Financial institutions that serve military personnel, like USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union, are pressured to provide a wide range of remote access beyond that of traditional branch-heavy banks, since the web and mobile phone are often the only access points that consumers who are stationed overseas have to their financial institution.

"[Remote access] is essential to providing excellent member service," says Donovon Fox, a spokesperson for Navy Federal Credit Union, which just released a new Android mobile banking app.

The new app, which is available in the Android Market, allows the credit union's 3.7 million members to check account balances, view recent transactions, and transfer money. They can also track and calculate interest rates and payments for auto, home, personal loans and credit cards, as well as calculate tips and perform currency conversions, a key function for members who are in other countries.

The credit union hired EffectiveUI, which also worked on the credit union's iPhone app, to build the new Android app. Over the first few days, there were more than 20,000 downloads of the Android App, which is also designed for easy registration.

"As long as a member registers a domestic mobile phone number through Navy Federal Account Access, he or she can view their account information and make transactions through our mobile web or our iPhone or Android Apps anywhere in the world," Fox says.

Not everyone's happy with the new Android app, however. A number of users on an Androidzoom.com app discussion forum panned the new app, with a few users complaining that it's little more than a link to the mobile banking site—a particularly scathing review given that native apps are supposed to be a graduation in user experience beyond browser-based mobile banking. Others complained it's difficult to navigate to the digital bill payment function.

While USAA is not a direct rival to the Navy CU, many of the reviews in Androidzoom.com unfavorably compared the new Android app to USAA's mobile banking capability. USAA, which has 8.4 million customers, also makes remote access a priority, and frequently is praised by tech experts for its innovative use of new channels.

Having processed more than $4 billion in mobile transactions over the past two years, USAA's been an early adopter of most major remote access banking products, including mobile banking and both scanner and mobile phone enabled remote deposit capture. It recently expanded its Deposit@Mobile smartphone app to the iPad 2 and is planning more digital banking products for later in the year, including P2P and a mobile wallet.

The Army-centric bank also recently redesigned its website, turning it into a personal financial management-infused portal that's organized around the life stages and life events of its consumers, rather than by products and services, and signed an agreement with UPS to allow USAA customers to make deposits at UPS retail outlets.

Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite, says "you can't knock" Navy CU for not having a full suite of financial services available on its new Android app, saying it's a common practice for financial institutions to adopt a new channel with a few features, and add more later.

What is important, Shevlin says, is to perform research that ensures that a bank's initial foray into a new channel includes features that the target demographic is most likely to want.

In response to the comments on the user forum, Julie Griffin, vice president of eServices for Navy Federal Credit Union, said, “We are always listening. Feedback from our members definitely plays a role and is important to us. We intend to assess all that feedback and are always looking for ways that we can improve the user experience.”

Peter Bradley, interactive program manager for EffectiveUI, says the firm did usability testing for members, and incorporated user-experience tools that can be found on the phone, such as geolocation to help members find branches or ATMs, as part of that research.