Kaching! Commonwealth Bank's NFC App Gets Cashed Up

Been waiting for local NFC takeup? The Commonwealth Bank has just launched its Kaching platform, offering NFC capabilities — but for iPhone users only.

We've seen NFC rollouts across the planet, along with a number of phones that offer inbuilt NFC capabilities, but up until now, NFC has been one of those nice technologies that we never seemed to catch up to. We've seen trials of NFC for payment, but little else in the way of concrete products. The Commonwealth Bank launched its first commercial NFC consumer payment product today, dubbed Kaching.

The unusual thing with Kaching is the choice of handset that the Commonwealth Bank will initially support — the iPhone. It's specifically limited at launch to the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S only. The bank's stance on this is that while 91% of its online smartphone logins come from Android and iPhone devices, 79% of those logins are from iPhones; there's a bit of clear market dominance at play there. Android is on the roadmap; according to David Lindberg, Executive General Manager, Credit Cards, Payments and Retail Strategy, "Whatever smartphone our customers are using, we will design an application for it. (The Android App) won't be an iPhone app retrofitted for Android. It will look like an Android application."

There is, as you're no doubt aware, no NFC chip within the iPhone; instead the Commonwealth Bank will offer a specific NFC-enabled iPhone case to its customers to make the phone NFC capable. Lindberg stated that the NFC case "is of course an interim technology" but the intent is to deliver a service that is "identical to that you'd get once a native NFC chip comes into the market. It may be a long period of time before that comes into the market".

Payment types include retail and what the Commonwealth Bank is calling P2P payments — although the potential association with piracy apps is perhaps inadvertent — which will allow you to use Kaching to make payments to your friends. According to Lindberg, payment "will take roughtly the same amount of time as it takes to send your friend a text message". Kaching customers will get the money directly into their accounts in real time. It's also integrated with Facebook, so you can send payment to somebody's Facebook ID. Which means, amongst other things, that losing your phone just got a lot more dangerous. If you're not a Commonwealth Bank customer you can still get your Kaching-ed cash, but there's an additional online step involved in getting the money to transfer.

The Kaching app uses a four digit pin. A countdown timer enables the NFC chip for a sixty second period; also shows the nearest ATM location via the GPS chip within the iPhone. Can scroll down directly to see current balance — you can opt to have this hidden away under the PIN, but the default is to show it pre-PIN entry. You can top up credit card balances via Kaching as well as set a specific card to be PayPass-enabled, or switch it off at will.

The Commonwealth Bank won't charge for the App — the entire process is essentially there to encourage customers to sign up with the Bank rather than being a direct revenue stream. The app itself isn't yet ready for consumers to download, but perhaps taking a page from the telco playbook, the Commonwealth Bank has a page up where you can pre-register to be told when it's available; you'll then be sent the case (which will attract a to-be-determined charge) and told when the App is launched. [Commonwealth Bank]



    definitely a push in the right direction! though, i wouldn't be caught dead with a bank enabled case on my phone... is that the equivelant of having a wallet chain hanging off my pants?!?

    Great more by Commonwealth, I'm all for it - but why completely ignore every other platform that already supports NFC within its hardware in favour of a platform that requires the NFC chip to be stored in the case?

      Exactly, I really don't understand why companies disregard other form factors. The same thing happens with multimedia devices, they put a bloody iPod dock on everything and forget about the others. When Windows phone starts to take off they no doubt will take their own chunk of the market too. It's just bad business.

        Every device with an iPod dock also has a line-in jack for every other music player. And no, I don't have an iPod, which is why I noticed that they have aux inputs. That said, I would never buy anything with an exposed iPod dock, simply because it looks ugly and gather dust when not used.

        Maybe because there's about 10 new Android phones announced every week all with different form factors, adapters and connections. Micro USB, Mini USB, Propriety whatever. Sort that crap out and you might get a dock ey?

          As much as I love Android as my mobile OS of choice, I gotta agree with you on this - Google dropped the ball big time by not closing up this design element.

          I've said elsewhere that Android happily works with Bluetooth standards, but at the end of the day - unless you want your battery dead in 2 hours from continuous Bluetooth use, you're going to need to plug it in to charge it anyway.

      Its right there in the article: their userbase is overwhelmingly iPhone. Android comes second, so they'll get the application next.

      Not to mention that its easier for them to cater to just three iPhone models on their initial rollout.

      Win-win. Easier for them, and most of the userbase covered.

        Admittedly, my comment was made when I'd only skimmed over the article. I wrote a more thoughtful comment over on LifeHacker in response to Gus' article on the same topic.

        I can appreciate that CBA are (supposedly) targetting the masses – as above they reckon 79% of smartphone’s used on their netbanking system are iPhones.

        I find this figure surprising considering Android’s growth over the last 12 months. Last statistics I saw showed Android having just edged out iOS as the most popular smartphone OS of choice in Australia.

        Having said that, Android does also appear on more budget phones, which potentially would include user group(s) less likely to use net banking on their phone.

        The only problem with that is that the percentage of iPhone users with NFC is 0%. Nice of them to offer the app for free, but since the case isn't, I can't see that percentage growing dramatically.

        Mind you, right now the percentage of Android users with NFC is only a little bit more than 0%. Since the Galaxy S II didn't get it here, I suppose that leaves only the Nexus S - and of course the soon-to-be-in-my-hands Galaxy Nexus. So I for one (as a Commonwealth customer) are awaiting them serving the userbase that can actually take advantage of NFC right now.

      They choose platforms people use.

    As much as I applaud this initiative, not very confident with it yet. I still prefer the old PIN and swipe method, at least I have control over that.

    Most of the other platforms disable the chip in Australia. Atleast if banks are supporting it, the mobile device companies with include them in the Australian models. Looks interesting.

      No they dont.
      The people that write the software choose not to use it. In this case whoever is writing this app has jewed out and decided its easier to write an app for an accessory than something built into a wide range of phones.

        Hey, I just noticed your comment. My comment was from 2011. At that time, Samsung were removing the chip from their phones in certain markets. I work at one of the big Banks and we were negotiating with a bunch of device and telecom companies to get them included in the future.

    I'm sure that they'll release an Android app soon enough, followed by WP7. NFC is filtering down from Nexus, into high-end and no doubt will become common soon. Nokia is aiming to have NFC in all of its handsets (presumably not the black-and-white "dumb" phones), although I don't like the chance of a Symbian app.

    Ok, I'm keen. But what will the case look like?

      It's in the video. Notice when he makes the contactless payment in the fuel station.

    Pretty BS is you ask me. Why not utilise devices that already have the NFC built in. No doubt this will be seen as a great 'revolutionary' feature of the Iphone in the next Iphone adverts we see in TV. We've seen "Medical", now we'll see the "Financial" tags added.
    I also have concerns about the safety and security of using a 3rd party case ...

    Let me guess, the case has to be plugged into their silly dock connector (otherwise there'd be no way to turn it on and off like the article describes, and there'd definitely be no encryption, which is just as bad as the PayWave or PayPass cards)? What happens if you need to charge the phone, do you have to remove the case every time?

      I agree. But, I think the solution to that odd solution is to provide a dock connector to the case itself. How about that? I will not use any case on my phone though :)

    Doing iPhone first makes perfect sense. It will apply to nearly 80% of their customers and you only need two different NFC cases to cover everyone. Plus, in iPhone customers you already have compliant zombies who will happily pay for extra stuff without complaint.
    OTOH, once the Android version is released, a large number of people are going to discover that NFC has been switched off on the phone they bought and the bank will end up having to provide dozens of different NFC enabled cases and a bunch of users who won't want to pay for them.

    When the 4S was announced, I guess the lack of NFC was a bit of a disappointment - until I remembered it's not exactly supported over here anyway.

    I'm looking forward to the future of money, but the fact of the matter is: I already blow all my money on crap. This may or may not make it any easier to do so. And I still don't know that it'd be worth changing banks for.

    I'm just going to sticky tape my combank card onto the back of my GS2 like the cool kids do. It seems to be a bit of a useless tech right now.

    So NFC was invented by Apple?

    Why wasnt this one previously when NFC was introduced? Lame "for iPhone users only."

    Android Fanbois, you're almost as bad as your apple enemies. iPhone is the major platform here, its going to be first for any new apps from a major corporation.

    I get the feeling CBA developed this app assuming the new iPhone would be NFC enabled, with the plan to be first to market and cash in on the hype of the 4S launch. The plan wouldn't have been to need to use the cases (which realistically will have a very low takeup rate). At least when the next iPhone is realeased they will have the technology ready to go.

    Personally, paying with my phone doesn't really interest me when i can do the same thing with my credit card these days but the idea of being able to easily transfer cash without having to exchange bank details sounds excellent.

      Oooooooh you whacky self serving Apple fans.
      There is zip. zero. nil. nada. logic, to writing an app for something that does not even have a required piece of hardware built into the phone, while not allowing it to be used by a device that has the required piece of hardware BUILT INTO IT.

      But then again ive never actually met an iphan who was in any way skilled in logical thinking.

    Interesting the video still is of a tradesman at work who looks pretty clean.

    I'm disappointed NFC hasn't gone further in our society except for entering a door....

    I have a Nexus S and I would love to be able to buy my train ticket with it!!! Cityrail, put NFC enabled machines already!

    Anyways, I think this won't get to far unless more devices come with NFC capabilities.

    Rant, over.

    The guy in the video appears to be gliding down the street on a trolley.

    Big Brother is standing right behind you

    I hope I'm not the only person that has brought this up but won't this void the warranty with Apple?

    If it breaks then Apple won't fix it.

    What's up with that?

    The Case is an MFI certified Case which means it is certified by Apple to work with the iPhone. Secondly it has the same Secure Chip that is on your existing Plastic Credit Card. The device is Certified by MasterCard and Apple to work with your iPhone. Do you Idiots really think the 7th largest Bank in the world would launch a payment device with out obtaining the necessary Apple and MasterCard certifications. It's no different then tapping your plastic card, it just adds unique services and features to the device.

    Also if you think Apple is going to put Chip on their Device and let the banks and Visa and Mastercard go crazy with it think again.... Apple like always will do their own thing and control it themselves. Look at Google wallet can you get it anywhere with any bank??? No only through google and only through Citi Bank

    I think this awesome Secure, Fast, and easy to use all the the components that make mobile payments appealing.

    What is with all this facebook integration!! It scares me to be honest, I want nothing to do with it.

    This looks great; I didn't think we'd see something like this in Australia until late next year.

    I'm hanging out for a Windows Phone app, but seeing as CBA specifically referenced the number of users using their apps to who gets technology first, I think that a WP7 app for this is probably over a year away. Nokia WP7 phones with NFC are going to be announced tomorrow, so hopefully CBA gets on the ball immediately.

    1. I hope the case isn't bright yellow or something.
    2. I'd be happier if it plugged in to the bottom and then replicated the port (pass-thru) adding about 10mm to the height of the phone but don't need to take it off etc.
    3. The article says the amount of iPhone users on their net banking so that is the reason they went that way. Probably also because "Apple" people are early-adopting hipsters who will love to whip this out at the local coffee shop. Mind you, this app probably too a year to write, so the point someone made about the growth of Android they could be kicking themselves over right now - either way its not wasted effort (unless they take months to deploy the cases and the iPhone5 with NFC comes out in 6 months lol)
    4. It is no more or less secure than your current credit card with NFC.
    5. I am not a Commbank customer, but this ALMOST makes me want to sign up.
    6. I am not an Apple fanboi, but I do have an iPhone.
    7. I hate facebook.

    Agree with a lot of the users above who comment that they're either hanging out for an app or OS integration. Further, wouldn't person to person transfers work better if the NFC system is based on the OS rather than the customer's bank?

    We wrote an article recently on why this type of solution is unlikely to work. In our minds, the most successful implementations will emerge from ecosystem providers, i.e. Google/Apple/Microsoft/Nokia. See: http://www.lexmedia.com.au/2011/10/mobile-nfc-technology-what-will-market.html

    Launching the app only to the iPhone4 and iPhone4S = fail.
    In Australia the highest selling smartphone is still the Samsung Galaxy.
    So why they would only launch it to only those devices, who knows...poor research, for the future yes. Safest technology, definately not, especially when its the first release here in Australia.

    I understand why they have offered an iPhone solution but why would you want to discount all the users of other O/S in particular Android. Android is the number one OS in Australia and the World. Fair enough most of their customers are iPhone users but they would have received a lot more support and picked up customers from other banks and grown their market share even larger had they done some basic homework and thought about existing non iPhone customers and winning over new customers.

    Doesn't the very fact that Android is still rapidly growing show that a percentage of those iPhone users will be Android users in 2012 and beyond.


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