Let’s face it: we can do pretty much anything with our phones these days — get our location and see what’s in the area, find people nearby, track packages, get traffic updates and flight updates. And that’s just the stuff we can do with Google Now! If we move beyond the scope of “built-in Android functionality,” there’s a whole other world of things we can do, including complete banking. Online. From our phones.
I found out about Simple, a completely online bank, a little over a year ago and could not wait to try it. In January, my wait was over when I got an invite to try their brand new Android app. Since this isn’t a review of the web app, I won’t go into too much detail about the sign-up process, but I will say that since this is completely online banking — there are no brick and mortar locations — it’s incredibly important that the mobile app works in conjuction with the web service to give you a comparable experience. So how does it stack up? Let’s take a look!
When you sign into the Simple app for the first time, it will ask you for a PIN to use on your device. This measure is there to protect your data while preventing you from having to put in your password each time — which is nice, because mine is pretty long. After you choose your PIN, you’re brought to the home screen, which is a list of your Activity.
On the Activity screen, you will see a list of all of your deposits, withdrawals, interest paymets, etc. You can then press one of the entries to view more details:
- Date and time
- Category, which it will figure out based on the transaction, or you can specify manually
- and even Memo and Location.
Back on the full Activities list, if you swipe from left to right, you will reveal a menu with all of the functionality Simple has to offer. This includes your standard functions like Settings, Log Out, and Account Numbers (standard for a bank anyway), but it also includes a couple of cool features: Deposit Check and ATM Finder.
Since Simple has no physical locations, they need to have other ways for users to make deposits. They support direct deposit and Online transfers from other banks, but the app also supports check deposits. This functionality is activated 30 days after you open your account for security purposes. Simple’s support was nice enough to give me access early for this review.
To deposit a check, select “Deposit Check.” You will be brought to a screen where you put in the amount. This is pretty straight forward, but I thought it was a nice touch that they added a “00″ button.
Then you use the camera to take a picture of both the front and back of your check. On my Galaxy Nexus at least, this happens quickly and cleanly. I haven’t had a problem yet. I’ve used a couple of other apps for depositing checks and this one by far works the best.
To verify the check they have you write your account number on the back, under your signature. When you get to the part where you take a photo of the back of the check, the app adds your account number in the corner — this is another nice touch to save you some time!
That’s it! They should notify you shortly after that to let you know the check — or at least part of it — has cleared.
The only issue is with depositing cash, which is not a function of Simple but of online-only banking in general. You essentially need another account to make transfers if you want to deposit cash into your account.
So we talked about getting money in, but not out. Something I haven’t mentioned up until now is that when you sign up for Simple, on top of access to the app they send you a (very sleek looking) ATM/Debit card. This is how you get your money out.
I would love to tell you the app supports NFC, but alas at this point it does not. My guess is this has something to do with Simple being an iPhone app first, as well as NFC not being as popular as we’d all like.
Aside from using the debit card to make purchases, you can find an ATM to withdraw money from. Of course, you’ll want to avoid fees and that’s where the ATM Finder comes in.
The ATM Finder will grab your current location and find the closest fee-free ATM. This is definitely something all Banking apps should have, regardless of whether or not they have physical locations!
I think the Simple app is really fantastic. It’s beautifully designed, easy to use, has great functionality, and has a lot of little thoughtful additions that make life easier for the users. On top of that, the customer support is top notch.
My wish list for the app consists of only two things: optional notifications for when checks clear or something fishy happens, and the ability to manage goals from the app. On the web interface, you can set and view goals; Simple will put money away that is separate from your “Safe to Spend” balance. I wish I could, at the very least, view my goals from the app.
Other than that, the app is rock solid and I would strongly recommend it. It’s invite-only right now and unfortunately I’m fresh out of invites, but if given the opportunity, you should definitely try it out!