Moven Gives Bank Innovation an Exclusive Look at Its Bet on Wearables

  • Philip Ryan
  • January 13, 2015
  • 3

movenwatch_ss_fThe bank account in your pocket can now be a bank account on your wrist.

Bank Innovation got a sneak peak at the newest “watch bank,” developed by Moven, during a recent visit to the startup’s New York offices. And we were impressed.

According to a recent survey of 170,000 internet users from the GlobalWebIndex, 80% of adults now own smartphones, but just 10% use wearables. That daunting statistic isn’t discouraging mobile financial services provider Moven, which launched a smartwatch app for Android devices late last month. It currently operates on Samsung Galaxy Gear watches, as well as the Motorola Moto 360.

“We have to pick our innovations,” Moven COO Ramy Serageldin told Bank Innovation Monday. “[The smartwatch] is one we expect to have widespread adoption.”

The Moven smartwatch app only works with Android devices now, since the Apple Watch is not yet in the wild. The watch app provides the same kind of alerts — seen at right — as the mobile app does.

The smartwatch app also allows the user to view balances in his Moven account — not linked accounts at the moment — and review monthly spending. It’s a tiny screen, but it all fits. The resolution of smartwatch screens seems to have advanced by leaps and bounds over the models seen just last year.

U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo are also reportedly testing wearable apps, but Moven’s appears to be the first in the wild in the U.S. market with a smartwatch PFM product.

“Google and Apple are pursuing different philosophies in terms of wearables,” Serageldin said. Specifically, Apple appears to be allowing for more interactivity, while Google has a “glance and go” or “thumbs-up, thumbs-down” philosophy of simple interactions. The Apple Watch version of the mobile app, therefore, may allow for more in-depth operations, such as categorization and tagging of purchases.

Moven has a roughly 50-50 split between iOS and Android users.

Another difference between the approaches of Apple and Google has to do with sound. Android watches, Serageldin pointed out, include no speakers. (Google learned from its early smartphone days and is more tightly controlling screen sizes and custom builds from manufacturers of Android smartwatches.) You can speak commands, but you will hear no chirps or the cooing voice of Siri, as you may on the Apple Watch. Voice commands are crucial to smartwatches because keyboards are currently challenging for the devices, to say the least.  A natural language interface is on Moven’s roadmap, but a ways down the road, Serageldin said.

Also in the future, Moven will look into the payments use case for the watch and the mobile app generally, as well as providing more information pre-purchase, as opposed to post-purchase, as it currently operates. The watch is often said to be a superior use case for displaying QR codes, for example, as LevelUp’s smartwatch app does — it doesn’t need to be fished out of a pocket — and Serageldin pointed out that users would have a better chance of seeing location-based offers on the watch as opposed to the smartphone screen.

Moven is free to do what it likes with its PFM functions, but payments are a slightly more complicated matter. Founder Brett King was a vocal advocate of mobile payments before Apple Pay was anything but a distant rumor, so it’s a good bet that Moven will be on the leading edge of mobile payments functionality wherever it can. It will have to wait, however, for its bank partners to catch up.

“It’s not so much about the payment itself for us,” Serageldin said, “as it is for the things that happen around the payment.”

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism, which makes him quite old. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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