the bottom of the screen, and selecting "Add to Home Screen."

iPhone Compatibility at the Largest U.S. Banks

As I was holding my family's place in a long line over the holidays (note 1), I took the opportunity to look at the 20 largest U.S. retail banks through my iPhone. They are all passable as long as you are willing to take the time to zoom in and navigate with your finger on the touchscreen. 

The best-looking sites are those with relatively simple hompage designs, notably ING Direct and HSBC and to a lesser extent Wells Fargo. But the hands-down winner is Bank of America, the only top-20 U.S. bank with an iPhone-optimized homepage.

This provides BofA with several short-term advantages:

  • Bragging rights as the first major bank to design for the iPhone
  • A spot on Apple's directory of Web apps for iPhone (here) (screenshot below)  
  • Several mentions in tech and personal finance blogs
  • An entree to the 1.4 million, decidedly upscale, iPhone users

Note:

1. Survey of 20 largest U.S retail banks, by deposit size, made at 4 PM on Dec. 24 from Seattle IP address through iPhone browser on AT&T Edge network.