Wall Between Mobile and Desktop Disappearing — But What About Payments?

  • Philip Ryan
  • April 25, 2016
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© Can Stock Photo Inc. / elleonzebonGoogle has signaled that Android apps will soon run on Chromebooks — yet another sign that “mobile” and “desktop” experiences are converging, and that a single online experience will operate across different devices (including your refrigerator).

A Redditor spotted code this weekend indicating Google’s Chrome OS will soon allow users to enable Android Apps, presumably including Android Pay (Samsung Pay may not be so lucky). Microsoft is already in this territory with a unified operating system and hybrid devices such as Surface tablets.

The hardware and software maker farthest from uniting its mobile and other online experiences is Apple — maker of the first mass-adopted smartphone.

This convergence holds implications for the payment experience, which has evolved by leaps and bounds on mobile devices, but limped along on “online” checkout since the 1990s, where users must fill out form after endless form.

With biometrics, authentication on the mobile device is faster and easier than the desktop experience, after years of lagging. Mobile devices also bring together disparate services, such as contact lists and bill payment, far more smoothly than desktop and laptop computers.

And if anything desktop is moving in the direction of mobile, rather than the opposite. For example, see the following message a website is asking on Chrome today, which will be familiar to mobile users:


But in many areas, mobile functionality for financial transactions is still handicapped, largely artificially. This may be due to lingering fears over mobile security. Amazon, for example, makes it difficult — and sometimes seemingly impossible — to update payment information on smartphones, while it is trivially easy to do so on a desktop. This remains the case, even though desktop computers are more likely to be shared — smartphones, in particular, are intensely personal.

I had the following experience with bill pay at my large bank (which has a brand-new mobile app) this weekend that illustrates banks’ lingering lack of vision with mobile. I had paid a bill through bill pay to a small company, which means a check was printed and mailed rather than a digital payment sent. I called the company to see if it had gotten the check and a representative requested the check number. But my mobile bill pay from which I originated the payment weeks ago does not provide such information — it only gives an electronic transaction number, which means nothing to the recipient.

I called to get the check number. The customer service agent was not authorized to email it to me or provide it over the phone, but he could mail a copy of the check to me. He also said I could view the check, which had been cashed, “online or at a branch.”

Users may not have access to a laptop or desktop, or even own one, but they will almost always have access to their phones. Banks and other large companies have been slow to realize this, but soon the decision may be taken out of their hands when “mobile” and “online” are no longer separate things.

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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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