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]