Most financial institutions dragged their feet moving from traditional banking to mobile banking, and from mobile banking to providing a richer experience on smartphone devices. Some banks have learned those lessons, though, and are trying to stay on the cutting edge by rolling out apps designed specifically for tablets.
According to Reuters, a mere 30 percent of financial institutions currently have a tablet app. And, for the third that do have tablet apps, "table app" really just means "iPad app". The Reuters article states, "So far, none of the banks have a specific application for iPad's Android-based competitors that are gobbling up market share, including Kindle Fire."
I am not sure you can really blame the banks for that. Recent reports indicate that non-iPad tablets have sold only 1.2 million units in 2011--and that is including the rush to grab the HP TouchPad for only $99 when HP pulled the plug on the webOS tablet and held a fire sale to clear out existing inventory. Contrast that with the iPad, which has sold 11 million units in the past quarter.
To some extent, none of this seems all that new to me. I bank at Chase specifically because of its iPhone app. I was using a different bank, but its "free" checking suddenly became less than free with strings attached. When I shopped around for a replacement, I was drawn to Chase because of the ability to deposit a check directly to my account from the comfort of my living room using the camera on the iPhone.
I was glad to find out that Chase was also on the cutting edge of pushing out an actual iPad app rather than simply expecting iPad users to install the iPhone version. While that would technically work to some extent, it is a crappy user experience marked by a display that only takes up the size of an iPhone, or a display that is expanded to fill the screen with pixelated graphics. It also fails to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the tablet.
Aside from the actual functionality of a tablet vs. a smartphone, the two devices have distinctly different uses as well. Smartphone apps are generally used one-handed, on the go, while a tablet offers a more leisurely experience. Tablet owners tend to spend a lot of time conducting business from the living room sofa.
Banks can take advantage of the extra display real estate, and the way tablets are used to offer additional services that smartphone users are probably not interested in and would rarely use while out and about. With eight percent of consumers currently owning tablets, and the high demand this holiday season for the iPad 2, and the Amazon Kindle Fire, more banks should be working to embrace the tablet revolution.