More than half of the nation's largest financial institutions offer mobile banking services, which continue to evolve from being an extension of online banking to a distinct payments channel.

An increasing number of mobile banking systems support person-to-person funds transfers and other payment capabilities, a report from First Annapolis Consulting Inc. of Linthicum, Md., said. The report is based on a study performed in August and September of the mobile offerings of the top 100 banks as ranked by deposits. The report was released Monday.

Fifty-four of those banks offer mobile banking services. That was "consistent with the fundamental trend and movement toward mobile, and serves as a bit of a wake-up call" to those not offering such services, Paul Grill, a partner at First Annapolis, said in an interview.

Some banks that did not offer mobile banking said they were "not interested, given the characteristics of their customer base," Grill said.

Thirty-nine percent of the financial institutions offered access to banking services through a mobile phone's Web browser and 32% did so through text messages and alerts. Thirty-two percent offered mobile banking applications, the report said.

The research identified Apple Inc.'s mobile platform as the most popular for mobile banking apps, with 28% of the banks choosing it. Sixteen percent of the banks offered an app for Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and 14% offered one for phones running Google Inc.'s Android system.

The report found little difference between the capabilities of mobile websites and apps.

Balance inquiries and transaction histories are standard services, but First Annapolis contends that new features will help banks differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Seventeen percent of the banks offered branch and ATM locators that rely on phones' GPS technology.

Thirty-five percent allowed mobile bill-payment services, though most banks required consumers to set up a list of payees first through online banking.

The report found that 23 of the banks were expanding their app offerings with mobile remote deposit capture, P-to-P payments, loyalty programs and rewards management and redemption.

Grill said mobile banking apps eventually will help banks compete against nonbanks.

"There is potential for a gap between what financial institutions offer [in mobile payments] relative to others in the marketplace," he said.

Banks should examine different approaches to mobile payments such as P-to-P funds transfers, remittance options and deposit-account-based remote payment capabilities, First Annapolis said.

They also should seek to enhance their apps with mobile wallets that enable consumers to manage their payment products and other mobile commerce apps from a central location, the report said.

Banks should also participate in pilot tests to determine how to enable mobile-based payment products at the point of sale, First Annapolis said.