Two More Apple Watch Bank Apps Announced

accountsIt seems bankers like watches.

Today brought news of two more banks announcing the development of Apple Watch apps: DAB Bank in Germany, and BankMobile, a mobile offering from Customers Bank in Pennsylvania.

Speaking purely anecdotally (though we are working on the hard numbers) it appears clear that more banks are developing Apple Watches before it has even been released — it is due to hit stores April 24 — than had ever developed apps for Google Glass. Austin, Texas-based mobile developer Malauzai Software announced today three more banks for which it is developing Apple Watch apps.

Google Glass saw its fair share of financial apps over the years, from La Caixa Bank in Spain, Westpac New Zealand, Discover, Canada’s Tangerine (formerly ING Direct), Wells Fargo, Ukraine’s Privatbank, MasterCard, LevelUp — but most of these were just tests or experiments, even after Glass had been publicly available for some time. Fiserv and Intuit also tested Glass apps for whitelabel use.

But now, still two weeks before Apple Watch has launched, it seems new banks announce plans to develop apps every day. By the time the Apple Watch launches, we expect the number of available bank apps to exceed the number of Google Glass bank apps ever built.

Accenture’s Wearables Lead Brent Blum told Bank Innovation that 41% of people plan to buy a smartwatch in the next five years. It may be that watches are a better consumer play than glasses — they certainly look more natural, and lack the creep factor of the front mounted camera literally in your face when you speak to someone. You can wear one and not stand out from the crowd — well, unless you get one of the $17,000 ones, that is.

It could also be that Apple is simply easier to develop for than Google, and a shinier brand to associate with. It’s like Apple Pay versus Google Wallet all over again.

Blum pointed out that “watch” is a bit of a misnomer for Apple’s device. It is a wristband with many capabilities, including health monitors familiar to wearers of Fitbit and the like. As these wrist-mounted devices converge, the use cases for everyday wearers multiply, while Glass seemed to struggle with a consumer use case.

It’s also a matter of better timing. The Apple Watch benefits from other smartwatches that have been on the market for some time, but it is the only one tethered to an iPhone, and a research report from Bank of America released last week noted that the watch was really “an extension of the iPhone.”

That, paired with Apple’s retail and marketing muscle, will go a long way.

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