Citibank misunderstands mobile, sucks

So we’re sitting at our gate in the terminal in LAX, and Citibank has purchased some likely very expensive advertising space above our heads, for “CITI MOBILESM“. Purportedly, this would be a version of Citibank’s website optimized for the mobile browser. The ad has the url which, one would assume, given the mobile target audience (and, my first thought was “ugh, that’s an unnecessarily long URL to type on a mobile”), and the big picture of a phone, should be visited on your phone.

How wrong I am. I tried it on my phone, and I got a very large Citibank-standard page (which would likely only render at all on Symbian S60 or iPhone) telling me that I am using an unsupported browser, and helpfully recommends IE, Firefox, Netscape, Safari, and AOL. Awesome experience so far, Citibank!

I try it on my laptop, and the reason for that page becomes clear. is not supposed to be used from your phone… apparently you’re supposed to go there on a PC and sign up to receive the application as an SMS containing a link to download the application. How annoying. Whatever, let’s give it a go.

After going through a fairly simple signup process (none of which actually would have required a PC browser), I am sent an SMS message and I download and install the Java application.

The application itself is quite simple, and in fact I suspect based on its behaviour that it doesn’t have any intelligence of its own… it seems to download its menus and such on first run. So, basically, a poorly designed browser.

When you run the application, you’re given a few menu choices:

  • Account Info — Get your account balances, recent activity, etc.
  • Payments — Schedule bill payments.
  • Transfers — Make transfers between your accounts.
  • Citi Locations — Find Citibank branch and ATM locations.
  • Service — Customer service and account management stuff.

Choosing any of these options except for “Citi Locations” will ask you to log in. The first time you use it, the login process is a bit different… it asks for your phone number using a menu which took me a few minutes to figure out, since it completely deviated both from my phone’s interface, and any interface I’ve ever seen. For future logins, it uses the same kludgy interface to ask for your “telephone access code” aka password.

After pressing the middle key (usually “select”-ish) on my phone a few times, and expecting the usual “numeric entry” screen to come up, I finally figured out that you actually have to type on this screen, while the entry you’re typing into is highlighted. On my phone, that means I have to hold down the function key to type numbers.

Folks, phones have interface standards and especially Java has standard interfaces for a reason—so that your users won’t be confused, and your application will look and feel like all of the other applications on their phone.

To make matters worse, both the Account Info “recent activity” and Citi Locations search are next to useless. The recent activity gives you basically no information, not even the name of the vendor/company, very similar to the information that an ATM will give you as a printed receipt of activity.

Overall, a pretty disappointing experience with Citi Mobile!

One thought on “Citibank misunderstands mobile, sucks

  1. Yeah. I totally agree. Citibank sucks. They’re totally inept.

    I literally can’t even buy anything with my CC on some websites.

    This is just added incompetence. It sounds like a good idea but if it’s not ready for prime time why in the world are they spending advertising dollars on this thing?

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