Check, a bill pay app owned by Intuit, has launched a feature some financial institutions have been positioning as a competitive differentiator: the ability to pay paper bills using the smartphone camera.

The broad idea is to make paying bills quicker: Instead of tapping in data, a user can use the smartphone's camera to scan the bill, choose how to pay and then either pay the bill or schedule it out.

The company has been testing the capability for the Android platform and is pushing the update out to tens of thousands of Android users this week.

Check's update comes as two big banks — U.S. Bancorp and BBVA Compass — have made available a similar mobile photo bill pay feature, which they perceive to be part of their retention and acquisition digital efforts.

Mitek and Kofax sell a photo bill pay service to banks. Fiserv, partnering with Top Image Systems, also makes the capability available to financial institutions.

Check, which uses its own photo technology, plans to roll out the update to all its mobile platforms by yearend.  

Mobile is expected to supplant online as the No. 1 method for paying bills within the next four years, according to AlixPartners research.