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Royal Bank’s frustrating iOS application

At the end of August this year, Canada’s biggest bank – Royal Bank, or RBC, posted a record quarterly profit of $2.3 billion. That’s $2.3 billion of profit in just three months. To say that RBC has money to spend, might be an understatement. Yet, one of the more perplexing realities is how poorly constructed the company’s mobile iOS application is. At this point, the RBC application should be the best of breed, yet it lacks in some big ways. I thought I’d go over some of what I’ve seen in the hopes that someone there might decide this application is a worthy investment.

I feel the most annoying problem with the RBC app is probably one created by design. So ignorant are RBC to the needs of users, that they probably trumpet this as a “security feature”, while it actually makes the entire system less secure. When a user enters the login screen and either enters a client card or username, that information is cleared if the user leaves the application and returns. Since this might be a normal occurrence if a user has a strong password[1], the behaviour is more than annoying. This makes it nearly impossible to log in to the application. Here’s how this looks on an iPhone 5 running iOS 7:

When I say impossible, I mean it. What you’d have to do to copy a tough password into that screen is copy both your username and password into a single field, copy that out into RBC’s app, and then rip apart the resulting string into login and password. That could take a while. Doing that is also a serious security risk since many of the text locations you might use on an iPhone end up saved to the cloud[2]. Looking at other banking apps available, I can confirm at press time that CIBC and Bank of Montreal‘s apps work fine with copy and paste, while the TD Bank app acts just like RBC’s. There is clearly no consensus on how this should work. I think bank customers need to make sure banks know they’re doing it wrong.

The RBC app recently had an update for the iPhone 5’s screen size, but they’ve been lagging on iOS 7’s interface. Should they be taking so long to update this app? How long has it been since iOS 7 has been available to developers?

Surely, there are other interesting annoyances. When inside your account, if other accounts are linked (such as they might be on the web), the RBC doesn’t appear to give you access to them. I think it should.

I think it’s time RBC stepped up development on this application and give us something worthy of the kind of money they get from us. This application should be doing more than the web interface right now, not frustrating people.

Update: RBC now offers mobile cheque deposits from inside the iOS app. This is a welcome development and I had been looking forward to it. I’m happy to report this small new feature has made the iOS app eminently more useful.

1. The strong password is stored in an iOS password database. The idea is to copy that username/password temporarily into your banking app. The iOS password app deletes this copied text from the clipboard at a pre-set interval.
2. Notes connected to iCloud are deceptively simple, and not a place you want to accidentally have banking login details kept.